Eyes on the Street: Work on Valencia Protected Bike Lane Pilot Almost Complete

A Valencia Street event to celebrate the new bike lanes was rained out, but Streetsblog took a look anyway

The new Valencia protected bike lane pilot where it passes San Francisco Friends School and Millennium School (across from each other at Brosnan). Image: Streetsblog/Rudick
The new Valencia protected bike lane pilot where it passes San Francisco Friends School and Millennium School (across from each other at Brosnan). Image: Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Politicians were supposed to do a bicycle victory lap Monday morning to celebrate the nearly completed protected bike lane pilot on Valencia between 15th and Market. It was to include a tour and remarks from Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Hillary Ronen.

That was cancelled due to the rain. But Streetsblog wasn’t going to let some icy water get in the way and did the tour anyway.

As seen in the lead image, green paint and a railing are now applied to the boarding islands (installed last month) for San Francisco Friends School and Millennium School, at Brosnan and Valencia.

Given the weather, and time of day, there weren’t many cyclists flowing through it when Streetsblog was there. But Dylan Harris, a cyclist who’s part of the San Fracisco Bike Ride Crew page on Facebook, complained that the bike lane is “way too narrow,” where it passes by the boarding islands.

IMG_20190204_110256
It was also nice to see this Ford GoBike Station moved out to protect cyclists

Others on that thread pointed out that it makes sense to narrow the lane and therefore slow cyclists going by the boarding islands for a school, since kids have to cross the lane. Matt Brezina, who helped lead the People Protected Bike Lane protests that were a major impetus in getting this project going, pointed out that the islands narrow the motor vehicle lanes too. “It’s a classic road diet,” he told Streetsblog.

Unfortunately, the parklet in front of Four Barrel coffee wasn't move out to protect the bike lane, so cyclists have to veer back towards auto traffic as they pass the coffee shop
Unfortunately, the parklet in front of Four Barrel Coffee wasn’t moved out to protect the bike lane, so cyclists have to veer back towards auto traffic as they pass the coffee shop

SFMTA opted to have the bike lane go around the parklet in front of Four Barrel Coffee, instead of scootching it into the street so it could protect cyclists. “We had considered the placement of the parklet and the potential conflicts between people biking and people walking to/from the parklet if it had been moved. Furthermore, parklets need to be ADA accessible,” said Ben Jose, a spokesperson for the agency. Jose was under the impression there were still safe hit posts protecting the bike lane from traffic at this point, but there weren’t any this morning, as seen above.

Meanwhile, when SFMTA did a pilot of protected bike lanes on the southern end of Valencia, between Cesar Chavez and Mission, they had a problem at first with confused motorists continuing to park against the curb. They seem to have found a better initial solution this time, making it clear right away that motorists can’t park on the curb here (see below).

SFMTA seems to have done a better job of keeping people from parking on the bike lane by covering the meters with these bags
SFMTA seems to have done a better job of keeping people from parking on the bike lane by covering the meters with these hard-to-miss bags

It seemed to work too (probably because of the clear threat of cars getting towed). For the most part, Streetsblog didn’t see cars parked on or driving in the newly protected bike lane, which seems almost miraculous considering how things went at first with the earlier pilot or the protected bike lane on Telegraph in Oakland, where scofflaws parking on the bike lane is still an issue.

Cars actually were parked where they were supposed to be, probably because of the bags over the parking meters
Cars actually were parked where they were supposed to be, probably because of the bright red and bags over the parking meters with a picture of a car getting towed

Unfortunately, there were still exceptions. As seen below, this motorcyclist was a bit confused:

This motorcyclist blocked the bike lane, but it's perhaps understanding as shown in the next picture
This motorcyclist blocked the bike lane, but it’s perhaps understandable, as shown in the next picture
SFMTA forgot to bag this sign, which likely lead to the confusion of the motorcyclist who left his bike blocking the lane
SFMTA bagged the parking meters, but didn’t bag this sign, which likely lead to the confusion of the motorcyclist who left his bike blocking the lane

SFMTA has to remove the motorcycle parking sign, as seen above, bag it, or move it to the replacement motorbike parking that was painted to the left of the bike lane (seen two pictures up on the left of the image).

Streetsblog also saw this scofflaw (see image below) driving a van down the protected bike lane. That’s kind of hard to blame on the clearly marked bike lane.

