Tow Truckers Pledge to Reduce Fell Bike Lane Parking, Thanks to Sup. Breed

“Three tow trucks blocking the bike lane on Fell now. Forcing people on bikes towards vehicle traffic,” writes Patrick Traughber on Twitter.

Updated 9/5 with comment from the SFPD captain below.

Ted & Al’s Towing company pledged to make a stronger effort to avoid parking its trucks in the Fell Street bike lane, an illegal practice that forces bike commuters to veer into heavy motor traffic.

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfbike/8723284665/in/photostream/##SFBC/Flickr##

D5 Supervisor London Breed said that her staff came to an agreement with Ted & Al’s owner Larry Nasey and Raj Vaswani, the new SFPD Park Station captain. “Both were very responsive and helpful, and we are optimistic that this dangerous, illegal parking will not continue,” she said.

“Public safety is my greatest concern,” said Breed, who pushed the SFMTA to accelerate the installation of the neighboring bike lane on Oak Street last year. “When these tow trucks park in the bike lane, they force bicyclists into an active lane of traffic and jeopardize everyone’s safety.”

Nasey said he couldn’t promise a complete end to tow trucks stopped in the bike lane, since the driveway there is the only entrance they have to the building, and truckers must often wait for others to make room first. But managers will encourage truck drivers to move out of the bike lane more quickly, and to stop in one of the three traffic lanes available to motor traffic instead when car traffic isn’t too heavy.

“Had the bike lane been there [first], I never would’ve put my business there knowing the disruption it would cause,” said Nasey. “But because we’re there, and now the bikes are there, we’re trying to work it out so we can co-exist.”

Ted & Al’s drivers aren’t the only violators of the Fell and Oak Street bike lanes — all types of drivers can be found parking in them. In January, even SFPD officers were seen blocking the Fell lane to do business at the Bank of America branch there, with no apparent sign of an emergency. At the time, SFPD Park Station was overseen by Captain Greg Corrales. Vaswani, the new captain, hasn’t responded to an email requesting comment, and a call transferred to his office was apparently disconnected.

In an email, Breed encouraged members of the public to report tow trucks parked in the bike lane:

Note the truck number and send the time, date, and truck number to the SFPD at SFPDParkStation@sfgov.org and Mr. Nasey at larry@autoclinicsf.com so he can follow up with the driver directly.  Or, of course, you can always contact me and my staff about this or any other safety issue in D5 at breedstaff@sfgov.org.

Update: SFPD Captain Vaswani said in an email:

Our permits officer has advised management at the tow company that they need to either stage at another location to make that left into their garage, but may not block/park in the bike lane. We are also in communication with City Permits to make sure the management is aware that part of their permitting is they must follow conditions/laws for operation. Park Officers will take enforcement action by either warning/citing each tow driver if that bike lane blocked.

I also have personally driven by there to make sure they are keeping that area clear… I actually saw it on a photo your bicyclist posted on SFstreetblog about a week or two back and had my guys go out there hours later to take care of the problem.

  • timsmith

    Before it was converted to a bike lane in 2003 (apparently the same year they opened their business), the lane in front of their store was a tow-away lane. How did that jibe any better with their business model of storing vehicles on the street for extended periods of time?

  • For the record, Nasey said they’ve been there since 1995.

  • BBnet3000

    They need to wait right in front for a spot to free up? Don’t tow trucks have radios for communication?

    They’re basically saying theyre going to block the road no matter what, its just a question of whether drivers or cyclists get blocked. While one of these groups is a vulnerable road user and the other is not, I still wouldn’t advocate blocking anybody on such a regular basis.

  • shotwellian

    Not clear why this is a matter of compromise and not simple enforcement. Parking their trucks in the bike lane is illegal — end of story. They should be fined each time this occurs.

  • timsmith

    Good to know (SF property info map only shows permits back to 2003). Nonetheless, same issue with tow-away lane most likely.

  • Kevin

    “Things might or might not get better for the future, but I’m putting out a statement anyway for political points. If things don’t get better, I can throw my hands in the air and say I tried, if things do get better I can take the credit”

  • helloandyhihi

    The Supervisor stepped in, got Captain Vaswani involved, and It made an immediate difference.

    The cops weren’t enforcing these violations. A few e-mails and phone calls solved the problem without anyone getting tickets. It’s a win-win.

    As someone who talked with her office about this, I think Supervisor Breed deserves some credit.

  • gneiss

    I don’t understand why this is such a hardship for their business. Ted & Al’s were perfectly happy blocking a lane of car traffic with their tow trucks before the bike lane was installed and there was parking along that stretch. To say that he bike lane has disrupted his business operations is ridiculous. All he’s saying is that he thought when the bike lane was installed that no one would put up much of a stink if his tow trucks occasionally blocked the bike lane, because, you know, they’re only “bikers”. Much to his chagrin, he’s discovered that wasn’t the case and now he’s got to deal with another headache. But the solution is simple – just go back to parking in the 3rd travel lane rather than the bike lane.

