Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Will Drivers Use the Fell/Arco Queue If They Don't Know It's There?

Fell Street residents cleared the curbside for the (so-far) unused queue

A solid white line breaks into dashes just before Arco entry

Will this sign be enough to guide drivers to queue and out of bicyclists way?

Motorists might line up along the curb to await entry to the Arco service station on Fell Street if they figure out that the new 7am to 7 pm tow away zone was created for them to do just that. But the new traffic design for the block between Scott and Divisadero offers no cues to drivers that the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) hopes they will get curbside and out of the bike lane. There's no sign or pavement marking that directs drivers to move from the traffic lane into the queue and no parking control officer guiding drivers to the line-up. Instead motorists find the solid white stripes for the bike lane almost all the way up to the Arco entry. Only then does the solid stripe break into a series of dashes to the Divisadero intersection. Most drivers do not cross solid white lines. Why would they decide they should here?

The MTA hopes motorists will figure out the new lane configuration on their own. According to one of the agency's traffic engineers, the city does not regulate or mark entrances to private driveways. The city might not want to accommodate a private business with signage or lane markings, but one of the stated intentions for the new design is to get motorists into the queue and out of the bike lane. At this location, it seems, the MTA has set the dinner table but neglected to send invitations or directions.

After a study of the just-installed changes, the MTA expects to paint the bike lane a solid green from Scott to Divisadero and also add a dashed indicator line to guide drivers into the left turn lane. The agency hopes that the wide green stripe will be a cue to drivers to not block the lane and to move into the queue instead. But when motorists want to exit Arco on Fell, the MTA anticipates the solid green line -- as well as the solid white line -- will discourage crossovers into the westbound traffic lane. It seems a bit confusing in intent and execution.

No one expected these changes to be the perfect solution to the existing traffic tangle on the block, and MTA deserves credit for experimenting with strategies to accommodate all users of the road and sidewalk. But without some guidance to drivers and enforcement, the MTA's impact studies may reflect more the simple need to provide explicit directions to the queue and less the overall effectiveness of the line-up itself.

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