Eyes on the Street: Octavia Car Queue Squeezes Out Bikes on Page Street

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Page Street is a pretty great bicycle route to get downtown from the western neighborhoods — until you reach the two blocks that are typically backed up with cars waiting to turn on to Octavia Boulevard and the Central Freeway. Bike commuters are forced to squeeze by stopped cars, either to the left (in the mostly empty oncoming traffic lane) or the right (the door zone tunnel).

This situation isn’t new, and some sustainable transportation advocates in Hayes Valley have long called for solutions to provide a safe path for people on bikes.

Muni riders recently got an effective fix for the same problem on Haight Street, one block over, where a bus-only lane was created by narrowing traffic lanes, running to the left of the right-turning car queue. Since Page isn’t as wide as Haight, there isn’t room to provide a similar treatment for bikes without subtracting car storage or the westbound traffic lane, making those two blocks one-way (for cars, at least).

This problem is enough to deter some people from biking on Page, even though the rest of the street is a pretty low-stress route (and mostly downhill, eastbound). For the less risk-averse among us, rolling by the left of the car queue while holding the brakes is tolerable, but I’ve heard from many people (including my wife) that these blocks can really be a deal-breaker for the whole route. Alternative streets — Oak, Fell, and Haight — are not as safe, direct, or intuitive.

From a driving standpoint, it’s also perplexing that so many drivers get into this queue since there’s a pretty direct way to bypass it and take on-ramps for highways 101 and 80 along Division and Bryant Streets. Perhaps some wayfinding measures can help point out under-utilized routes and reduce the queue.

As Hoodline reported, the SFMTA could develop plans to fix the Page blockage in the second phase of street safety improvements the agency is working on for Hayes Valley.

The second block of the car queue on Page, looking from Buchanan Street to Laguna. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • shotwellian

    Add this to the list of reasons the city needs to seriously consider demolishing the remainder of the Central Freeway.

  • Gezellig

    Traffic diverters could be implemented at Page and Octavia allowing pedestrians/bikes through but not cars. Local car access to Page would still be possible on Laguna. Something like these treatments:



    Also, speaking of Page, as with many other parts of the city the stop signs are often too frequent. Local car access on many streets such as Page can be maintained while encouraging through bike traffic via diagonal bike diverters at former 4-way stops. Also, the neighborhood gets traffic calming:


  • helloandyhihi

    This is part of my bike commute to work and an important article, thanks, Aaron. In December I saw a nasty accident where a cyclist was badly injured after a collision with a car while going down the left side of the street (which I do every day).

  • p_chazz

    What about the Wiggle? I thought that was supposed to.be the sine qua non for bike paths from the Western Neighborhoods to Downtown.

  • bob tobb

    The second photo is looking from Buchanan towards Laguna.

  • JB

    The Wiggle is mostly useful for going west to avoid the hills. Eastbound not so much because it adds a half mile, compared to Page, to go from Page and Scott to Market and Van Ness and doesn’t avoid any major hill climbs.

  • bob tobb

    This is a pretty pleasant branch from the Page & Scott Wiggle intersection if you’re heading eastbound. It’s not quite as pleasant westbound, as you have to deal with the three-block Page St. hill. But the merge onto Market at Page & Market is certainly less painful than it is at Buchanan & Market, and eastbound the Wiggle adds quite a bit of distance over the straight shot on Page.

  • KWillets

    I just passed this exact scene this morning on foot. A couple of cyclists were attempting to thread the blockade from Buchanan all the way down.

    For people that live within the Oak/Octavia “elbow” as I do, it’s a real pain to get to the downtown side.

    Banning turns at either Page or Haight always seemed like a good idea to me. Motorists are often better off circling around on Oak from Buchanan, etc. rather than trying to squeeze in from these smaller streets at a few cars per green.

  • Jessica J

    I just got bumped by a car here this morning. The queue extended past Laguna. Approaching Octavia, I always go down the left of the queue, but before Laguna there was ample room to go down the right. As I started across Laguna, the driver at the front suddenly decided to quit waiting and made a right turn without signaling into me. I wish I’d asked the driver to roll down his window and have a conversation about using turn signals, but I was so flustered and relieved to not be pancaked that I just said, “I’m OK” and waited for him to finish his turn. Once he continued and I re-noted his lack of turn signal, I realized how in-the-wrong he was.

