SFMTA Re-Proposes Ridiculous Center-Running Valencia Bike Lanes

It's the old Valencia bait-in-switch.

The Bay Area already has a center-running, on-street bike lane, this one in Oakland. Photo: Photo: Babye Champ
The Bay Area already has a center-running, on-street bike lane, this one in Oakland. Photo: Photo: Babye Champ

SFMTA has revived a proposal for a center-running, unprotected bike lane for Valencia Street from 15th to 24th Streets. Even SFMTA admits this is a deficient design for safety, with cyclists forced to cross active vehicle lanes to get on and off the bike lane. “We acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable using the travel lane to access mid-block destinations. The spacing of vertical delineators will allow for bicyclists to exit the bikeway midblock,” wrote the agency in a flyer about the proposal.

SFMTA once again bait-and-switches on Valencia bike lane. Image: SFMTA
SFMTA once again bait-and-switches on Valencia bike lane. Image: SFMTA

If built, this would be the Bay Area’s second on-street, center-running bike lane. The other is in Oakland on 90th Avenue, where it became a parking lane for cops to hang out on, as seen in the lead image.

As readers will recall, SFMTA promised physically protected bike lanes on Valencia by the end of the year. Of course, this new-old proposal is not protected, because the only way a center-running bike lane can be considered “protected” is with concrete barriers, not plastic hit posts, even big yellow ones. If that’s not clear, watch the video embedded in this Tweet below:

Advocates were justifiably outraged at this latest bait-and-switch, and expressed it on social media, as in this Tweet with a reply from Mayor London Breed’s transportation deputy:

The center running plan was part of a bundle of options offered in 2018. It was roundly rejected in favor of standard, Dutch-style protected intersections (see diagram below) and bike lanes positioned between the sidewalk and a curb and/or a row of parked cars. At the time, many hoped that eventually Valencia could become like State Street in Santa Barbara and go car-free. That’s the only way a center-running bike lane protected by plastic posts only would be safe. With the road set up as a permanent “Sunday Street,” plastic-protected bike lanes in the center would help segregate cyclists and pedestrians.

Screenshot from 2022-09-19 08-59-32
The bait: protected bike lanes and intersections offered in early 2020. Until recently, this actually safe, actually Dutch-modeled design was the agreed-to plan. Image: SFMTA

But cars are going to be on Valencia for the foreseeable future. One could go to the other extreme and put Jersey barriers in to protect the center-running bike lanes. However, this is still going to leave cyclists with dangerous intersections (see below) and no safe access to shops.

The switch. This is the transition intersection from the short protected pilot installed a few years ago.
The switch. This is the transition intersection from the short protected pilot installed a few years ago.

Dutch-style protected bike lanes, with concrete and/or a line of parked cars between moving traffic and cyclists, actually stop errant motorists from plowing into people on bikes. As Dutch planners have explained many times, cyclists are not cars–they’re pedestrians on wheels. That’s why pedestrians are put on the sidewalk, where they are protected by parked cars, a curb, trees, etc. and not in the middle of the street. A fragile human body on a bike needs the same protection.

A construction site in Oakland. The sidewalk is closed, so concrete Jersey barrier were placed in the street to protect pedestrians. Cyclists need the same level of protection. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A construction site in Oakland. The sidewalk is closed, so concrete Jersey barrier were placed in the street to protect pedestrians. Cyclists need the same level of protection. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

SFMTA planners should ask themselves if they would let a child walk on the center-running bike lane they have proposed. Of course not, because Uber’s will make illegal U-turns across the bike lane, just as they do now. Or a drunk or otherwise unstable motorist will plow through it. Or motorists, including cops, will park on it, as they do in Oakland. If SFMTA moves forward with this irresponsible center-running bike lane, people will be killed and/or seriously injured.

Here are links to reach out to Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Rafael Mandelman, who represent the district. Note that on Tuesday SFMTA is holding yet another outreach session. Sept. 20, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Register for Zoom link. Although to be frank, it’s unclear what the point is of another round of outreach.

For more, check out the coverage in the SF Standard.

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