Bike lanes: the parking we give Uber for free.

50 cars took turns blocking the bike lane on the west side of Valencia between 16th and 17th at the peak hour Tuesday night.

During yesterday evening's rush hour, safe streets advocates [...] started collecting hard data about how often the bike lanes on Valencia Street are blocked by motorists. Take a wild guess what they found: the bike lanes are a de facto loading-and-drop-off zone for cars. [...]

Things picked up -- and got more dangerous -- as the evening progressed. During the last hour, from 6-7 p.m. (Orland calls this the "death trap" hour) 205 bikes had to swerve into traffic on that same stretch of Valencia, thanks to 53 cars that blocked the bike lane -- remember, that's just one block of Valencia, and just one side of the street.

Although not officially counted, the volunteers reported most of the cars had Uber or Lyft symbols on them. It should be noted that Streetsblog observed several police cars passing by, and two cops passing by on foot, but (no surprise) no citations were issued. That said, some drivers of the illegally parked cars seemed wary of the attention -- one BMW driver drove off, but not before gesturing unkindly at Maureen Persico, a Bernal Heights resident and one of the counters. [...]

The West side of Valencia between 16th and 17th saw some of the most flagrant disregard for safe operation of motor vehicles between 6 and 7pm. During the 6pm hour, on the West side of Valencia between 16th and 17th, motorists double parked at least once every two minutes. Furthermore, according to the data we collected, over 61 percent of traffic in the 6 to 7pm hour is comprised of cyclists. 205 cyclists were forced to merge into the vehicle travel lane during this hour, compromising their safety and forcing them to squeeze into a narrow travel lane alongside faster moving vehicular traffic. On multiple occasions, we observed cyclists taking evasive action and being forced to quickly maneuver out of the bike lane to avoid collisions with motorists who pulled over or pulled out abruptly, without signaling. This compelling data paints a clear picture of the threat to public safety posed by cars double parking in bicycle lanes. I hope that city officials and SFPD will carefully study this data and take action to ramp up enforcement -- and prevent inevitable tragedy on this high injury corridor -- before it is too late.

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45 Responses:

  1. Jakub says:

    The situation isn't helped by the shitty design of the bike lane itself. Were it separated from the traffic between the sidewalk and the row of parking cars, it would be much much safer. No parking in the bike lane, no riding in the deadly door zone.

    • anonymouse says:

      Yeah, that is ultimately the only solution. It also protects cyclists from cars maneuvering around someone making a left turn, or ones just casually drifting into the bike lane because they don't notice or care.

      • jwz says:

        As far as I can tell, that's just impossible here, in any actual urban area. Look at the joke of a bike lane on Folsom: the bike lane is something like 10 blocks long, but I think only about 20% of that is actually "bike lane". The rest of it is one exception after another, for driveways and turning lanes. That bike lane stops and starts being a bike lane so much it's like a parody of itself.

        So if that thing was hard barriers instead of paint, it would be like there was just a random curb in the middle of the road, 8' long, one per block. That might have some entertainment value, but probably not a lot of safety value.

        Also it's hard for me to imagine that UPS wouldn't just hop the curb to park there anyway. That would probably stop those Uber and Lyft fuckers, though.

        • Pavel Lishin says:

          As far as I can tell, that's just impossible here, in any actual urban area.

          New York has a lot of places with a separated bike lane.

          But one of those places is 8th Avenue, and that bike lane just turns into a fucking sidewalk, and apparently you can't just mow those motherfuckers down, so I end up in traffic anyway.

          • jwz says:

            How did that happen, though? Were those previously places with tons of car-centric features, and a bunch of driveways? (These are real questions, not rhetorical.)

            • Andres says:

              You can see them in Seattle in all kinds of settings. For example, on 2nd Ave (downtown core), there's a protected bike lane that crosses multiple driveways in a very car-centric setting. It's partially parking-protected, but it's also a two-way bike lane so there's lots of visibility and space compared to a standard one-way 5' or 6' wide protected bike lane.

              Protected bike lanes really are the solution here. Parking-protected bike lanes make a whole lot of sense in residential settings, where there's not a constant stream of people getting into and out of their cars. In a downtown or business district, you either need really wide bike lanes or parking removal to deal with the issue that bobbybobbob describes below.