    I’m curious if this is a situation where I should have tried to get SFPD to come and cite the driver. Or is that pointless?

  • SF Guest

    It’s always better to be safe than sorry even if you have the right-of-way. Yes he was wrong to cut you off, but I never “force” myself into an unsafe situation even if I have the right-of-way as a pedestrian. There are too many bad and impatient drivers to put my life into their hands. I retired from bike riding knowing I’m the one taking the risk, and if someone else makes a mistake I will be the one who pays for it.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    The Wiggle is the easier route to take, but it’s also longer and out of the way, depending on where you are ultimately headed. As far as urgently needed fixes to the biking landscape,I’d say Page is low on my list because of the Wiggle.

  • Jessica J

    Not sure what I could have done to be safer here. I pulled up alongside, noting the car didn’t have a turn signal indicating he was going straight. I came to a stop, then proceeded through the intersection at which point he started moving and turned right into me. Note that he was waiting for the queue past Laguna to clear (it was backed up through the crosswalk), but then must have decided to try Haight and made the right turn off Page without signaling.

    I suppose I could have waited in the queue of cars, but no, I don’t take “better safe than sorry” nearly that far.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    It sounds like the driver was totally in the wrong and you were riding as safely as possible. However, I doubt you would have been able to stop the driver from leaving or get anyone from SFPD to care since there was no damage.

    Just consider it a reminder of how unpredictable the world is and count yourself as lucky to be safe.

  • Bing Wu

    The phenomenon of cars backing up at Page/Octavia has been going on for several years, and happens on the weekends too. The safest and most convenient way to navigate this by bike, in my opinion, is to go around the cars on the left. This is because the chances of a car darting to the left is quite low (they pretty much all want to turn right onto Octavia), and motorists are fairly averse to driving on the wrong side of the road.

  • SFnative74

    A “vehicular cyclist” would have waited in the queue of cars, even if it meant sitting there for 10 min gagging on the exhaust.

  • Andy Chow

    Secondly drivers tend to look for passing vehicles to the left and do not expect passing bikes to the right. Bikes generally stay on the right side of the road because faster cars can pass bikes on the left, but when the bikes are faster so the bikes too should pass on the left.

  • Shof Beavers

    Things got really bad after they banned cars from getting on the freeway at Octavia. This was because of the bicycles. Now they want page street also. Hiaght st. used to be a relatively quiet street but now it has become a freeway on ramp because of the Market/Octavia turning ban.

  • Shof Beavers

    No, you were in the wrong. You are not allowed to pass on the right. Basic rules of the road.

  • Jessica J

    Did a quick search, and it seems like bikes passing on the right used to be ambiguous but has been specifically legal in CA since 2010. http://www.cyclelicio.us/2010/california-law-pass-right/

  • Shof Beavers

    I stand corrected. Still not a good idea but is legal

  • SF Guest

    Why stop with the idea of demolishing only the Central Freeway? Just think of all the traffic congestion relief if 80/101/280 were demolished.

  • This is a lie, stop spreading it.

  • After the earthquake damage the Central Freeway ended at Mission. Both the Chronicle and the Hearst Examiner predicted chaos (one headline actually promised post-apocalyptic conditions), but it worked out fine. It should never have been extended back to Market.

  • Drivers suddenly and without warning deciding to flee from driver-caused traffic is the main hazard in the mornings. That and all the pollution.

  • Drivers here are at a crawl, and routinely experience bicyclists passing on both the left and the right. Some even get frustrated and lurch their vehicles over, close to the line of parked cars, to try to block bicyclists.

  • Shof Beavers

    Sorry but no, that’s the truth even if you don’t like it sorry.

  • gneiss

    The need to reduce conflicts with people on bicycles was only one of the reasons why there was a ban on right hand turns onto the Central Freeway from Market. It has mostly to do with motorist traffic backups on Market that were anticipated if a right turn was not banned. This had been proposed by Caltrans as early as 2001. http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/08/Freeway_Right_Turn_Planning_letter.pdf. The M&R SF Chronicle article from 2005 is blatantly misleading in both the timeline and details of the reason why this turn was banned.

