Friday, July 9, 2010

SFMTA Takes the Message to Fell Street Motorists at Arco Entry; Similar Effort Needed at Exit

This week the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) sent interns to advise motorists about the new traffic configuration on Fell Street near the Divisadero intersection and the Arco service station. As first reported by Streetsblog, two interns talked with drivers who were awaiting their turns at the gas pumps -- and blocking the bike lane or sidewalk in the process. The staffers pointed out that the curbside "parking lane" is now clear from 7am to 7pm daily to allow drivers to line up.

After developing the new traffic design and getting it approved through a public hearing process, the SFMTA initially hoped drivers would figure out for themselves that a new curbside queue had been created to keep them from blocking traffic or bicycles. But without any signage or pavement markings to alert them to the change, few if any drivers waited along the curb. Instead, most straddled the bike lane much as before. Tuesday and Thursday of this week the interns distributed a flyer (see photo) to direct drivers to the curb.

SFMTA stands to get a much better reading of the new design's effectiveness once drivers start using the queue. The agency will conduct a study of the experimental design before painting the bike lane solid green and will follow that with an evaluation of the impact of the colored stripe on driver and cyclist behavior.

The Fell Street exit from Arco appears to require a similar intervention as drivers frequently ignore the signs and pavement markings that direct them to use the new curbside Left Turn Only lane. Instead, motorists block the sidewalk, the turning lane, and often the bike lane while waiting to slip into the westbound traffic lane (see video from Friday, July 9th).

Correction, July 14th: Arco customers may legally exit the station and enter the westbound Fell traffic lane, even while crossing a solid white lane. The California Vehicle Code does not prohibit the action, and SFMTA has confirmed this conclusion. (See July 14th post).

Motorists may yet adopt the new configuration and reduce risks for all users of Fell Street. However, the weakest aspects of the design are those that accommodate the entry and exit to Arco. Closing these and permitting access to Arco only from Divisadero would result in far safer passage for pedestrians and cyclists along Fell, but the ripple effect would likely disrupt and slow northbound vehicles on Divisadero, including the #24 bus.


  1. Actually, that exit on video looked pretty reasonable to me. The lane was only blocked for a second or 2, and if the vehicle waits back past the sidewalk for the Fell light to turn red, Fell gets blocked with cars and they never get out, really.

    The problem seems to be the location of the exit itself. It's hard to imagine the a good way for vehicles to manage it without causing a potential obstruction to *someone*. I wish that gas station would close down. The intersection is an awful one to have so much in and out traffic.

  2. @Troy: Sometimes motorists only was a few seconds to slip into traffic, but more often they wait for a full signal change sitting over the crosswalk and into the turn lane and nosing into the bike lane. An option is to exit onto Divisadero, but drivers are unlikely to get an opening into the Divis turn lane onto Fell. Agree with you about the inevitable obstructions with Arco where it is and configured as it is.

  3. "Interns" might be a (soft) first step, but it's going to take "cops" issuing tickets to have any real effect.