            • Pavel Lishin says:

              Good question - I'm not sure. According to the Villager, they were rolled out in 2008: http://thevillager.com/villger_293/newprotectedbi.html Of course, now they go much further than 14th, now - but most of the time, it's "slidewalk | bike lane | car door space | parking | traffic traffic traffic".

              But you're right, there were no driveways. I haven't been to SF in ages, so I don't really remember what most of the streets are like, but I know that it's not a highrise city like Manhattan. When I was reading that comment, I think I took "any actual urban area" to mean "any actual city"; it's clear now that you mean "any urban area in SF".

              How feasible would it be to dedicate a whole street to bikes in SF? Are there any side streets that have relatively low traffic that could be given over entirely to a mixed pedestrian/bicycle pathway?

              • jwz says:

                There are only two bike lanes in SF that runs between the sidewalk and parking, one that goes through Golden Gate Park (so that's about as non-urban as you can get). And guess what, a bicyclist was killed by a car there just three weeks ago. (It's a paint lane, without a real division.)

                There's another one on 13th, under the freeway, but that's only two blocks long. Also paint. And there is always, always, a UPS truck parked in the bike lane right here. It's there so often, I'm surprised it's not in street view. Yes that is a parking lot it could have pulled in to, good for you for noticing.

                The only bike lane I know of with a curb is the two blocks of Polk at Market, where the bike lane runs against traffic because Polk is one way on those two blocks. It's really weird.

                SFMTA head Ed Reiskin said that “the best bike infrastructure in the world would not have prevented these collisions.” There weren’t enough facepalms to go around.

  2. nooj says:

    I want to embed those parking garage things that will shred car tires, but which cyclists can ride between.

  3. bobbybobbob says:

    Bike lanes that are just paint lines are worse than useless. Even worse are the setups where they have parked cars form a traffic barrier, so the lane is full of oblivious smoking cabbies and joggers wearing headphones.

    Lanes joined to the street mostly just make it more likely you'll get creamed by a car making a right, or plow into a pedestrian or deliveryman coming out of a driveway. I don't get why people advocate so hard for this sort of bike lane. The reality of bicycling in American cities is you have to be able to easily get up to 17+ mph and take the lane near a lot of intersections and join the flow of vehicular traffic other times when necessary, and shrug off some horn honks. If you can't do this, you can't do urban cycling safely. The lanes create only an illusion of safety, which certain people dangerously buy into.

    Dutch style segregated bike traffic works, but nobody anywhere in America is seriously talking about building that. As it is, urban cycling is strictly for reasonably fit people who are alert and can read the traffic. Painted lines really don't help.

    • jwz says:

      Someone from the Bike Coalition told me that painted lanes are not literally worse than useless -- i.e., the statistics do, in fact, show that they reduce fatalities, but only by a little bit.

      But yeah, they don't really make me feel any safer, especially on Folsom.

      It's possible that the only way painted lanes bring a safety improvement is because they have the side effect of narrowing the street, and narrower streets cause drivers to slow down. That's the whole theory behind bulb-outs: make driving more complicated and cars slow down because they have to pay more attention.

      • nooj says:

        Automobile speed distribution before and after a painted bike lane should be easy to measure.

        Also, in Holland, if there is a collision of a bike with a car, it is always the car's fault. I'm gonna go ahead and say infrastructure plays second fiddle to that.

      • bobbybobbob says:

        It's not just cyclist fatalities. Where I am there are a lot of the "parked cars form a barrier" type lanes and when I use them I am terrified about killing a six year old eagerly running up to his minivan. I've had to slam on the brakes to avoid plowing into oblivious pedestrians many times. I am completely sure these types of lanes are a horrible idea on every level and I have no idea who is advocating for them.

        I think "bike sharrows" in the middle of the traffic lane and "bicycle may use full lane" signs do actually help. I think that's about the best that can really be done in most areas, unless you have a spare $100mm lying around for major new infrastructure.

  4. Chris says:

    If cyclists started carrying air horns.. problem solved, possibly?

    • MattyJ says:

      As long as you hook it up to a mercury switch so it blows as you fly ass over teakettle over the car that just hit you ...?

    • Schtick says:

      A guy I knew made up magnetic stickers with phrases akin to "hey, fucker - you nearly just killed a cyclist" that he'd carry in a chalk bag on his bars. Not the worst idea...

