Muni to allow taxis to stop in bike lanes

Curb service: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has issued bumper stickers that will let cabs pick up passengers in bike lanes. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)Curb service: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has issued bumper stickers that will let cabs pick up passengers in bike lanes. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

Curb service: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has issued bumper stickers that will let cabs pick up passengers in bike lanes. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)Curb service: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has issued bumper stickers that will let cabs pick up passengers in bike lanes. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

Cabdrivers and bicyclists — never the closest of friends — could see their rocky relationship get even uglier soon.

Taxis will now be able to drop off and pick up passengers in bike lanes — a move welcomed by drivers sick of getting nailed with $105 parking tickets, but criticized by cyclists who say it will worsen safety conditions.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates both taxis and bicyclists, recently began issuing bumper stickers to cabs giving them access to bike lanes without fear of being ticketed by parking control officers.

Mark Gruberg, a spokesman for United Taxicab Workers, a drivers’ organization, said that not being able to park in the bike lane to drop off passengers is a safety hazard, because customers have to navigate through a sea of speeding bicyclists to get to the curb. It’s particularly difficult for passengers with disabilities, he said.

“The City is always talking about ‘sharing the road,’” said Gruberg, “and for the bicyclists to get exclusive access of the bike lane goes completely against that mantra.”

Ed Healy, another driver, said cabbies miss out on fares because they’re reluctant to pull over to the curb for fear of getting a ticket.

“The bicyclists may not like this, but I don’t think they can complain about much, considering they run red lights all the time,” Healy said.

Even though the SFMTA will only allow cabs to use the bike lanes to drop off and pick up their passengers, some cyclists doubt that will happen.

“If you give cabs an inch, they’ll take a mile,” said Josh McDonald, a bike courier. “They’re going to be parked in the bike lanes, and I’m going to have to move around them into regular traffic. Anytime I have to do that, my job becomes a whole lot more dangerous.”

The SFMTA is working on a defensive-driving course to teach taxi drivers about the appropriate ways to pass cyclists. Cabs will also be outfitted with window stickers reminding passengers to look for bicyclists before they open the door.

Still, Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the plan should be shelved until more thought is put into it. She said it’s important to provide taxi access for passengers with disabilities, but adding more cab stands could be a better way to address that issue.

“This policy is confusing and will invite conflict,” said Shahum.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Splitting lanes

$105 Citation for blocking a bike lane
8,713 S.F. cyclists counted in the SFMTA’s last citywide bike count
1,500 Taxis in San Francisco
75 Percent increase in the length of bike lanes in S.F., once bike plan is complete (from 45 miles to 79 miles)
6 Percent of trips taken by bike in San Francisco

Source: SFMTA

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