Pursuit of cheap gas clogging traffic 

Idling cars waiting to buy inexpensive gas at a Fell Street station are causing traffic snarls for motorists and endangering bicyclists who travel along the busy artery.

Cars at the Arco at Fell and Divisadero streets force bicyclists, pedestrians and fellow motorists to maneuver around them into swift-moving traffic, according to Michael Helquist, a member of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. Now, neighbors want a solution to the problem.

Helquist said the situation has existed for nearly a decade, despite repeated pleas for safety upgrades at the site.

The Municipal Transportation Agency met with community members last week and unveiled a set of eight options designed to improve the flow of traffic. Some measures include the removal of three parking spots near the station, adding a set of physical barriers to keep motorists from inching into the bike lane, and working with the station to redesign its parking lot.

Neal Patel, a planner with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said barriers — ideally the “soft-hit posts” The City has installed at Market and Octavia streets — would be the most effective manner of keeping cars out of the Fell Street bike lane.

Helquist said Arco should hire a person to help manage traffic outside the station, similar to the way Trader Joe’s employs someone outside the busy store on Masonic Avenue and Geary Boulevard.

The transit agency is working to refine its potential solutions, although any new implementations may hinge on the dissolution of an injunction against The City’s Bike Plan. Due to an ongoing lawsuit, bike-related improvements are not allowed in San Francisco, although the City Attorney’s Office is working to overturn that ruling.

“We do not yet have the answer for this challenging location, but we will continue to work with stakeholders to identify a possible solution,” transit agency spokesman Judson True said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the intersection, said he has contacted the City Attorney’s Office about code enforcement options that could force Arco management to address the safety issues.

“They [Arco] need to take responsibility and realize that their gas station is a contributor to major traffic hazards,” Mirkarimi said.
Calls to Arco management were not returned. An employee who answered the phone at the Fell Street station said the issue of idling cars was “no longer a problem anymore.”

At $2.85 a gallon, the station has the ninth- cheapest gas in San Francisco, according to the Web site www.sanfrangasprices.com. Arco’s prices are 5 cents cheaper than the Spirit station across the street.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

Public outcry altered Panhandle sign plan

Although they have certainly garnered the attention of local residents and city officials, problems outside the Arco gas station on Fell and Divisadero streets haven’t been the only traffic headache in the Panhandle neighborhood.

Earlier this year, residents complained that a set of planned highwaylike electronic message signs on Fell and Oak streets would encourage fast traffic conditions on the arteries, which already are busy thoroughfares for motorists traveling east and west across The City.

The Municipal Transportation Agency had plans to erect the signs as part of its SFgo program, a series of pilot projects aimed at improving traffic management and easing congestion on streets.

Residents said the signs would have sped up the already-swift-moving traffic on the two arteries, become an eyesore to the area and counteract traffic-calming measures under way on Divisadero Street, which intersects the thoroughfares.

Reacting to the feedback, the transit agency said it would abandon the Oak Street sign and considerably downgrade the size of the Fell Street sign.

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Will Reisman

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