      • Pavel Lishin says:

        I'd love some sort of device that would let me dispense "I PARK IN THE BIKE LANE" stickers - magnetic is good, but expensive - onto cars, without having to slow down too much, or rustle around in a bag.

        • MegaZone says:

          Thunk. And more red lights come up on the windshield: the perimeter security of the Deliverator's vehicle has been breached.
          No. It can't be. Someone is shadowing him. Right off his left flank. A person on a skateboard rolling down the highway right behind him. The Deliverator, in his distracted state, has allowed himself to get pooned. As in harpooned. There's a big round padded electromagnet, on the end of an arachnofiber cable. It has just thunked on the back of the Deliverator's car and stuck. Ten feet behind him, the owner of this cursed device is surfing, taking him for a ride. Skateboarding along like a water-skier behind a boat.

          In the rearview, flashes of orange and blue. The parasite is not just a punk out having a good time. It is a businessman making money. The orange and blue coverall, bulging all over with sintered armorgel padding, is the uniform of a Kourier. A Kourier from RadiKS, Radikal Kourier Systems. Like a bicycle messenger, but a hundred times more irritating because they don't pedal under their own power - they just latch on and slow you down.

          No need to get rattled. The Kourier will have to unpoon or else be slammed sideways into the slower vehicle.

          Done. The Kourier isn't ten feet behind him anymore - he is right there, peering in the rear window. Anticipating the maneuver, the Kourier reeled in his cord, which is attached to a handle with a power reel in it, and is now right on top of the pizza mobile...

          An orange-and-blue-gloved hand reaches forward, a transparent sheet of plastic draped over it, and slaps his driver's side window. The Deliverator has just been stickered. The sticker is a foot across and reads, in big orange block letters, printed backward so that he can read it from the inside:

          THAT WAS STALE

          Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

  5. Anthony says:

    The issue here and with other bike lanes along popular streets in San Francisco, is that there is no place for vehicles to load/unload passengers. Popular streets like Valencia that are lined with bars/restaurants should have multiple white zones.

    • margaret says:

      The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no stopping in the red zone.

    • MattyJ says:

      You might be underestimating how long a white zone would have to be. Each block would only have room for one parking space, if that.

      Valencia has a cross-street every 200 feet or so that would be more appropriate for dropping people off, but God forbid any drunk has to walk more than three doors down to get to a bar.

      • Each block would only have room for one parking space, if that.

        I fail to see how that's a bad thing.

        Street parking is a design decision, not an inevitable fixed point of the existence of cars. Street parking is convenient, for drivers, but it contributes an immense amount of trouble for every other road user: on foot, on a bike, in a bus or tramway, you name it, rows of parked cars add only negative experiences to their day.

        In a city like SF, where land is at a fairly extreme premium, the idea of dedicated parking structures may be unattractive, but it's very likely safer by a large margin.

        • MattyJ says:

          The fact remains that people drive. I'm not a car apologist (really) but remember that streets exist because of cars, not in spite of them.

          More parking structures would have no effect whatsoever on Uber drivers blocking the road and stopping in bike lanes, it would just happen closer to the curb.

          • Nick Lamb says:

            Streets existed before the private automobile and they're certain to exist after it goes away too. The street isn't primarily for cars, or bicyclists, or idiots in human hamster balls screaming at the top of their lungs. It existed first of all for pedestrians, which is to say, all people, without vehicles at all.

            There were streets in the ancient Roman cities. The Romans didn't have bicycles and they certainly didn't have automobiles. A few of them would have horses or horse-drawn vehicles, but mostly the streets were for people.

            All the vehicle users, yes including you cyclists, are trying to take space away from everybody for your weird little personal quirk / hobby. It's only that society decided "everybody" should drive cars that the cars were particularly successful in this. But it would still be egregious if any of the other groups succeeded in this way. I don't want to add to the "car lanes" with "Human Hamster" lanes, or "skateboard lanes" I want you all off my busy streets.

            You absolutely can stop Uber "dropping off" on the curb if you want to - the reason it doesn't happen is because (the article is shy of mentioning) so many of you are quietly enthusiastic about this practice when it's you being dropped off. Personal hypocrisy is a big obstacle in the US, after all just last century Americans voted to ban alcohol even though most of them drank because apparently they figured the law would only apply to everybody else.

