Wednesday, October 6, 2010

market street bike lanes, an attractive nuisance?

attractive nuisance: (doctrine; lay definition): [a] landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition.

i ride market street everyday. i don't particularly care to do so, other than it is the main artery of the city, therefore it is the way that leads me from here to there. so in order to get to where i need to go, market street is a necessary part of my commute and other errand type of biking.

as a regular market street rider, i can say that it has gotten better since the installation of separated bike paths, delineated with those green painted spaces or with those "safe hit posts" (oxymoron anyone?). within the past year, personal car traffic has been direct to turn left at two intersections, 10th street and 6th street. traffic earlier in the year was directed to turn right at 8th street and 10th street by traffic cops, but they have since discontinued that practice, presumably there in the first place to get regular drivers used to the new practice.

One Block
is this a "safe hit" post? foto by ade

in the past couple of weeks i have noticed a few things on my morning (aka pre-caffeinated) commute, two of which are disturbing to me as a daily commuter, and as a frequent weekend market street rider.

first, at 10th street, bike traffic is directed to the left of the mandatory right turn, with the bike lane sandwiched next to and to the right of to the F rail train. so it's muni tracks, bike lane, mandatory (car) right turn lane. like this (except now the bike lane is painted green):

foto by meli

this does not leave a lot of room for those mandatory right turners to go straight through the light, as they have to cross paths with east-bound bike traffic. which is exactly what has been happening in the mornings in the past couple of weeks, and can be pretty unnerving. apparently the sign saying "LANE CLOSED" has been down. today, thankfully, i noticed it was reinstated and that the mandatory right hand turners were obeying traffic signs.

which brings me to the second, and instigator of this whole post: seeing the below picture of two buses blocking the bike lane at 8th and market:

20100929082052 I PARK IN THE BIKE LANE
foto by adam

two wednesdays before this photo appeared in my feed, i noticed something very similar happen, but on a much larger scale, on my way to butterlap. sigh. there were at least 5 large tour buses in that very spot, NO DOUBT related to the big tech company convention that was all over the news. sigh.

a block away i was already busily thinking how to navigate around that nonsense with taxis in front of me, who are able to go straight through on market street until embarcadero. i must have worn the confused look on my face because the other cyclist turned to ask me with a wry smile, "how are we going to get past that?" "i have no idea, was just thinking the same thing myself," i replied.

Early morning pirate
foto by meli

i show this pic of meli cause i think it illustrates several of the obstacles of which i refer: grates, and those pinche muni tracks on either side of the double yellow line. UGH. i have seen many a competent (and newbie) cyclist get stuck in those tracks, then fall down, go boom, spawning this sticker:

I bike SF

the comments which started in the picture above with the buses were very interesting. adam, whom i know is a parent (thus familiar with the term), mentioned market street being like an attractive nuisance in that market street with its green lanes and "safe hit posts" thus creating the analogy that market street's new sporadic bike infrastructure may make it attractive to cyclists of all levels, including newer and other inexperienced riders, and get them encouraged to ride, despite its obstacles.

that conversation stuck with me for a couple of days, enough to for it to jump without me past the flickr picture and on to spark a lively facebook page discussion and then produce a vimeo video taken just yesterday (as of the writing of this post)

so, are the newer bike lanes on market street like an "attractive nuisance" to newer riders?

i'm certainly not a new rider. i'm comfortable in trafficky conditions, as a frequent pedestrian (nyc baby) a frequent bike rider and an occasional car driver. i know i'm not the oldest hat at bike commuting, but i'm confident in traveling in urban traffic in my own patient way.

i cannot even fathom to promote what can be done with market street as i am not an engineer nor am i an urban planner. i am, however, a bike rider who commutes daily. i would like to feel safe in my designated and provided separated bike lane, and i would like to know that cars on market street will turn at appropriate intersections because it makes the remaining stretches of the commute for the rest of us (public transporation, taxis and bikes) more bearable and predictable.

but those buses...... those buses really are a problem for muni buses, passengers, taxis and bike riders alike.

for all of the obstacles shown above, market street now really is rather enjoyable, compared to what it could be, during the morning commute.

what about the afternoon commute west-bound on market street you may be asking? well, let's save that for another long post, shall we?


  1. This is nonsense!! Have you send this video to Clear Channel? Send this video to the Mayor's office, please. I'm outraged just looking at it!

  2. i am not responsible for the video, but there is a rather interesting conversation on sf critical mass' facebook about your very question. it's not just clear channel (ironic since they sponsor bike shares in other cities), but those damn tour buses. ugggggggggh.

    is calling 311 everytime this happens the answer? i wish i knew a lil more about city politics to get various avenues to pay attention to this.

  3. Every morning. Just like that. We think what was placed was separated bicycle infrastructure but it was actually a coffee break buffer zone. We shouldn't be so gullible.

    My favorite is when it is a couple of police cruisers with the officers standing on the sidewalk talking about the game. I see that a lot.

  4. There is something we can do, Cali. Take pictures, post them, write about it, send the links to Streetsblog and City Hall and Channel 7....

  5. I'd like to re-iterate an earlier Flickr comment on this topic.

    Why do I feel so strongly about it?

    This is the path for cyclists established by officialdom. It's inviting and reassuring for the most inexperienced of the cyclists that might be riding that route. But if it's consistently blocked it necessitates last minute adjustments that these very cyclists are least likely to handle safely. Like a swimming pool without a fence around it next door to a Nursery School, it becomes an attractive nuisance. This is not just making accidents possible, it's constructing conditions that up the likelihood of accidents. The very opposite of what we're trying to achieve.

