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Bicycle Infrastructure

Valencia Cyclery Owner Feels Misunderstood

An Uber drop off in the bike lane on Valencia in March 2020. Photo: Safelanes

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.]

The owner of Valencia Cyclery, Paul Olszewski, is certainly getting dinged on social media about his letter to the editor last month objecting to talk of Valencia Street going car-free--or anything else that interferes with on-street, free private car storage (aka street parking).

Now he says he's been misunderstood. He published this press release below on the bike shop's web page:

My words have been taken out of context in the media.

Valencia Cyclery is for greater safety for cyclists and pedestrians and to suggest otherwise is simply absurd. We are not against a protected bicycle lane down Valencia Street.

We and other businesses of Valencia Street are disappointed not to be included in the selection process. We feel that we have a right to be able to discuss the different options. We will continue to partner with members of the Bike Coalition and the SFMTA to make cycling safer down Valencia Street.

I have reached out to Kimberly Leung of the SFMTA and a few of our neighbors. Three different plans were made for the protected bike lane on the street. The rejected plan for moving the bikes to the center lane seems like a workable compromise for everyone. Delivery trucks, cars turning right, driveways or rideshare vehicles will not jeopardize cyclists. The businesses will have easier and safer access for deliveries. More customer parking will be preserved. We feel that we can convince the other businesses to accept it as the best option.

This is a sincere attempt to have a protected bike lane everyone can support. Please help us make that a reality.

In any case, Valencia Cyclery will welcome any bike lane improvements made on Valencia Street.

Thank you.

Paul Olszewski

Streetsblog looked into this and, in fact, he was included in the 2018 discussions about side and center-running options for this section from 19th to Cesar Chavez, which includes Valencia Cyclery's location. SFMTA spokeperson Benjamin Barnett, in an email to Streetsblog, said officials went door to door to businesses on Valencia, including to Valencia Cyclery.

Barnett added that in October 2018, after one of SFMTA's door-to-door walks, a staffer at Valencia Cyclery told officials that they “Don't want to lose customer parking. People don't know about [the nearby] garage. [And they] Don't like separated bike lanes.” [emphasis added by Streetsblog]. Officials also invited Valencia Cyclery to join an electronic mailing list for updates on the project.

In addition, SFMTA put up flyers up and down Valencia explaining the proposed project, with dates and locations of the multiple public outreach meetings. The meetings were also posted online by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and SFMTA (and on Streetsblog's events calendar).

After this public process, which was covered by Streetsblog, SFMTA rejected the center-running bike-lanes Olszewski supports. For one, they make it difficult for cyclists to navigate to the curb or make turns safely. There are the dangers cyclists would face navigating to and from the existing bike lanes on the rest of the street. Center-running bike lanes just aren't considered "best practices" in countries such as the Netherlands. As Livable City's Tom Radulovich said at one of the outreach meetings in 2018, “If the Dutch and the Danish don’t do it, we probably shouldn’t do it."

Last week's outreach meeting, refining the protected bike lanes and intersections on Valencia from 19th to Cesar Chavez. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Last week's outreach meeting, refining the protected bike lanes and intersections on Valencia from 19th to Cesar Chavez. SFMTA has been holding public outreach meetings on Valencia for years--but Valencia Cyclery feels it was left out of the process. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
February 2020's outreach meeting on Valencia, refining the protected bike lanes and intersections from 19th to Cesar Chavez. SFMTA would later throw out these approved plans, bowing to parking interests and ignoring years of outreach and best international practices. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Bottom line, after extensive public outreach and several meetings with impressive turnout, SFMTA now has a quick-build design for the stretch of Valencia from 19th to Cesar Chavez. As SFMTA officials point out, there were nearly 300 collisions between 2012 and 2016 on Valencia. Let's hope Valencia Cyclery will now sincerely "welcome any bike lane improvements made on Valencia Street," even if that means sacrificing parking or complicating deliveries.

Meanwhile, one advocate set up a parody twitter account about Valencia Cyclery--which seems like a parody of a parody, since a bike-shop that's obsessed with car parking is already hard to take seriously.

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