Thursday, December 17, 2009

MTA Cites Bike Injunction for Delay on Fell/ARCO Hazard

Photo by Michael Helquist

The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) has decided to wait
until the bicycle injunction is lifted before implementing risk reduction interventions on Fell Street before the ARCO service station. Mike Sallaberry, Associate Traffic Engineer for the MTA, wrote in an email that several of the alternatives under consideration were "deemed undoable" under the court injunction. If the Superior Court lifts the injunction at a scheduled June 2010 hearing, or later, the MTA will then consider the full range of options -- including barriers or soft-hit posts along the bike lane.

The hazards of this stretch of Fell Street have been well-known to the MTA and certainly to bicyclists and pedestrians for a long time. The agency has undertaken thorough studies of the problem,* and one set of recommendations did result in the Fell Street bike lane in 2002. But studies of the traffic hazards at the ARCO station have not resulted in interventions.

Andy Thornley, Program Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition responded at some length to this new delay. "We don't know why the SFMTA would be timid about commencing a trial of safe-hit posts as a barrier to vehicles intruding in, and on, the Fell Street bike lane. It really doesn't need any more legal permission to emphasize and reinforce what's already been legislated for over ten years," he wrote in an email.

With a nod to possible concerns that the barriers might pose a liability risk to the city, Thornley countered with the SFBC's view of a far greater risk. "If anything the City's liability exposure is much greater for the ever-more likely prospect of someone being hurt or killed while riding a bike on Fell Street than any challenge to gluing some white plastic sticks on the white bike lane stripes." He concluded with the sentiments also expressed by the great number of cyclists who travel to, through, and from NOPA and use the Fell Street lane. "It's time -- it's long past time -- to defend the bike lane and the thousands of people who travel in the bike lane."

In October of this year, MTA developed a proposal to remove three parking spaces on the south side of Fell to guide motorists into a waiting zone out of the way of traffic and bicyclists. Once that option was introduced in a BIKE NOPA post, NOPA and Alamo Square residents and staff of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition suggested alternatives including removal of more parking spaces to create a buffer zone, enforced waiting for motorists in the traffic lane only, and a bike lane protected by a flexible barrier. At a November 19th meeting of the North Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA), MTA's initial proposal was grouped with the other alternatives for discussion and no specific actions were outlined. At that time, bicycle and livability activists were hoping the bike injunction would be be lifted in early December. Instead, only ten new bicycle lanes were permitted along with new bike parking and several trial proposals. Another hearing was scheduled in June of next year to consider the merits of the case further before, possibly, lifting altogether the injunction that has blocked a full roster of bicycle improvements for more than three years.

San Francisco's first protected bike lane on Market Street between 9th & 10th. Photo by Bryan Goebel

Although the MTA plans to hold off on a protected barrier for Fell Street, the agency is currently experimenting with these same devices on Market Street between 9th and 10th, as reported by Streetsblog here. And, of course, this trial has been implemented under the constraints of the court injunction.

Photo by Bryan Goebel

* For review of the SFMTA studies, see

1 comment:

  1. So thanks to Rob Anderson, EVERYONE (pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers) lose. How does a guy like him who doesn't seem to have a million dollars afford the legal help to create this mess?