Eyes on the Street: Valencia Streetscape Project Nearly Complete

Valencia_striping.jpgThe new striping on Valencia Street. Photos: Matthew Roth
The near total reconstruction of Valencia Street between 15th and 19th Streets in The Mission over the past year has seemed at times maddening to those who use the street, no matter what mode. From ripped up sidewalks to ripped up pavement, the area has been a construction zone for nearly a year now, causing businesses to bemoan the lack of sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to shimmy along the narrow strips of plywood and concrete that has passed for temporary sidewalks, and leading cyclists to dodge construction vehicles while navigating grooved pavement and large ruts.

Soon all that will feel like a distant memory, as the five blocks recently received a smooth layer of asphalt and over the past few days have been striped for a new lane configuration. To make room for the delightfully wide and sparkly sidewalks, the center median stripes have been replaced by two parallel yellow lines, an arrangement that is sure to make the old median double parkers upset.

While the new pavement is pleasant to ride over, cyclists will quickly realize the new lane configuration doesn't provide them with much new space and doesn't diminish the danger of dooring. If anything, the absence of the center median means delivery vehicles are no longer parking in the media and are using the curb for business, which can pinch the bike lane down and reduce visibility. Knowing drivers who used to pass cyclists with their left wheels in the median will also have less space to pass comfortably. Hopefully that will slow them down so they pass with greater care, but I'm concerned it could add to more conflicts.

feeling_the_pinch.jpgPutting the squeeze on cyclists.
Nevertheless, the new street is a banquet of space for pedestrians. New trees have been planted up and down the sidewalks and stylized lamp posts have been added at two heights, one for pedestrians one for motorists. Another interesting feature is the art project Valencia Street Post, four decorative boxes affixed to old telephone poles that are meant to be used to facilitate community interaction, according to artist Michael Arcega.

On his website, he writes: "The public is invited to use the four sites as informal community bulletin boards for notices, events, ads, and the like.  The (Stick-Style) Victorian signifier is meant to evoke the site’s history. Since most of the older buildings up to 20th Street were destroyed during fires in 1906, the area has transformed its appearance numerous times. The juxtaposition of a bulletin-street-pole with classic San Franciscan architecture embraces the past and present- leaving room for the future collaborations by the community."

As a semi-regular pedestrian on the street, the sidewalks are wonderful. But as a regular bicycle commuter on the street, I'm more than a bit concerned by the new configuration. What do you think?

H/T Mr Eric Sir.

New_sign_posts_2.jpgThe new community post poles, street height light poles, street trees, wide sidewalks and new lane configuration all together.
New_street_signs.jpgAnother variation on the community poles.