  • No, it’s not the truth at all. There are those (such as the Chronicle‘s Matier & Ross) who presistently claim otherwise, but the history is well-documented. The right turn is forbidden from Market because planners were concerned it would back up traffic on Market.

    Bicycle advocates objected due to concerns that illegal right turns would happen anyhow and result in collisions with bicyclists, which turned out to be true. Bicycle advocacy has focused on putting in an improved concrete island there, which is entirely different from being the source of the treatment in the first place.

    Stop spreading the lie.

  • M&R are reliably blatantly misleading, and they like to repeat past lies when they need to fill column space.

  • murphstahoe

    [citation needed]

  • shotwellian

    Exactly — and we’d get a whole lot of new space for housing and/or parks in the deal as well. Imagine Duboce / 13th / Division transformed into a pleasant boulevard instead of “that gross street under the highway.”

  • Ryan K

    “Driver caused traffic”? The traffic didn’t exist until they gutted the onramp and made it into the mess it is today. Let’s give credit where credit is due – to the people who pushed for the Octavia redesign.

  • Ryan K

    It’s pretty backwards thinking to deliberately structure the system to say “Effects on drivers quality of life will be disregarded” and then turn around and blame drivers for getting frustrated.

  • This is a thought process that you concocted, seemingly in order to have a straw doll to attack.

  • I was here when the Central Freeway was up, and traffic backed up then, as well. And yes, traffic is caused by its participants.

  • Filamino

    Ryan means Page Street never backed up with the off-ramp. Oak Street did back up, but NEVER the way it does now. It backs up almost all hours during the day – seven days a week. The only times it backed up before was during peak hours and on nice sunny weekends when everyone wants to hit the beach.

  • Filamino

    Stop the lies. Anyone who is familiar with the Central Freeway and Octavia Blvd knows traffic is worse. You have to be blind to see and think that it is not bad on all roads leading up to Fell/Oak corridor. It was even worse when it ended at Mission. Talk about delusional.

    This is typical utopian thinking that is not stuck in reality.

  • Filamino

    Yes, let’s put another 300,000-400,000 cars on the city streets that it can’t handle. Cars are NOT going away as already seen by other freeway removals in the city. It’s too bad some people still can’t live with the facts and continue to be completely delusional.

  • No lie, I owned a car and drove it on the Central Freeway pre-earthquake and remember the traffic jams.

  • SF Guest

    My question was rhetorical for the purpose of seeing who would actually support the asinine idea of removing our entire freeway infrastructure after seeing the proposal to demolish the remaining Central Freeway.

    After the Loma Prieta earthquake 80/101 starting from downtown were empty due to the collapsed Bay Bridge. In that regard the 300,000-400,000 cars would not be on city streets of SF since the majority of them use the Bay Bridge to get here.

    I believe many anti-freeway lobbyists actually believe removing the remaining Central Freeway will result in less cars.

  • murphstahoe

    “fewer cars”

  • Ryan K

    Yes, and sewage is caused by “participants” always peeing and pooping. Obviously traffic is caused by people on the roads. Living out their lives, doing what they need to do to work, get educated, and spend time with loved ones. All reasons the roads were built in the first place, to serve those needs. I object to the persistent and pernicious attempt to shame people for owning and using cars.

  • Ryan K

    I’m not sure why you think that thought process is concocted – it doesn’t take a lot of sleuthing of your own personal marks on the internet to see the vitriolic posts and hate of drivers. If the system, from the mayor down to the individual planning departments, says that drivers are just going to have to suck it up no matter what is inflicted on them, then it is not concocted, it is stated. It’s not straw man but a disturbing distillation of the policies.

    And you are one to accuse someone of straw men – seen you set up losing arguments all the time by calling drivers ragers and horrible people and arrogant meanwhile portraying yourself as some kind of Robin Hood for bicyclists. Most everything you post here and other places is a passive aggressive insult, and it’s getting pretty old.


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