Eyes on the Street: Valencia Protected Bike Lane

May we Have some More Please?

Dropping in some traffic cones helped stop motorists from parking on the Valencia protected bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Dropping in some traffic cones helped stop motorists from parking on the Valencia protected bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

As Streetsblog readers have no doubt seen in Hoodline, the SF Examiner, Curbed,  Bernalwood, or on various social media, the newly opened stretch of protected bike lane on Valencia Street, from Cesar Chavez to Mission, got off to a bad start, with confused motorists parking all over it. Fortunately, the protected bike lane was open for business today, thanks to better signs and some cones, as seen in the above photo.

Streetsblog had been observing the construction of this section of lane for some time, and was struck by the same thing that seems to have confused the drivers–why did SFMTA put the meters on the curb, instead of between the bike lane and the parking lane? There’s been some speculation that it was a cost issue, but it clearly wasn’t that, since–going by photos taken by Streetsblog when the lane was in late construction–all the meters are new.

As seen in this construction photo from a few months ago, SFMTA put in new meters to the right of the bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
As seen in this construction photo from a few months ago, SFMTA put in new meters to the right of the bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

So why didn’t they put the meters on the left of the bike lane, to help keep scofflaw or easily confused parkers off?

“The buffer area serves as a path of travel for people in wheelchairs entering/exiting cars. We can’t block it with parking meters or safe-hit posts per our accessibility guidelines,” said Ben Jose, a spokesman for SFMTA. “Otherwise wheelchair users would need to travel in the bike lane to access the nearest ramp up to the sidewalk.

Obviously, they kind of have to do that anyway, since the “buffer zone” is just a swath of paint.

Either way, maybe it’s time to review those guidelines. Surely, cyclists can manage to co-exist with the occasional wheel chair or mobility scooter for one block, as they do in places with mature bike infrastructure. Regardless, it’s disappointing that there’s still nothing physically stopping cars from parking on the lane.

Streetsblog also wants to nitpick driveway treatments. The driveway ramps are gradual and wide, as seen below, and can be mounted at high speeds, which invites collisions. Any time a driveway crosses a cycle lane there should be a narrow, steep driveway apron, a speed bump, or something equivalent to force a motorist to hesitate before crossing the path.

The driveways across the bike lane are smooth and level for cars, inviting conflicts. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The driveways across the bike lane are smooth and level for cars, inviting conflicts. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Streetsblog also isn’t a fan of the intersection treatments at Cesar Chavez. There should be a cut through for cyclists to get across the bulbouts, without being forced to merge left into right-turning traffic. SFTMA did it right at 9th and Division, with the city’s first protected intersection.

So why relapse to a mixing-zone treatment at Valencia and Cesar Chavez? Apparently, that came down to a lack of coordination between the protected bike lane and an earlier streetscape project. And the “SFMTA project budget did not include funding for a redesign of this bulbout or a redesign of the signalized intersection,” said Jose.

Thanks to lack of budget and coordination, cyclists are forced to mix with right-turning cars at the northern end of the protected bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog
Thanks to lack of budget and coordination, cyclists are forced to mix with right-turning cars at the northern end of the protected bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog

That said, it’s much more pleasant to ride than the rest of Valencia and it’s a major step in the right direction, albeit for a tenth of a mile. On the next block, unfortunately, it’s back to the world’s longest Uber/merchant loading zone.

So what are the prospects of extending the protected bike lane north? Does SFMTA have a plan in the works? “Not at this point in time,” said Jose.

Worlds longest loading zone: aka, the Valencia bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Worlds longest loading zone: aka, the Valencia bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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