The driver of this white van drove down the newly protected bike lane heading southbound on Valencia
The driver of this white van drove down the newly protected bike lane heading southbound on Valencia

Just up the street, a crew from SFMTA was busy grinding pavement to continue the protected bike lane from under the Central freeway to Market. One of the workers on the crew asked Streetsblog if we saw any cars on the bike lane and we mentioned the white van. The worker said police would be stepping up enforcement.

This crew was getting ready to grind pavement to finish the segment where Valencia meets Market
This crew was getting ready to grind pavement to finish the segment where Valencia meets Market

The SFMTA crew explained that the rains work to their advantage, because they can grind the old markings off the asphalt without kicking up any dust. Unfortunately, the rain also prevents them from finishing the work. They said they’ll come back tomorrow, when the sun should be out, to put down new white and green thermoplastic markings.

“The last block to get protected bikeways is Market to McCoppin and that should be finished this week. Green paint between 14th and 15th is also set to be completed this week,” said Jose, noting that it will all depend on the weather.

One of the SFMTA crew members showing how the yellow stripe will be moved over to make room for the protected bike lane
One of the SFMTA crew members showing how the yellow stripe will be moved over to make room for the protected bike lane

As Breznia pointed out, however, intersections remain dicey, with cyclists still being put in a challenging position at each “mixing zone.” Protected bike lanes, as Streetsblog has pointed out several times in the past, really need protected intersections to be truly safe for all users.

A mixing zone at 14th and Valencia
A mixing zone at 14th and Valencia

That said, given all the volunteer hours by the People Protected Bike Lane crew, the Bicycle Coalition, and others, Streetsblog can only hope the next ‘pilot’ won’t just be a few more blocks, but instead will connect from 15th to Cesar Chavez, finally giving Valencia a protected bike lane all the way from Market to Mission.

What do you think of the new bike lane pilot? Is it too narrow by the schools? Are the intersections still too precarious? Leave your comments below.

  • Uric Stone

    The worker said police would be stepping up enforcement.

    How does one “step up” on zero enforcement??

  • Roger R.

    LOL. Good point.

  • crazyvag

    While I agree that a dedicated light cycle for bikes is safer in theory, in reality, the light for bikes coming down Folsom across 8th Stis annoyingly short. Bikes need to share the light cycle with turning vehicles, so bikes going straight get 1/2 the time as vehicles going straight. Since lights aren’t timed for bikes, many frustrated bikers simply merge to car lanes to cross the intersection. And even when bikes have a green cycle, some cars turn right because they don’t see any bikes coming.

    For me, I find that the solution for bike lane on 7th Street as it crosses Folsom to be much safer. Bikes get the full light cycle, and cars are funneled down a narrow entrance with turns that I find safer.

  • brezina

    i’m going to study these two in comparison. I agree the bike phased lights in this town aren’t good. Why should cars get twice the light length as bikes?

    these intersections really need work. some are better than others – but look at this intersection image above – that’s back to danger zone for unarmored bike lane users.

  • mx

    If the entire lane isn’t painted green, people will park in it. (They will, of course, park in it if the pavement is green, and paint doesn’t stop double parking, but at least people won’t straight up park in lanes out of confusion like that motorcyclist did.)

    It’s baffling to me how slow the city is at getting green pavement treatments out on otherwise good lanes. It sounds like they’re working to get it done here once the rains let up, which is great, but Howard and Folsom still have large sections with no green pavement, and confused drivers regularly park in them because they’re programed to park next to the curb.

  • jd_x

    The NB section that goes around the Four Barrel parklet needs bollards; motorists are using it as their parking spot while they run in for coffee. I don’t think the bike lane should go between the parklet and the sidewalk … just add bollards and the problem is solved.

    I agree that the bike lane is too narrow SB by Friends School. I do like the railing there though, but make the bike lane 2 ft wider and it will be great.

    The mixing zones at intersections still are terrible. I don’t understand why SFMTA can’t just do a proper protected intersection.

    Finally, I’m glad Valencia’s horrid “murder strips” are finally being addressed, but the blocks between 22nd St and 16th St desperately need protected bike lanes and it’s hard for me to get too excited until the whole street is addressed.

  • JudyAF

    There is no such thing as a protected bike lane in California. Once there is physical separation it becomes a class 4 separated bikeway. Words matter. Bike lanes are subject to cvc 21202 making them mandatory use. This thing is oprtional for cyclists and good.thing too. This presents many more dangers than a regular class 2 bike lane while making the innocent feel safe. Dangers from pedestrians, at intersections and driveways its not wide enough to pass within it and oh there’s water pooling. And debris. Stope calling this a protected bike lane. It neither a bike lane or protected.

