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Cycling activists form human shield along SF bike lane again

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Dangerous protest demands better protection for cyclists on Valencia Street

Twice this month, protesters in yellow shirts have put their bodies on the line—quite literally—to highlight the danger to cyclists in two of San Francisco’s busiest neighborhoods.

Streetsblog reports that last Friday, an estimated 30 people lined up to form a human barrier along the bike lane on Valencia between 16th and 17th streets. Earlier this month, a similar display happened on Golden Gate Avenue in the Tenderloin.

Activist Maureen Persico told the blog:

“I have a 15 year old son, and he doesn’t feel safe biking. It’s not acceptable. We’re going to act up for bike lanes until it gets the attention it deserves so people don’t get hurt.”

Bike activists generally want protected bike lanes, with some sort of barrier or obstacle to prevent cars from entering the cyclist space.

“Protected bike lanes are [...] like sidewalks for bikes,” the blog People For Bikes explains. “Because they use planters, curbs, parked cars or posts to separate bike and auto traffic on busy streets.”

The city does already have some stretches of protected cycling lanes, and SFMTA has promised more.

“Fifteen miles of new protected bike lanes will be ready for construction in the next 15 months,” the agency wrote on its blog in September of last year. “When completed, these projects will more than double the miles of protected lanes in San Francisco.”

The city even decided this month to redesign a stretch of MidMarket to create a parking protected bike lane, where rows of parked cars separate bikes from auto traffic.

But as the map below illustrates, only a fraction of San Francisco bike lanes are set to receive such consideration.

Blue lanes show where protections are already in place, while orange and red lanes indicate planned or in-process safety additions.
Blue lanes show where protections are already in place, while orange and red lanes indicate planned or in-process safety additions.
Map via SFMTA

The protests of the last two weeks, in which volunteers in highly visible t-shirts form a barrier with their own bodies, is of course rather dangerous in itself. But that seems to be part of the idea.

The city reported last year that protected bike lanes are a relatively popular idea with the public, although results vary depending on the specific design. An SFMTA analysis from December says:

An online public survey showed support for the raised bikeway, especially from bicyclists who often ride in the city. Of 242 people surveyed, 66 percent supported installing raised bikeways in other San Francisco locations.