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Protected bike lane becomes permanent Valencia Street fixture

What began as a temporary protected bike lane on a stretch of Valencia Street in San Francisco is now officially here to stay. 

After an 18-month pilot program, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors Tuesday voted to make the parking protected bike lane between Market and 15th streets a permanent fixture.

Valencia Street is on The City’s high-injury network, where 75 percent of traffic injuries occur on just 13 percent of city streets.

Nik Wojcik A parking protected bike lane was installed as part of a safety improvement pilot program on Valencia Street between Market and 15th streets in San Francisco, Calif.

A SFMTA staff report said there have been a total of 268 collisions along Valencia Street between Market and Mission streets in the last five years. Of those, 204 collisions resulted in injuries to either cyclists, pedestrians or drivers. One collision resulted in a fatality.

Bicycle incidents accounted for 116 of the 268 collisions with the highest concentration in areas between Market and 15th streets, the report said.

Victoria Chong, a SFMTA transportation planner, said many collisions involving bicyclists have been a result of “dooring” — when drivers suddenly open doors as bicyclists approach.

Chong said the 18-month parking protected bike lane pilot program substantially decreased or eliminated occurrences of dooring, commercial vehicle loading safety incidents, mid-block vehicle-bike interactions and even close calls. 

Ching Wong/SFBay Protesters rally to demand safe bike lanes at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Additionally, the transit agency noted a lack of close calls near schools on Valencia Street that encompass the pilot area. As part of the project, board islands with handrails were installed as drop off zones for students at San Francisco Friends and Millennium schools.

Chong said the agency observed cyclists yielding for students at drop off locations.

Reporting also reflected a 29 percent decrease in close calls with vehicles and cyclists at the intersection of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street after the agency installed a bike signal.

Director Amanda Eaken voted in support of the project but questioned why it only included blocks between Market and 15th streets.

She said:

“I think the main question I have is a little bit of a larger systemic question which is, how can we possibly reach our goal of a safe protected network city wide when we move three and a half blocks at a time?”

Eaken added:

“I think this pace of change is a little bit too slow.”

Polk Street Bike Lane
Jerold Chinn/SFBay The protected, contra-flow bike lane on Polk at Market Street has set a template for additional lanes throughout The City.

Jamie Parks, SFMTA’s Livable Street director, said the Valencia corridor is part of the agency’s commitment to delivering 20 miles of protected bike lane. Mayor London Breed directed the SFMTA to make the commitment during last year’s Bike to Work Day.

In 2018, Breed also directed the agency to expedite the parking protected bike lane pilot between Market and 15th streets.

Parks added that a section of Valencia Street between 19th and Cesar Chavez streets is part of the agency’s quick-build program, but progress in the area has been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to The City’s shelter-in-place order, staff has been unable to conduct adequate merchant outreach with merchants along the corridor. The agency hopes to restart those efforts over the summer.

Paul Valdez, a cyclist who lives in the Mission District, said during public comment that the pilot project was a no-brainer and a tease for what could exist on the rest of the corridor.

Recalling an incident he witnessed months ago, Valdez said: 

“I was an unfortunate witness to a person biking getting doored on Valencia and really don’t want to see anyone, including myself, go through such a traumatic and possible fatal experience.”

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