Push Continues to Fix Valencia

Advocates Protest Again and Demand SFMTA Take Immediate Action

Riders heading north on Valencia enjoy relative safety--at least for one block--thanks to the latest protest. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless otherwise indicated
Riders heading north on Valencia enjoy relative safety--at least for one block--thanks to the latest protest. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless otherwise indicated

Yesterday evening, some thirty bicycle advocates in yellow t-shirts again cordoned off a section of Valencia Street’s Uber drop-off zone (also known as the bike lane) in the Mission, between 18th and 19th.

The protest was very similar to past efforts, which you can read about here and here. As with the past two protests, there was one cyclist who cursed at everyone and yelled at them to go home (if anyone knows this guy, please urge him to either calm down or get back on his medications) but other than that it was all high fives and emphatic ‘thank yous’.

One big difference: Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, whose district encompasses the west side of the street, joined the protest this time.

“I did talk to MTA,” he told Streetsblog. According to Sheehy, there are concerns about adding a parking-protected bike lane north of 17th because there are overhead trolley-bus wires and the need to leave clearances for the buses to make turns. He added, however, that SFMTA seemed to think it could extend protected bike lanes from Cesar Chavez (there’s currently a short protected bike lane that runs south of Chavez) all the way to 17th. Matt Brezina, one of the organizers of this protest, said he had talked to businesses up and down the corridor and was not aware of any of the resistance merchants often express about adding parking-protected bike lanes.

In other words, there’s really nothing standing in the way of making this happen, at least from Chavez to 17th.

And yet, it’s not happening.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes the other side of Valencia, did not show up to the protest, although word has it she also supports protected bike lanes on the street. Streetsblog contacted her office earlier this week about protected bike lanes and Sunday’s collision on Valencia, and has yet to hear back.

Streetsblog readers, especially those who live in her district, should reach out to Ronen’s office and ask for confirmation that she will work to support protected bike lanes on Valencia.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy talks with Bike Coalition Director Brian Weidenmier at yesterday's protest for protected bike lanes on Valencia
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy talks with Bike Coalition Director Brian Wiedenmeier at yesterday’s protest for protected bike lanes on Valencia

Also at last night’s demonstration was Brian Wiedenmeier, seen above in the striped t-shirt across from Sheehy (in yellow). Sheehy stressed that everyone needs to form a consensus about designs and insist that SFMTA put in the bike lanes. That said, it’s hard to see who isn’t on the same page about this–the demonstrators and past vigilante efforts have already knocked off a drawing of a cheap and quick fix that could be put in virtually overnight.

SFMTrA put this rendering together a while ago about a simple way to create a protected bike lane
SFMTrA put this rendering together a while ago about a simple way to create a protected bike lane

Streetsblog’s only quibble with this design would be to suggest pulling the parklets over and continuing the bike lane straight along the curb, to create a straighter and better protected bike lane.

Either way, it’s really hard to understand what’s holding things up. Oakland has now shown its ability to get in quick fixes that take weeks instead of months or years. Portland, Vancouver, even Wichita, Kansas have shown how fast a bike lane can go in.

Maybe SFMTA just doesn’t know where to get paint and planters and other supplies?

HardwareStores

  • brezina

    appreciate everything about this article but have to disagree about moving the parklets.

    i really think connecting the parkets to the sidewalk, uninterrupted by bike lanes, creates an incredibly special lingering zone. many patrons take food from restaurants out and easily move back and forth between locations. I think it would do little harm to have the bike lane jog out towards traffic around the parklets – but obviously it will still need to be protected from car traffic.

    also – fast/quick/cheap – moving parklets would be a whole new complexity. i really think we can work around these little gems and still get an amazing protected bike lane.

    one of the reasons cesar chavez to 19th is eaiser for sfmta is because the sidewalks are narrower there. which frankly sucks. the parklets help create pausing/relaxing zones on a sidewalk that doesn’t have much room for dwelling. hopefully in the future we can expand the sidewalks as well – but the protected bike lane is an urgent next phase for Valencia street.

  • Stuart

    I agree; as someone who both commutes on Valencia and walks there regularly, I’d rather have a meandering (but protected) bike lane than cut the parklets off from the sidewalk. They really do help to open up an otherwise-cramped pedestrian experience. And with the Green Wave light timing it’s not like cyclists are flying down the street so fast that the the jogs would be difficult to navigate.

    There’s an interesting question though of whether putting in a bike lane with that design would make it harder to put in new parklets in the future though, since they would require rerouting the bike lane around it. I share your hope that someday we’ll see the political will for a more significant redesign of Valencia where we don’t have to make trade-offs between pedestrians and cyclists, and instead make it better for both given how heavily used it is for both.

  • Steep Ravine

    If it weren’t for the police station, Valencia could easily be one way for vehicular traffic, freeing up an entire lane to dedicate to bicyclists and a more expansive sidewalk.

  • Michael Smith

    We need to keep the parklets as is. They are part of the sidewalk and should remain as such. And we need to keep in mind that pedestrians are our allies. We need to work with them to make sure that the result is best for pedestrians as well.

    And one thing to note, the rendering showing a sharp curve in the bike lane in front of the parklet is just a rendering. It is just an idea. An even better design would be to simply reduce the loading zones somewhat and make the bike lane be more straight.

  • Yeah, a one way urban highway. Moving traffic through on Valencia faster is really what turned it around the past 20 years.

  • p_chazz

    Bicyclists are not pedestrian allies when they ride on sidewalks and run through stop signs, treating pedestrians like so many ninepins.

  • p_chazz

    Agree that the parklets need to stay in situ. Also, the plastic poles should be more widely spaced next to the loading zone. It would be very difficult to maneuver around them with a fully loaded dolly.

  • Jumped

    San Francisco doesn’t enforce bike lanes. Cops refer you to MTA, and I have never, ever seen MTA ticket a car in the bike lane. SF also doesn’t need to re-engineer everything to create protected lanes, they just have to be willing to make some streets one-way or remove some parking. The Ubers need drop-off zones to do their jobs safely, but where is MTA on that one? Again, it’s free. It costs 1 dedicated parking spot on each block to have a safe Uber drop-off location. But they don’t do it. They spend Millions of dollars, but their priorities never change. Valencia has bike lanes. And even right by the police station, cars flagrantly violate it.

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