Despite mixed public reviews, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is moving forward with piloting a center-running bikeway along parts of Valencia Street.
The SFMTA Board of Directors this week approved a one-year pilot to install a bike lane in the center of Valencia Street between 15th and 23rd streets. Staff originally had planned for an 18-month pilot, but directors amended the project to cut the pilot to 12 months. An additional amendment allows staff to set recommendations for targeted vehicle volumes and speeds.
Bike advocates were not exactly thrilled with the idea of bike lanes installed in the middle of the roadway, sandwiched between vehicles, though some advocates said it was time to do something along Valencia Street.
A SFMTA staff report said there were 132 collisions between January 2018 to December 2022 that resulted in injuries in almost every mode of transportation, including driving, bicycling and walking. There were two reported traffic fatalities, including one death that occurred in January of this year at 16th and Valencia.
Valencia Street is constrained with competing needs for businesses, commercial deliveries and those who visit the neighborhood by biking or walking, SFMTA staff said. The corridor now includes outdoor dining spaces as part of The City’s Shared Spaces program.
Janelle Wong, executive director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said at the board meeting:
“The pilot is the only option on the table that can be implemented now and that’s what Valencia needs is safety now. We can no longer stall improving safety.”
Crews will install a variety of materials to dissuade vehicles from driving in the center lane, including delineators, bus lane curb and K71 traffic posts that look like bollards.
Kimberly Leung, the project manager for the Mid-Valencia Bikeway Project, told directors that the current spacing of the K71 traffic posts will be between 30 to 40 feet. Between the bollards, there will be 90 feet of the bus lane curb as well as delineators. Leung said there will be occasional gaps midblock if bicyclists choose to exit the bike lane.
The SFMTA will prohibit left turns onto all streets from Valencia Street between 15th and 23rd streets.
Still, some bike advocates said the center lane design is dangerous for bicyclists and advocated for a curbside bikeway design.
Luke Bornheimer, an advocate for sustainable transportation, said:
“Curbside protected bike lanes have been proven time and again to reduce double parking in bike lanes, increase revenue for local businesses and get more people to bike.”
The only option on the table for directors was to vote up or down on the center-running bike lane, though staff said they did explore alternatives, including a different variety of curbside bike lanes. Issues with outdoor dining spaces and not having enough width clearance for emergencies as required by the Fire Department were cited as reasons against curbside lanes.
Staff will report to the board in December on initial findings from the pilot, then return to the board in the fall of next year for longer-term recommendations for Valencia Street.
In the meantime, the SFMTA will also work on a “placemaking” pilot in which the agency will take one or two blocks within the Valencia pilot project to potentially test out a car-free space, or different road configurations that were not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, SFMTA Streets Director Tom Maguire said.
Maguire said the agency will work with the community to come up with a concept and to hopefully get the placemaking pilot in place by spring 2024.
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]