Call to Action: Help Build a Better Valencia Street
Only 13 percent of people supported abandoning the Dutch-style plan (a pilot of which is seen below) in favor of center-running in last year's SFMTA outreach. Decades of Dutch and Danish planning experience shows center-running doesn't work. But the city forges ahead despite public opinion and international best practices. Join a growing chorus and tell the city to stop gaslighting cyclists and build for safety, not parking.
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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).
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.
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).
I was surprised to find the evaluation report on the DC bikeway was co-authored by a planner who's now SFMTA's Director of Livable Streets!
What it says on safety is discouraging: collisions increased even adjusting for the increased number of cyclistshttps://t.co/7rZH9KETFX pic.twitter.com/cNvDmKU8vW
— email@example.com (@zachlipton) September 21, 2022
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.