San Francisco transport bosses have released long-awaited plans for southern Valencia Street’s redesign, a bike lane in the middle of one of the city’s most dangerous roads.
Valencia Street is among the most dangerous streets in the city, one of the 13% of streets in San Francisco that account for three-quarters of all traffic deaths and severe collisions, according to data from the city’s public health department as part of a “High Injury Network" study.
Protected bike lanes were made permanent on the northern stretch of the road between Market and 15th Streets in 2020, and earlier draft plans for the southern stretch show similar side-running lanes.
But the new plan for a protected bike lane between 15th and 24th Streets in the middle of the road was met with mixed reactions Friday, with bike safety advocates calling it “dangerous.”
“I would never let my daughter ride her bike on Valencia in this lane, nor would I let my 75-year-old mother,” said Luke Bornheimer, an organizer with Community Spaces SF.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s plan shows off the designs for the quick build project between 15th and 24th streets, an effort that dates back to 2018 and was renewed this year. The agency is collecting feedback on the plans now and expects to bring it to the SFMTA board for approval in December 2022 and begin implementation early next year.
Locals took to Twitter on Friday criticizing the plan, many saying they are worried about how cyclists would exit the center for mid-block destinations.
Bornheimer echoed those criticisms and said the design creates a “bike highway” that couldl discourage stopping or squeeze bicyclists in between traffic, possibly making it unsafe for kids and seniors.
Bornheimer wants either a “pedestrianized” street, one that’s closed to through traffic for cars but allows local trips, or a one-way street design, like the one proposed by John Oram, also known as Burrito Justice.
“We recognize that a center-running design is unique, but given the intensity of commercial uses, including numerous Shared Spaces, we are exploring this option as the best possible option for installing protected bikes lanes on Valencia while maintaining the vibrancy of the corridor,” SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato wrote in an email to The Standard in response to the concerns.
She also noted that the new designs are for a pilot program only, so there will be plenty of opportunities for changes and feedback.
The plans are inspired by similar corridors in Washington, D.C., and Monterey. Nesrine Mazjoub, spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the design comes as a surprise to the group.
“While the center-running bike lane is a different concept than we anticipated to see in the designs by the SFMTA, what is most important to us is that this bike lane is permanently protected with barriers and not just soft-hit posts,” Mazjoub wrote in a text to The Standard.
She also praised the agency’s focus on improving loading zones and curb management and is encouraging locals to leave comments on the plan, open now until Sept. 30 or attend “office hours” on Sept. 20 and 28 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Valencia Corridor Merchants Association President Jonah Buffa said he is “optimistic” about the center-running design and in favor of a protected bike lane. But he has some concerns about parking availability and the proposal to stop right turns on red lights. Most of all, Buffa said he wants to avoid any increase in traffic, citing a bus-only lane recently introduced to Mission Street, which he called “a disaster.”
“I don't want that to happen to Valencia Street,” Buffa said. “We don't want to be a pass-through freeway through a neighborhood.”
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