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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Protesters Level Assault Allegation at Fell St. Arco Owner

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 3:14 PM

click to enlarge bike_lane_ahead.gif

Protesters demonstrating against a safety hazard created by cars lining up in bike and auto traffic lanes near the Fell Street Arco station allege that station owner Larry Armstrong committed assault when he pushed one of them to make way for a waiting car. For the past two weeks, protesters have blocked the station's entrance, complaining that customers obstruct the bike lane during rush hour. (Video after the jump.)

"The station owner clearly took matters into his own hands," protest co-leader Josh Hart said. A video taken by protest organizers indeed shows Armstrong pulling on a protester to get him out of the way. Whether the incident rises to the level of assault might be open to interpretation. Armstrong, an investor in service stations throughout the Bay Area, had not returned a request for comment by the time this blog was published.

The video gets more interesting after the purported assault. Police officers arrive on the scene to clear protesters out of the way so that cars that have been stopped in the bike lane can get their gas. According to Hart, the police arrived a bit after 5:30 p.m.

According to the San Francisco Traffic Code, "No person shall block any portion of a marked bicycle lane with his or her vehicle on weekdays from the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Any person violating this section shall be subject to a fine of $100."

But this video depicts police officers clearing away protesters so that motorists may queue up in the bike lane and continue violating the traffic code without fear of citation.

When Hart was asked whether he and his fellow protesters plan to complain to the Police Commission about this apparent dereliction of duty, he said, "We are capped out with organizing those protests. People have been asking the city to do this for 10 years. What we need to do is take matters into our own hands."

The Metropolitan Transportation Agency plans to implement an experimental street change whereby five parking spaces will be removed to create a automobile gasline between the curb and the bike lane. Next, the MTA will  paint the bike lane green.

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