Cyclists Woes on Fell Street

Cyclists heading west on the bike trail along Fell street have long had to dodge drivers who cut in line at the ARCO gas station. A recent accident that happened at this very spot involved a drunk driver who hit a cyclist and two other vehicles. Thankfully, everyone survived, resulting in only minor injuries.

Every cyclist who rides the Wiggle knows the dangers of that juncture, where cars often back up from the gas pumps and obstruct the bike lane. It becomes much more dangerous when there is less traffic and drivers are speeding to beat the light, often reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour or more. Cyclists were advocating for the removal of ARCO’s entrance/exit from Fell Street. However, after a decade and countless accidents, the issue is yet to be resolved.

The Saga Continues

The city’s inability to address this issue has led to the creation of a second, equally hazardous location on Fell, where food delivery drivers are now parking in the protected bike lane to pick up orders from a new bagel shop.

The bike lane in front of Schlok’s bagels on Fell Street (between Divisadero and Broderick) is often blocked by cars between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays, and even more on Fridays and Saturdays. Leslie Carr, a frequent of Fell Street, said that riders of all ages heavily use the street’s protected bike lane. Because of this, cyclists are forced into the vehicle lanes, which are, as you well know, very congested and dangerous.

When addressing the issue, Zack Schwab, Schlock’s Bagels owner, stated that they had done everything in their power to solve the problem. This involved notifying the culprits, usually from delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats, to park at a designated parking space at the back of the store and not on the bike lane. Despite this, their request would often be ignored.

Also, he said he’s tried to get extra security and better facilities at the site by contacting Supervisor Dean Preston’s office, but was unsuccessful.

An unidentified Preston staff member was quoted as saying “Parking in designated cyclist lanes poses a threat to road users, and we should do everything we can to prevent bike lanes from being blocked. I have contacted MTA about the problem on Fell. Fell Street is widely used by bicyclists of all ages, and the bike lane there connects to the panhandle-protected cycle lane and JFK, all of which I have advocated for. It is crucial that this bike path not be blocked by cars.”

In light of the situation, Preston’s office also contacted San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the body responsible for enforcing bike lanes. They responded by saying they’ll look into possibly extending the present islands and inform their Parking Enforcement colleagues to conduct targeted enforcement if possible.

Possible Solutions

There are arguments in favor of lengthening an island. In addition, plastic posts can be swapped out with real bollards or Jersey barriers, and the Wiggle’s mixing zones can be removed. Regarding enforcement, the SFMTA’s Parking Control Officers could start handing out fines.

Nesrine Majzoub of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition stated, “We’re working in conjunction with the SFMTA, D5 office, and merchant to guarantee we can swiftly design and execute a plan to dissuade and prohibit motorists from parking in the bike lane on Fell Street.”

However, gauging by the response to the infamous Arco Death Trap, cyclists shouldn’t expect to see much action very soon.

The Perils of Road Biking in the US

Situations like this are a clear indication of just how unsafe US roads can be for cyclists. To put this into perspective, bicycle trips account for 1% of trips across the country. However, over 2% of fatalities in auto-related accidents in the United States involve bicyclists.

A report released by NSC injury facts outlines a 44% increase in preventable cyclist deaths from 2011 to 2020. At the same time, 2020 alone witnessed a 16% rise in the same statistic. In the same year, out of the 1260 reported cyclist deaths, 806 were directly vehicle-related.

CDC’s findings also add to this sad statistic stating that roughly one thousand bicyclists are killed, and more than 130000 are injured yearly in traffic accidents in the United States. The casualties are said to setback the government over $23 Billion annually.

For a severe bicycle accident on an adult, the total costs are set at $77,308, up from $52,495. These costs consider medical care, time off work, and diminished quality of life. The figure could be significantly higher even without accounting for the psychological trauma that may accompany a bike accident, particularly if it causes permanent harm or the death of a loved one.

For this reason, it’s essential to give bicycle safety its due attention. Safer riding infrastructure (cycling tracks, increased street lighting), as well as extensive education on safe cycling behaviors, may help cut these costs.

More on road safety is the rising concern over hit and road accidents across the country. While road accidents are sometimes inevitable, seeing the other driver flee is the only thing more upsetting than getting in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that hit-and-run accidents occur more than once every minute on US roads.

It may not be your fault, but being the victim in any accident could have profound effects. That’s why it’s important to always keep safe. Wear the right gear as a cyclist, such as reflective clothing and a helmet. And always stick to the allotted bike lanes when possible. As a pedestrian, ensure you’re always alert when walking on the road and look both sides before crossing. Remain vigilant and stay safe, everybody!

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