    It just shows how the Dutch have got it right by creating raised bikeways that make it much more clear where cars go and where bicycles go. And how the city just needs to finish this project up. Please put in the bulb outs and street furniture!

  • Winston Parsons

    “Managers will encourage truck drivers to move out of the bike lane MORE QUICKLY, and to stop in one of the three traffic lanes available to motor traffic
    instead when car traffic isn’t TOO HEAVY.” Wish he’d shared what “more quickly” and “too heavy” actually mean…sounds like a complete cop-out to me. What’s more, they just blocked the car travel lane before, so why is it OK to block the bike travel lane and not the car ones, especially if the they’ve done it in the past? I think both are dangerous, but at least be equitable in your poor judgement…

  • jd_x

    Exactly what I was thinking. Since when do we have to ask businesses (or people) to kindly obey the law and be tolerant when they say “I’ll try”. No, you will, or you will be punished. It is so frustrating how utterly second-class cyclists are in this city that we tolerate this kind of crap.

  • Chris J.

    Yes, do we know that SF Parking was refusing to enforce this? If someone notices a violation and calls (415) 553-1200, enforcement has a responsibility to come. It’s a simple solution. In fact, I called last night for double-parking at a different location, and someone did come (though it took 15 minutes).

  • DrunkEngineer

    I don’t know how things work in San Francisco, but in Berkeley there was a U-Haul business that routinely left its rental trucks out in the roadway when its parking lot overflowed. City Council solved the problem by declaring it a public nuisance and shut down the business.

  • baklazhan

    The short answer is that I can see five violations just by sticking my head out the window. There are problems with the laws, and one way these problems are dealt with is through a lack of enforcement (see also, for example, bikes at stop signs). Of course, I don’t think parking in the Fell St bike lane is a good solution, so hopefully they’ll figure something out.

  • ≎ Trying to get past Al & Ted’s Bogus Parking has been most heinous.

    (Some of their drivers, despite being clearly identifiably marked, also have a penchant for impatient and contemptuous maneuvers when making the left turn onto Fell alongside the bike lanes.)

  • Every bike that passes by is one less customer for the towing business.

  • The tone of the new captain is bodacious.

  • shotwellian

    What is the “problem with the law” that bans vehicles from parking in bike lanes other than that it inconveniences Al and Ted’s Towing? You’re right that enforcement is always limited, but enforcement should prioritize violations that put safety at significant risk, like for example a tow truck company regularly parking its trucks in the bike lane on a busy street.

    Based on his latest statement, Captain Vaswani seems to get this, and we’ll have to make sure he follows through.

  • Chewbacca1066

    The Ted & AL scumbags should get the f*** out of SF. Don’t let the door hit you in the a**.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Nasey said he couldn’t promise a complete end to tow trucks stopped in the bike lane, since the driveway there is the only entrance they have to the building, and truckers must often wait for others to make room first.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure traffic laws still apply even when they are inconvenient.

  • Jamison Wieser

    D5 Supervisor London Breed said that her staff came to an agreement with Ted & Al’s owner Larry Nasey and Raj Vaswani, the new SFPD Park Station captain. “Both were very responsive and helpful, and we are optimistic that this dangerous, illegal parking will not continue,” she said.

    Does our new captain intend to negotiate which laws apply to every business individually? Ignorance of the law does is not a valid excuse for other violations, but knowingly blocking a bike lane because it would be inconvenient to drive around the block is an acceptable excuse?

    What other laws does captain Vaswani see as optional? Is there a list available of what laws Park Station doesn’t enforce?

  • Jamison Wieser

    I don’t understand why this is such a hardship for their business.

    Especially when there are so many businesses who are able and willing to make an honest living. If the towing company has a business model that depends on breaking the law, they shouldn’t be in business at all.

  • Filamino

    Sounds like bicyclists should make a full complete stop too at stop signs. Oh wait, it’s too inconvenient…

  • andrelot

    It seems Ted & Al’s has been grabbing public space for private uses for a long time, now it only became more evident.

    Businesses, small or big, have the responsibility, their and theirs only, to find suitable parking for commercial vehicles they operate, like any business that produces trash needing specialized care must arrange that instead of dumping it on the streets.

    Zero sympathy for this guy, no matter if it is a mom-and-pop operation.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Whatever you think of me is a separate matter from Ted & Al’s Towing regularly blocking the bike lane.

  • Laila Keirstead

    It is good that the towing company is taking action on this issue because the bikers shouldn’t ever be put in harms way. We have a few places in the city where there are bike lanes are their own special route, but there are also a lot of lanes that are right up against traffic. Drivers need to remember that they can’t park in those areas. With the towing companies on top of this, I bet to see less cars parking on that part of the road. http://www.exit48repair.com/

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