          • Ben says:

            Streets existed before cars and will exist after them. You're definitely a car apologist.

            • MattyJ says:

              In the US, roads/streets were built for horses. There was a lot more space for humans to walk 400 years ago, but we're talking about modern day San Francisco. Very few roads in the US were initially built for walking.

              And you're right, streets will likely exist for a long time. When we get to the point where nobody drives cars and everyone has rocket skates, I'd expect street design to follow suit. But today, in 2016, the majority of people that use streets in SF are on four wheels with a motor attached. The whole attitude of 'Easy! Just get rid of the parking spaces and the cars will go away!' is plain dumb. Plus it does nothing to address the initial problem, which is careless/clueless, likely out-of-city Uber drivers blocking bike lanes, as well as a good portion of the regular traffic lanes, when dropping people off.

              I mostly ride a motorcycle, so I'm more of a motorcycle apologist. When am I going to get better designed motorcycle parking that doesn't require me to stop in traffic and back into a space?

              • Some random fellow says:

                The whole attitude of 'Easy! Just get rid of the parking spaces and the cars will go away!' is plain dumb

                Wrong.

                Amsterdam and London both show that active promotion of good cycle infrastructure reduces car use. Already bicycles in central London outnumber cars, as policies to reduce car use take effect. The infrastructure needs to come first.

                This is /driven by/ street design: anything helps, even paint, as it emphasises to car users that in their air-conditioned bubbles they're not the only ones in the city.

              • When we get to the point where nobody drives cars and everyone has rocket skates, I'd expect street design to follow suit.

                It's not inconceivable that the successor to the car will, in fact, be the decent pair of shoes. The idea that roadways are for vehicles is basically ahistorical, except in the narrow sense that North American city plans assume everyone has one. Car ownership rates are falling, and not all of those people are buying some other vehicle: many are taking public transit with increasing frequency, which necessarily implies that they're also walking more (unless they live somewhere where public transit serves every door on every street).

                We need street plans that are built with the existence of cars in mind, and will for the foreseeable future, but we can stop embedding the idea that the roadway is for cars to use, and everyone else to borrow, directly into our cities.

                • Elusis says:

                  It's not inconceivable that the successor to the car will, in fact, be the decent pair of shoes.

                  Pity that not everyone has a decent pair of legs (or feet, knees, lumbar spine joints, etc. choose your poison). Nor the funds to live within walking distance of their job serving drinks in that Valencia St. bar.

                  • Pavel Lishin says:

                    But the 'walkable' city doesn't have to be limited to San Francisco and Manhattan; these are improvements that can be made nation-wide, hopefully across all neighborhoods. And walkable cities are rollable cities, too.

          • As a few other people have remarked, streets absolutely exist in spite of cars in most of the world. There are two major kinds of roadway that primarily exist because of cars: modern long-haul highways, and North American city streets.

            That is, as I said, a design choice, not an inevitability. The design of the modern North American street follows the conscious promotion of car ownership, which is a very recent idea in terms of urban history. North American cities happened to be at a stage where it was practical to impose that idea on the street plan.

            I would never argue that changing a single element of road design would "fix" whatever ails San Francisco. Roads are complex systems with many factors; removing street parking but leaving the rest of the structure intact would change very little (but would inconvenience enough people that the next election would be Very Exciting). My point is that models from other parts of the world show, fairly conclusively, that even a modern, car-oriented city plan can be retrofitted so that it kills fewer road users every year, given the political will to make that change.

            Statistical evidence shows that the way SF's streets are designed encourages cars to treat every other roadway user as an intruder, often to lethal end. How many dead people is Uber worth to you?

            • MattyJ says:

              > The design of the modern North American street follows the conscious promotion of car ownership, which is a very recent idea in terms of urban history.

              That is correct. The USA is a fairly new country, and San Francisco itself wasn't even a real city until the 1850's, and modern city planning in the US didn't really start to become a thing until automobiles were a thing. I'm not sure it's fair to compare US cities to European cities, also considering that the population density of San Francisco is greater than that of London (and Amsterdam by a wide margin) and we're surrounded by water on three sides. Over a quarter million cars traverse the Bay Bridge every day (not sure if that's one direction or two, but even conservatively that's 100,000+ cars entering and leaving the city by one bridge every day.) There's no room to maneuver, nowhere to re-route traffic around the Financial district.

