SFGATE Investigates Cars Blocking Bike-Protected Lanes

Just how often do cars park in San Francisco’s bike-protected lanes? According to a recent SFGATE investigation, far too often.

For their study, analysts tracked three blocks of bike-protected lanes on Folsom Street close to SFGATE’s main office at 901 Mission Street. All of this data was collected between 3:30PM – 4:00PM on a busy workday.

Within this half-hour window, writers found that 26 motor vehicles fully blocked this bike lane at some point. In almost half of these obstructions, drivers said they parked in a bike-protected lane as they waited to turn right.

Ridesharing vehicles like Uber and Lyft were also observed parking in bike lanes to pick up customers. SFGATE noted, however, that delivery trucks tended to stall in bike lanes for the longest amount of time.

Even if vehicles didn’t drive through a bike lane, they would often swerve dangerously close to the lane’s borders. Study authors remind drivers it’s their responsibility to leave at least five feet of space between their vehicle and cyclists in bike lanes.

There are only a few occasions when motor vehicles could legally pass into a bike lane. First, drivers can pass through a bicycle lane if they are attempting to leave or enter a parking spot or roadway.

Second, it’s legal to travel into a bike lane before turning right provided you’re within 200 feet of the intersection. Usually there are dotted lines indicating it’s OK to cross over for a right turn. Drivers caught disobeying these rules could be slapped with a $238 fine and receive points on their license.

Although this wasn’t an exhaustive study, it highlights the safety issues San Francisco’s bicyclists face every day. Survey authors hope their study will encourage more public safety campaigns so San Franciscan drivers know what’s legal when traveling by bike-protected lanes.

For a full list of bike lane regulations and penalties, check out this link to California Vehicle Code §21209. You could also read through this informative webpage put together by the California DMV.

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