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Valencia Street to get protected bike lanes

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“Parking-protected bikeway will improve safety by providing a physical barrier between bikes and moving traffic”

Woman cyclists with helmet riding along Valencia Street inside of a protected bike lane. Cars are at her left, safely separated by a barrier. Photo courtesy of SF Bicycle Coalition

At a hearing Tuesday afternoon, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board unanimously approved a pilot program to install protected bike lanes on Valencia Street.

While the protected areas won’t include the bulk of the street’s boutique- and artisan fare-strewn blocks, they will help secure cyclists’ safety between Market and 15th streets, an infamously dangerous stretch for pedaling commuters.

Cyclists riding in the area often risk getting doored (i.e., when a rider crashes into a car’s side door) by drivers failing to look for or yield to cyclists. The strip is also saddled with Uber and Lyft pickups and drop-offs, which further exacerbate already-present vehicular danger.

An estimated 2,100 cyclists use Valencia daily, according to the SFMTA.

“The new parking-protected bikeway will improve safety by providing a physical barrier between bikes and moving traffic,” notes SFMTA. “Pedestrians may also feel more comfortable with this design since they will be further away from moving vehicles and have an accessible path of travel between the bike lane and parking spaces.”

There was some opposition from parents of the San Francisco Friends School (located in the old Levi’s factory on Valencia), who worried that bikes would pose a bigger threat to school children than cars. However, as Mission Local reports, parents’ hypothetical fears took a backseat to the all too real “204 bike-vehicle injuries on the corridor from 2012 to 2016.”

Image via SFMTA

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition notes that the pilot program passed at yesterday’s hearing with the help of dozens of speakers and support from the community. (So much support that “Valencia” was trending on Twitter Tuesday night.)

“Yesterday’s unanimous vote by the SFTMA Board is an important step toward making the entire Valencia corridor safe for all road users,” Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, says in a statement. “With leadership from Mayor Breed and support from Supervisors Rafael Mandelman and Hilary Ronen, and almost 500 emails and letters from our members, we’re getting protected bike lanes constructed quickly on this dangerous stretch of Valencia Street.”

The ultimate goal, Wiedenmeier further explains, is to see protected bike lines stretching the entirety of Valencia.

“The SF Bicycle Coalition will continue to work in partnership with neighborhood stakeholders, the SFMTA and our over-10,000 members to ensure this pilot is a success that informs the design of future protected bike lanes on Valencia all the way to Cesar Chavez.”

Financing for the program will be through Proposition K funds, a half-cent sales tax for transit projects approved by voters in November 2003. According to SFMTA, “The total amount for the planning and conceptual engineering phase is $145,000.”

Protected bike lanes can currently be found on parts of Market Street, Division, Alemany Boulevard, Polk, and Oak, just to name a few. More information about protected bike lanes can be found at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.