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Advocates Push Back Against Valencia Center-Running-Bike-Lane Bait-and-Switch

3:33 PM PDT on March 17, 2023

A 2017 protest for safety on Valencia between 16th and 17th. SFMTA wants to betray the years of protest and public support with its center running crap. Photo by Brandon Splane

Note: If you’ve been sold on the center-running-bike-lane plan on Valencia as “better than nothing,” be sure to watch this video (also embedded farther down in this post) starting at 5:33 about the worst bike lane in Barcelona.

Streetsblog has long decried the dangers of Valencia and covered its frequent injury crashes. Then in January, it finally happened: Wan Mei Tan, a 64-year-old woman, was killed crossing at 16th and Valencia Streets.

At the rate things are going, in five years San Francisco will still be at the same pathetic mode share it is today. Vision Zero will remain unattainable, and some 150 more people will be dead, with many more injured.

Note what it says in the blue bubble: "the city is moving in the wrong direction" with mode share. From SFMTA's Climate Roadmap
Note what it says in the blue bubble: “the city is moving in the wrong direction” on mode share. From SFMTA’s Climate Roadmap
Note what it says in the blue bubble: "the city is moving in the wrong direction" with mode share. From SFMTA's Climate Roadmap

The SFMTA’s current rejected and re-proposed center-running design will just make the situation worse, by substituting an equally awful alternative for what exists today and thus preventing the installation of tried-and-tested, safe Dutch-style bike lanes. That’s why “Better Valencia” advocates have created an action website urging advocates to demand the mayor and SFMTA finish the curbside bike lanes promised in 2020. From the group’s release:

SFMTA’s proposed center-running two-way cycle track sandwiches people on bikes between two lanes of driving cars, protected only by four plastic posts per block and a “bus lane curb” designed to be mountable by automobiles and larger vehicles. This proposed design won’t make more people feel safe riding bikes on Valencia — especially families, seniors, and people who are less confident riding bikes — which will result in fewer people shifting trips to sustainable modes and more cars (and car traffic) on our streets.

Instead, they are calling for more of the:

…identical design implemented on Valencia Street between Market and 15th Streets in 2018, after Mayor Breed issued a statement calling for those curbside parking-protected bike lanes to be installed within four months — including around parklets and in front of a school and a church. Data from SFMTA shows that safety significantly improved after the curbside parking-protected bike lanes were installed and vehicle loading/unloading significantly decreased on that section of Valencia.

The reasons SFMTA has given for abandoning curbside Dutch-style lanes are nonsensical, but here we go:

    1. There simply isn’t the political will for protected bike lanes on Valencia. Just last November the city overwhelmingly voted to support car-free J.F.K. Even the most car-centric districts of the city voted for it. The people of San Francisco made it clear they want promised bike and pedestrian safety projects across the city installed now. And support for protected bike lanes on Valencia – and turnout to demand them – has always been huge.
    2. Shared spaces/eateries changed things. There are already parklets and boarding islands on the northern end of Valencia. The old protected bike lane pilot simply goes around them or down a channel between the islands and the curb. A similar design works well on Telegraph in Oakland’s Temescal district, which has both parklets and protected bike lanes. When staff make this argument, they’re just gaslighting.
    3. The city should experiment with center running because they exist in D.C., Barcelona, etc. They exist, but they suck. They don’t even work in Oakland, where they’ve been tried. It’s easy enough to scour the earth to find examples of terrible installations and say “they do, why don’t we?” But just watch this video (linked here and embedded below) about Barcelona –  advance to 5:33.

Also, to anyone claiming motorists won’t shift their double-parking from Valencia’s current door-zone bike lanes to center-running bike lanes: motorists already park in the center of Valencia, as seen Friday afternoon:

Motorists won't park in the center running lanes? Really? Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Motorists won’t park in the center running lanes? Really? Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Motorists won't park in the center running lanes? Really? Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

I’ve toured the Netherlands and met with Dutch officials who consistently tell me center-running bike lanes are a stupid idea (because they’ve tried them too, decades ago. The only way a center-running lane works on a busy merchant street such as Valencia is if cars are banned outright or hugely restricted).

The center-running proposal was revived and re-offered in bad faith. The SFMTA Board and the Board of Supervisors need to order SFMTA to build the preferred alternative: Dutch-style lanes and intersections as designed and promised in 2020. Stupidity and delays have already killed one person. It’s criminal for San Francisco to keep wasting time pushing a dangerous and failed design.

After all these years, the city should be ashamed that there aren’t already protected bike lanes along the length of Valencia.

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