Great Success: Cyclists' Sensible Yet Illegal Behavior Rewarded (With Bike Lane)

As anyone living west of Divisadero will tell you, navigating Page Street in the morning can be hairy. Traffic often backs up for blocks as you head down a long hill on the approach to Octavia Boulevard, where cars line up to take a right turn towards the US-101 onramp.

Bicycle riders adjust by passing the stopped cars on the left, but the street is narrow — so passing bikes, flying down the hill, often have to use the oncoming travel lane. That's a sensible move, as passing on the right would require navigating an even narrower passage between the cars caught in traffic and the parked cars, but that's a no-no, and has in the past earned cyclists tickets from SFPD standing sentinel at the bottom of the hill.

But no longer. The once-illegal behavior is now enshrined in law, thanks to a freshly-painted bike lane installed this week. Chalk — or paint — this one up to the cyclists.

[jump] Remember that state law, for the most part, sees cars and bicycles as identical. The California Vehicle Code says that cyclists have full use of the travel lane, which also means that — for the most part, at least in theory — they can't behave like a two-wheeled conveyance as opposed to a four-wheeled one. Hence, the Idaho Stop and other moves that seem sensible to a bike rider anger motorists, who cry “special treatment!”

We ran — or biked past — former Bicycle Coalition executive Andy Thornley, who is now with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, at the now-laned area of Page Street this morning. It does appear that this bike lane is a prime example of the SFMTA taking into account typical behavior — and rather than changing a law, they changed the roadway to make the common practice legal practice.

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