              I agree that it's generally something that can be improved and my point is that it's not just a simple, one-step process like some people in this thread would like to think. Traffic in this town is complex. A lot of it is people coming into the city to work that don't know any better, or tourists that _really_ don't know any better because they live in areas where it's easy to get around and park. Nobody that lives here would drive in certain parts of this city.

              In any case, cars are a thing that exist, and the US has always been a car-centric country. Even considering any Euro-centric alterations to our streets, I haven't seen how this addresses Uber drivers sitting in bike lanes.

              • jwz says:

                "Other cities exist that are not as fucked as yours" is not plausibly refuted by "but SF / America is a special snowflake." ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

                Enforcing the laws that we already have would be a very, very good start.

                • MattyJ says:

                  Maybe not a special snowflake, but a different snowflake.
                  The US has always been a car-first society, since cars became a thing. Saying 'Be more like Amsterdam' isn't really a solution to undoing that. Apples/oranges and all that.

                  Can we all just agree that Uber is a menace?

                  • nooj says:

                    Agreeing Uber is a menace is not enough. We need to agree on, and push for, very specific things like

                    -- Require city workers to obey city parking regulations. Including police.
                    -- Ask police to enforce moving/parking violations against city workers.
                    -- Ask police to prioritize enforcement in the way they said they would (by injury/fatality risk).
                    -- Assign enough officers to keep up with the flood of cyclist accident claims against motorists.

                  • MattyJ says:

                    I'd be weary of #1. If some junkie in the tenderloin is stabbing me in the neck, I'd rather not have to wait while a cruiser circles the block looking for parking.

                  • nooj says:

                    Don't be daft. I'm obviously talking about this and this: cops and city workers openly illegally parking in bike lanes for hours because they fucking felt like it.

  6. Max says:

    we have too many motorists that hate cyclists and their attitude shows it clearly. If you ride a bike on the portion of the road that is also meant for motorists, there is always some Idiot claiming that the Road only belongs to Motorists, they tell you to ride on the Sidewalk, this is illegal, so where is it safe to ride ?

  7. Oakland recently installed parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph, 20th-29th, both sides. I ride there a few times per week and so far have not had a single ride without someone parked in my lane. Or some*thing* - there's one guy who consistently puts his Dumpster in the bike lane. Also, while the grace period ended this month and theoretically they can be ticketed now, I have not yet seen a single ticket.

    Another good one is Golden Gate from Polk to Market, especially the last block from Jones to Market. Part of the problem there is poor road design: Jones has two left turn lanes to Golden Gate, and drivers on the inside lane pretty much 100% combine their turn with a lane change to the outside lane. This forces the outside lane drivers into the bike lane. Maybe some Bott's Dots would help the drivers turn properly. But there's also the folks in the right lane of Golden Gate, which is Right Turn Only, who just say fuck it and go straight across Jones - into the bike lane.

    I had a conversation on Facebook with a guy from Bike East Bay who has been looking into the legal aspects. When you ask a cop to do something about a car parked in a bike lane, they'll say it's Parking Enforcement's job. According to my Facebook friend that is actually the opposite of correct. Under current state law, bike lane offenses including parking are moving violations and therefore Parking Enforcement can't write those tickets. The cop is actually saying what he'd like to be the case, and I agree: Parking Enforcement should be able to enforce bike lanes. Not only would this get more tickets written, but cities get top keep that revenue so they give it higher priority. This law may get changed soon.

    I'm seriously considering a non-profit startup focused on bike lane issues. I can talk more about that if anyone's interested.

  8. Some random fellow says:

    The pressure group Stop Killing Cyclists in London started "die-ins" at sites where cyclists were killed. Nothing like a few hundred cyclists lying down in the road for a couple of hours in memory of a fallen cyclist to show how quiet city streets become without traffic.

    • Elusis says:

      Well, just don't mention race, and maybe people won't complain that civil disobedience like blocking traffic doesn't do any good and only makes people mad. Good luck (seriously).

  9. Jake Nelson says:

    This is what bike lanes look like in Minneapolis, fyi: (Google Maps Street View link)

    (Hopefully that link works properly for other people)