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Call to Action: Help Build a Better Valencia Street

5:00 PM PDT on March 28, 2023

The northern pilot/Valencia protected bike 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.

To join the fight for Dutch-style protected bike lanes on Valencia, click here. Download your own flyers here.

In less than two weeks, over 600 people have already written to the mayor, SFMTA board, and others, demanding the city drop its push to build center-running bike lanes on Valencia. They are strongly supporting the “Better Valencia Plan,” a push by advocates to demand that the city fulfill its 2020 promise to extend the successful, Dutch-style protected bike lane pilot (from Market to 15th) to the rest of the street.

This is entirely consistent with the city’s own outreach, conducted in 2022, that showed only 13 percent, or 80 people, supported the center-running design over a three-month, city-run outreach period that also got about 600 respondents. The SFMTA board is supposed to vote on the plan on April 4.

“Valencia merchants that I’ve spoken to are supportive of the Better Valencia plan for curbside protected bike lanes as well,” said Luke Bornheimer, a “slow streets” mayor and one of the advocates who fought for car-free JFK, who is leading the charge for Dutch-style protected bike lanes on Valencia. “They understand it would be better for business in addition to being better for safety and the climate.”

As Streetsblog readers are probably aware, in 2018 SFMTA included a “center running” design as an option for Valencia street (see configuration below). This design, a failed concept borrowed from a few surviving examples around the world, goes against best practices for safety. Center-running is all but unheard of in the Netherlands, Denmark, or anywhere else with truly successful and ubiquitous cycling infrastructure. The only thing it does well is to preserve curbside access for motorists. It was almost universally rejected in 2018 during the city’s outreach. In 2020, SFMTA completed designs to extend the successful, Dutch-style protected bike lane pilots (from Market to 15th and from Duncan to Cesar Chavez) on more of Valencia and to add protected intersections. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition strongly endorsed that plan but later changed its view (under new leadership).

A look at the center-running, unprotected bike lane design city officials want to build that would wedge cyclists between moving cars and trucks, with no physical protection aside from plastic posts that are specifically engineered so motorists can go right over them. Image: SFMTA
Does that look like a promenade to you? Be careful you don't get tricked into supporting a center-running bike lane on Valencia. Image: SFMTA

Some advocates have argued that a center-running bike lane is the way to pedestrianize the street. One, of course, doesn’t follow from the other. Even Tom Maguire, second-in-command at SFMTA, in a recent email to Bornheimer, conceded that: “The parking protected design that you began advocating for last week would not necessarily preclude a Placemaking Pilot, but it would severely limit the options that could be explored.”

A reminder that the design Bornheimer “began advocating for last week” was the plan SFMTA designed and presented to the public in 2020, before the mayor commanded SFMTA not to touch the parklets or interfere with car loading, Vision Zero and safety be damned.

Seen Saturday on Valencia. The same city officials that want advocates to trust them that they want a center running lane to facilitate pedestrianization at some future, unspecified date, cleared a fallen tree and stores the wood neatly on a bike share station and on the existing bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Seen Saturday on Valencia. The same city officials who want advocates to trust that they want a center running lane to facilitate pedestrianization at some future, unspecified date, cleared a fallen tree from Valencia’s traffic lanes and stored the wood neatly on a bike share station and on the existing bike lane, putting cyclists lives in danger–more proof that this city’s officials always put driver convenience above the safety of cyclists. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Seen Saturday on Valencia. The same city officials that want advocates to trust them that they want a center running lane to facilitate pedestrianization at some future, unspecified date, cleared a fallen tree and stores the wood neatly on a bike share station and on the existing bike lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

To simplify Maguire’s statements, the center running vs. parking protected has nothing whatsoever to do with placemaking, which all advocates for safe and livable streets support. The other argument for center-running is it is “better than nothing.” Actually, there’s evidence that the street will be more dangerous than it is now if center-running bike lanes are added (see Tweet and links below).

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

To paraphrase Copenhagenize, figuring out how to build safe bike infrastructure was a decades-long battle mired in failed experiments and tragedy–but the Dutch and Danish got a 100-year jump on the U.S. SFMTA is literally talking about rerunning the same experiments with human lives and limbs at stake. As Copenhagenize put it, “If you wouldn’t put pedestrians in a center-lane between moving traffic, why the hell would you put cyclists there!”

Sign up to join the fight for Dutch-style protected bike lanes on Valencia. Download flyers here.

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