Seeing Double: San Francisco’s Double-parking Problem

Heart be still – against all odds, you’ve found an on-street parking spot in San Francisco. Thrilled with your find, you slide your San Francisco car rental into the spot, throw on the parking brake and saunter off into the sunset.

Only to return two hours later to find some jerk has double-parked right next to your driver door. Furious, you stand in the middle of the street, trying to figure out your next move. Except, on closer inspection, you notice that practically every other car on the street is in the exact same position.

There’s no question: Double-parking has become a serious problem in San Francisco, and it’s one that routinely causes problems for San Francisco car rental travelers. In fact, the practice has become so common in the city that officials have issued a special task force to try and control the issue. Commercial and personal drivers alike don’t just ignore the law, many blatantly disobey it, leaving their vehicles to block traffic, cause backups and even blocking bus and light-rail lines.

Talk about an unnecessary nightmare!

Sadly, protecting yourself from double-parking demons can be next to impossible. Even so, our experts have a few tips and tricks to help you avoid getting boxed in while out in your San Francisco car rental.

What is Double-parking?

First things first – what exactly is double-parking and why is it illegal? Double-parking is broadly defined as any means of standing or parking a vehicle on the roadway side of a vehicle that is already stopped, standing or parked at the curb. Not only does this prevent vehicles in the first row from departing, it also blocks traffic, forcing other motorists to maneuver around the obstructing vehicle.

The Worst Places for Double-parkers in San Francisco

According to Ricardo Olea, a traffic engineer with the City of San Francisco, double-parking is most common in dense, urban areas. As such, don’t be surprised if you run into problems on streets like Mission, Sutter, Howard, Polk and Union. Even so, San Francisco rental car travelers often report that they encounter double-parked vehicles in more commercialized areas too. This is because there are certain double-parking exemptions for delivery trucks and commercial vehicles.

According to California Vehicle Code 22502, commercial vehicles are permitted to double-park when “reasonably necessary to accomplish the loading or unloading of merchandise or passengers.” However, San Francisco car rental travelers should note that this exemption doesn’t apply on designated streets with major transit lines such as Ninth Avenue and Mission Street. Furthermore, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency has placed signs in these areas that explicitly convey this rule.

Exemptions also come into play on Sundays around local churches. For years, double-parking rules and regulations are not enforced on the day of faith, but recent changes in parking behaviors may cause this practice to fall out of favor with the local law enforcement as more and more people take advantage of the exception in areas like Mission Dolores and the neighboring Dolores Park.

Steps to Curb the Problem

Parking control officers are on high alert these days, ticketing San Francisco rental car drivers who are knowingly breaking the double-parking law. That being said, tickets aren’t always the first line of defense. In fact, officers are focused more on education rather than enforcement, taking the time to notify San Francisco car rental travelers of their transgressions. According to the Municipal Transportation Agency in charge of traffic citations, there are roughly 261 parking control officers out on the streets looking for offenders. According to the agency, roughly 15,000 parking tickets have already been issued this year – that’s nearly three quarters of last year’s entire allotment. Tickets for double-parking aren’t cheap either; the fine is $110, the maximum allowed by the law.

Double the Danger

It doesn’t matter what your excuse is, there’s no reason to double-park your San Francisco car rental in the city. The risk to your vehicle and to the safety of other’s is simply too high. This is because double-parked block impede traffic lanes and bike lanes, forcing motorists and cyclists to maneuver out and around them, sometimes into oncoming traffic. What’s more, double-parked cars that block municipal bus routes cause these vehicles to lose an average of eight seconds every time they are forced to pull out and around a double-parked vehicle.

So, when all is said and done, what can a San Francisco car rental travelers do if they find themselves hemmed in by a double-parked car? Well, the first option is to wait until the other driver comes out. Additional, you can call the Municipal Transportation Agency at 415-701-4500 and request assistance. Neither option is overly helpful, but unfortunately, there really isn’t much else that you can do.

Such is the side effect of San Francisco’s double parking problem.