Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MTA Proposes Fix for Fell Street/ARCO Hazard

Traffic Mayhem on Fell Street near Divisadero

The Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) is ready to remove parking spaces along Fell Street just before the ARCO gas station to reduce significant hazards for bicyclists traveling in the bike lane. James Shahamiri, Bicycle Program Assistant Engineer, said the proposal is to remove three parking spaces to create a queuing space outside the bike lane for motorists waiting to enter the gas station. MTA expects to implement the change once the bicycle injunction is lifted. That relief from the court is expected in early November.

The current situation just before the Fell and Divisadero intersection pleases no one. Pedestrians find motorists straddling the sidewalk waiting to enter the ARCO station. Bicyclists find motorists blocking the bike lane awaiting their turn at the lot and are forced to veer into the often speeding Fell Street traffic to get by. And drivers must back up traffic in the lane or endanger pedestrians and bicyclists by blocking their safe passage.

The dangerous location has been well-known to the MTA, yet action like the current proposal has languished. Andy Thornley, Program Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), recalled, “We have repeated for so long that this was a very dangerous situation.” Advocates have also warned that the site is such a well-known hazard that the city risks an expensive outcome if an injury or fatality occurs.

The MTA did not include the Fell and Divisadero proposal in its earlier request to the court to permit safety improvements even while the bike injunction was in force. “We didn’t try this one for relief,” Shahamiri said. Others have suggested that a proposal like the current one could easily be pursued by MTA as a traffic mitigation without permission from the court.

A pedestrian was struck and killed by a motorist on Fell Street last month at Broderick Street, a block from the ARCO. The death of Melissa Dennison spurred neighbors to push MTA even more to address the speeding that is a regular feature on Fell and Oak Streets. The two neighborhood associations on the east and west sides of Divisadero have launched a campaign to get MTA to finally slow the traffic on the two residential streets that motorists often treat as freeways. Neighbors contend that enforcement and education are necessary, but many believe real change will come only with structural changes such as re-timing the signal lights to ensure slower travel.

“We are very eager to see this dangerous condition addressed,” SFBC’s Thornley said. “This is a solution similar to what was implemented along the Trader Joe’s lot on Masonic Avenue. We should try this and see how it goes.” He advised that parking removal won’t be enough on its own. “The police and perhaps Parking Control Officers will need to enforce the new lining up outside the bike lane.”

As soon as the bike injunction is lifted, MTA intends to roll out a great many bike improvements, and Shahamiri was uncertain how soon the Fell Street changes would be enacted. Advocates have reason to lobby MTA once again, this time to place the proposal at the top of the list of enhancements, given the dangers at the ARCO site.

Shahamiri anticipates objections about removing the three parking spaces, but he notes the spaces are technically illegal anyway given their 12 foot length. He also said more ambitious improvements such as a colored bike lane or placement of a bike lane along the curb with parking serving as a buffer against traffic could not be implemented without further study and changes in traffic engineering guidelines.

For comments to MTA and to request urgency in implementing the proposal, contact Shahamiri at .

Thanks to Janel Sterbentz for news tip about MTA plans.


  1. It's nice to see some sort of improvement - no one was winning with the status quo and in fact it was dangerous for all. That whole area brings in a lot of car traffic because you have 3 gas stations and a car wash all in the same place.

    As someone who used to use all 3, though it was always a challenge, one could easily get in a car wreck if they were not paying attention. and commuting SUCKS on Fell and Oak. So glad I don't have to drive anymore!

  2. a few neighbors are commenting that Divisadero also sees a backup before the
    arco entrance...Divis is not a bike route, but ARCO has long been a problem for pedestrians. Also, what happens on Fell when more than three cars are backed up awaiting ARCO entry?

  3. 15 years later and MTA does nothing. How about the blocks of car traffic clogging the bus routes in the morning on Page and Haight? They don't see a problem.
    I think the best way to solve the problem is to get rid of the gas station.

  4. This is not a solution similar to the one at Trader Joe's on Masonic, as that lane parallels a solid curb, while the Fell St. lane contains several driveways. How are these residents suppose to get out of their garages? It trades a frequent dangerous situation for a less frequent but more dangerous situation as cars exiting their garages will be blind and shielded from the view of bicyclists.

    The most sensible situation for dealing with this situation is providing two-way traffic on Fell St as then the four-way traffic light on Divisidero/Fell operates as a gate for entry into the gas station. Unfortunately, many motorists and city planners are unwilling to accept this drastic re-routing of traffic within San Fran.

    Anyway, this proposed solution only worsens the problem.

  5. Good point, enry, re: the solid curb along Masonic for the Trader Joe's queue. Not many of those in the city. Of course, the residents with parked cars at that point on Fell already have difficulty with entry and access to their driveways as the ARCO traffic is still blocking them just not close to the curb. We're compiling a list of problems with the solution to pass on to MTA but don't hesitate to send your comment to MTA directly: .