    In San Francisco, partially due to the recent injunction, we have very little in the way of innovative bicycling infrastructure. This section is a significant portion of the best that San Francisco currently has to offer. Yet intelligent, experienced cyclists seem to AVOID IT!!! So we wait several years to begin to make the streets minimally safe for our travel, but then fail to protect the very real estate we've worked so hard and waited so long to finally enjoy.

  6. @Adam- How do you feel about doing a little more filming? I feel a "This Week In Blocked Bicycle Lanes" series would be a good idea!

  7. i'm so glad you spoke up about this, market is so stressful to ride in. just the other day a driver honked at me and told me to move or i'm going to get hit, i stopped (at a stop light), got off my bike, walked up to the car and told him "do you see that this is a bike lane too?" he didn't respond or look at me, then i said "i have a right of path to this road too so share it." and the disrespectful taxi's? don't get me started! i've also had a horrific bike accident on market too earlier this year because of those pinche muni rails and cars not wanting to share the road. for every dime the city would earn for cracking down on incidents like this everyday, we could then get our safe bike lanes.

  8. @Adrienne- Yes, that's a great idea!

    There are a few clips collected starting 8/31 already posted on Vimeo -

  9. Uggh, I was just complaining about how those buses block the area in front of the Hotel Whitcomb to people yesterday.

    There seem to be 2 big buses on a daily basis and at least 1 smaller shuttle bus thing daily too.

    Yesterday the buses were blocking the bike lane and the smaller shuttles were blocking the main lane forcing a lot of us to the rail lane.

    Very annoying, no bueno

  10. yes, it's the forcing to the rail lane for all three types of transportation (muni, taxis, bicis) that is precisely the problem. someone is going to get really hurt and it's due to the constant loading and unloading of passengers.

    allllllso, today on my way to work, there was a big line of right turners onto 8th street (another heavily used bike lane), which made me think of those poor souls that must use 8th to get to caltrain/soma (like i used to).

  11. I may not live in San Francisco, but here in Miami the same problem exists. FedEx, UPS, random civilians, and state/city vehicles make a habit of blocking bike lanes instead of taking the time to find a proper loading zone/parking spot. It doesn't happen as often as it does on Market Street, but it does happen enough to raise concerns. I don't get as mad as you because the area is question is not a busy street (residential area, although the lane stretches for about a mile), so I don't get too upset about it, but it certainly is inconvenient. There have been some times however where it has been inconvenient, and I'll be prepared with a written warning next time!

  12. I love that the slogan on the bus reads 'let the American dream be yours' .Obviously, you American cyclists aren't included in the dream!


    Ian ,Melbourne

  13. I really like that video- especially how the long silent paused shot starts to make even this chucklehead nervous, and makes him fold up his paper. Of course, I would probably start asking him if he'd pulled a public way closure permit, and then start taking pictures of his license plate. If that didn't work, I'd call the police non- emergency line, and then maybe Comcast. I love my iphone for making it so easy to look up phone numbers online while I stand on the street....

  14. I agree with cycler. Taking pictures of their license plate always makes them move. Taking pictures of their license plate and then loudly announcing you are calling 311 (or their boss, if their employer's phone number is written on the side of the van as I think it is here), makes them move even faster. It's amazing -- you can try to talk reason with them & all they'll do is insult you. But the minute they think there MIGHT be consequences for themselves they'll high-tail it outta there. Which only goes to show they know deep down what they're doing is wrong -- they just don't give a fuck.

  15. thanks for posting this, and as we ride the city everyday we know what kind of BS we encounter. and you better have fenders,

    cuz you know that is urine.

    it has taken me about 10 years now to even realize I am 'ok' riding market street, and sometimes I still feel like shit doing so. doing that, to get to the greyhound station to my commute to berkeley in 04-06 was such a depressing commute. I had my basket as my imaginary friend to talk to, but many junkies in the street in the AM did too.

    we all have to keep riding, keep educating ourselves, manifestating and voting everytime. then there is some jerk sueing the city and everthing comes to hault.
    what the fcuk.

    for market street. keep riding and one day we will ALL clog it, on bikes.

  16. The blocked green bike lanes are incredibly hazardous. We should get together as cyclists to protest, perhaps even commit civil disobedience until and unless we get this situation redressed!

    I crashed my bike Tuesday, inbound, morning rush hour. Those god damned tourbuses occupied the green bike lane in front of the Hotel Whitcomb--and also the traffic lane next to it. I had no way through but the trolley lane, and yep--I got stuck in a track and I went down hard.

    My iPhone fell out of my pocket and is damaged. My fingers are bruised, stiff and swelled. I've got bruises all over my ankles and legs.

    Why in hell can't SFPD keep bike lanes open to bicycles? Especially these "protected" green bike lanes--why are cops allowing tourbuses to shut those lanes down at rush hour, when they are most needed?

    I'd love to take part in a protest in front of the Hotel Whitcomb hazard zone--perhaps we could all line up and block those buses from entering that block altogether? Give them a taste of their own medicine? If the cops won't reopne the bike lanes to bikes, we should force a crisis until the cops do get involved.

  17. It seems to me that bicycles can park in tour bus zones, too. Maybe that is what we should do. A couple dozen bicycles, parked in the bus zones, with people rotating in and out so no one person has to take the brunt of it the whole time. It would certainly make a statement.

  18. These are exactly the reasons I've let my SFBC membership lapse. The SFBC's enthusiasm for promoting bicycle transportation has, at times, put newer riders at risk. I once got a ticket for riding on the sidewalk navigating around a bottleneck of illegally parked delivery vehicles, cars and buses.
    Infrastructure is the entire transportation system in balance, not merely a green stripe buses part on with impunity.