Friday, June 11, 2010

60 Protest BP Oil Spill, Excessive Oil Use, and Bike Lane Hazard at Arco Station

Sixty to seventy San Franciscans took their dismay and anger over the Gulf oil spill to the BP–owned Arco gas station on Fell Street Friday night. Several of the protesters blocked the Fell entry to Arco for a few hours with potted plants and a sign explaining “closed for a total re-think.” Others held signs exhorting drivers to use less gas or stop driving, and to not block the Fell Street bike lane near the Arco entrance. The demonstrators did not interrupt the heavy evening traffic, and there were no confrontations with drivers. Many motorists honked and waved in support of the protest while a few cursed the event. Police presence was minimal at the peaceful grassroots demonstration.

Early notices for the protest emphasized motorists’ “oil addiction,” and that charge remained part of the message for some of the demonstrators. Joshua Hart, one of the organizers, railed against the Oak and Fell Street “traffic sewers," but he also told the group that “some motorists don’t have viable alternatives to single-car driving." Dawn D’Onofrio, a supporter but not an organizer of the protest, told BIKE NOPA she believes people who buy gas from BP/Arco “are supporting what’s happening in the Gulf.” She added, “People really need to show awareness. Right now they should not choose this gas station.”

Jacqui Swan said she was at the protest to raise awareness for alternative forms of transportation. “The Gulf spill should be a wake-up call. We’re all partially to blame for it. The system heavily favors fossil fuel consumption.” Earlier in the week Swan took her complaint to BP’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco where she joined a protest staged by . Ryan Kushner of the Alamo Square neighborhood said he came to the protest because “52 days of that oil spill is the latest example of how unconstructive oil is in the country.” He hopes to encourage a rational discussion of how oil might be used to benefit people and not inflict such negative impacts on the environment.

Many of the demonstrators arrived at the protest by bike, and the hazardous traffic snarl at the Arco entry – with motorists blocking the Fell bike lane and sidewalk while waiting for cheap gas – was an issue for them. “My most immediate concern is the bike lane problem,” Stuart Chang Matthews told BIKE NOPA. “There’s a direct tie-in here to BP and the oil spill, but I would have gone to any gas station to protest. It all comes down to the damage from dependence on oil.” Noemi Robinson declared she would vote for anyone for Mayor who defends the bike lane on Fell.” For NOPA resident and Wigg Party leader Morgan Fitzgibbons, Friday’s demonstration was his first protest against excessive oil consumption. “This is an opportunity to say something about the spill, big oil, and the hazards here for the bike lane.” Robin Levitt took a longer view of overall bike safety in San Francisco. “I’ve lived here since the early 1990s,” he said, “and today compared to then, bicycling in the city is much better and safer.”

Note: the MTA intends to install this month or next safety improvements for bicyclists and motorists with a dedicated lane for drivers waiting to enter the Arco station, as reported earlier.

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