  • George Joseph Lane

    A lot of this lane has ‘floating’ parking. Why are there no vertical features such as kerbs or soft hit posts in the buffer zone to clearly delineate parking from the cycle lane?

  • crazyvag

    There are meetings on the Howard / Folsom lanes to add just that. I’m happy to have the bike plane protected as is today, and let meetings take their course about planters and things.

  • jd_x

    Still better than what was there before. If you’re a VC, take the lane (though at peak hours it’s all backed up and you’ll have to squeeze between cars which definitely isn’t safer than just taking the bike lane). For everyone else, this is an improvement.

  • JudyAF

    At peak hours this will be slower than the slowest rider as you can’t pass… and you can’t get out.. and anyone that wants to use the travel lane will be harrassed for not using this expensive crap. A regular bike lane would have been better.. and lets you pass out of it.

  • crazyvag

    It stops being better as soon as Taxi/Lyft/Uber stops and blocks it. Then you’re really trapped.

  • Seth

    i just biked past this morning (Tuesday) and quite a few safe hit posts were being installed. I’d recommend checking this out again later this week once they’ve completed that work…

  • Seth

    i’ve been biking up and down this stretch for years, and the “Regular bike lane” has not been working. I agree that this design has its flaws, and perhaps better options could hypothetically exist, but considering all the factors at play this design is safer for cyclists than what was before.

  • mx

    The slowest rider (which is probably me on a 50lb GoBike, honestly) is still substantially faster than car traffic at peak hours. Yes, sometimes you might have to slow down a little bit until it’s safe to pass; such is life. And the lights are timed for 13mph anyway. But by all means, feel free to take the lane if that makes your day better, just don’t dump on all of us who’ve spent plenty of time explaining how the “regular bike lane” doesn’t work because it’s always full of cars.

  • A VC wouldn’t filter past cars, a VC would take the lane and move slowly with the motorized traffic.

  • JudyAF

    You can leave the bike lane to get around cars, not so with this. You are just stuck. It’s not safe to pass anyone inside this. And to go over any debris in this as well.

  • Flatlander

    Green paint is very expensive

  • David

    That’s good news. The lack of vertical elements is what makes Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue protected bike lanes a s-show to this day. SFMTA should extend the protected bike lanes all the way to each intersection but without a dedicated signal phase. The protected bike lane on San Pablo Avenue in Albany has a dedicated bike phase and nobody likes it–cars sit idle with no bikes in the lane, and when bikes show up they just go anyway if San Pablo is green for cars.

  • Mike

    This is one of the trade-offs between mixing zones and signal-protected bikeways. The former require cyclists to maneuver/weave with motorists at intersections but given cyclists more green time, while the latter separates cyclists from drivers through the intersection but provides only half the green time.

  • sf in sf

    Protected intersections weren’t possible in this near-term project, but could be in an eventual long-term project.

  • sf in sf

    I like them!

    It’s going to be much harder to deal with the rest of Valencia. From 15th to 19th, because the sidewalks are wider, we have to remove parking on at least one side to do a protected lane. And from 19th to 24th, the narrow sidewalks are incredibly congested. Which means bike lanes next to the sidewalk will probably be walked in and become a de facto extension of the sidewalk on weekends.

    To me, there’s only one ultimate answer that works, and that is for all of Valencia to be closed to motor vehicles (with the exception of deliveries, limited to local traffic only, 5mph and potentially restricted hours).

  • George Joseph Lane

    I completely agree that the current lane is better than any unprotected lane, but I wonder why these aren’t included as a matter of course. Bolt down orcas are <$50 each, for example.

  • These protected lanes are great. Thank you Mayor Breed, Supervisor Ronen, and the SFMTA team!

  • Kill Uber

    They park wherever they fit, especially if they’re Uber. They’ll stop at the entrance to this lane and also block the exit, and will sit and stand in the parts where there are gaps for driveways.

    They’ve only been there a few days and I’ve already seen all of this in play.

  • keenplanner

    Green paint and bike stencils make the lanes less confusing to motorists.

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Funding Approved for Valencia Protected Bike Lane Study

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. Today the San Francisco County Transportation Authority approved $145,000 for the ‘Valencia Street Bikeway Implementation Plan,’ a study into putting protected bike lanes on […]