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Bicycle Infrastructure

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Blinks on Safe Valencia

A Dutch-style lane bending around a parklet on the section of Valencia between 15th and Market. The center-running lane starts south of here. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

This would actually be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that people are going to die”– a former senior staffer at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition who spoke on condition of anonymity, responding to SFBC’s Tweet endorsing center-running on Valencia

Only 13 percent of respondents to the most recent SFMTA survey supported a center-running two-way bike lane proposal on Valencia. A Dutch consultant just called the concept “a bad idea.”

Nevertheless, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, along with a few other orgs, have reluctantly endorsed center-running. From Janelle Wong, director of SFBC, in an email to Streetsblog:

The organization is not convinced that a center running bike lane on Valencia will be successful and safe. We are, also, not convinced that there are not better configurations for the street, as well, which is why it’s a pilot project with assurances from SFMTA staff that they will be evaluating the design and other options while the pilot is on the ground. We believe a key difference between the designs from 2020 and what is happening on the street right now is that Valencia has a number of parklets through the shared spaces program that make it challenging to have loading zones and temporary parking on Valencia for deliveries for merchant’s businesses. That said, our position is simple the way Valencia is right now (unprotected painted bike lanes) is unsafe and unacceptable and we need to try something new.

Except, of course, center-running bike lanes are not new. They’re an old design that the Danish refer to as an “infrastructure fail.” And up until 2020, SFMTA’s plan was to extend the traditional, successful Dutch-style protected bike lane pilots from the ends of Valencia–something they could still do if advocates demanded it. Also, the shared spaces program and parklets are a red herring. There are already two short protected bike lane pilots on Valencia that work fine: the lead photo is of a section of parking protected bike lane going around Four Barrel Coffee’s parklet north of 15th.

Streetsblog has had several background conversations with officials at SFMTA and advocates. Really, the only argument for center-running–which are clearly not safe and not worth “piloting”–is they avoid eliminating any car parking or loading zones, which, ostensibly assist merchants with Caviar and Uber Eats food deliveries.

From SFMTA’s survey last year on center-running bike lanes. Only 13% of respondents supported the idea. 59% want “alternative” designs.

The Mayor, who is up for reelection next year, needs all the cyclist, merchant, and police support she can get (the Mission police station is, of course, on Valencia). It’s natural that she’s trying to see who she can get to back down first to broker a compromise that makes everybody “happy.”

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They absolutely should be fired. And the advocacy orgs need to steel themselves and remember that the layout and design of our streets aren’t up to the police, merchants, or firefighters–it’s the purview of the SFMTA. They also need to review core values: to make streets safe even for kids; for bike riders of all ages and abilities. For reasons that should be obvious, the center-running bike lane proposal is just not that.

Center running is worse than nothing. It was thrown out in 2018 with good reason and should be mightily opposed now.

Be sure to check out the campaign webpage: BetterValencia.com, which is pushing for an actual compromise that still brings more Dutch-style protected bike lanes to Valencia.

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