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Lyft pushing pickups off busy Valencia blocks

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Ride hailing company says summer experiment revealed parking mess, danger between 16th and 19th

Lyft Lounge at Sundance Film Festival 2018 Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Lyft

The SF-based ride-hailing company Lyft announced last week that from now on it will shift driver pickups off of the busiest blocks of Valencia Street (but only Valencia Street, at least for now), in a bid to try to cure traffic headaches and dangers on one of the city’s busiest corridors.

The San Francisco Examiner credits the huge cycling presence on Valencia for the development, noting that the street “sees 2,100 cyclists along Valencia each day.”

In a Wednesday Medium blog, Lyft Transportation Policy Director Debs Schrimmer said that the decision is the result of a three month experiment that began in March, in which the company’s app pushed some Lyft pick ups on Valencia onto nearby side streets to avoid busy blocks:

Fifty percent of riders continued to have the same experience requesting rides within the pilot area: able to get picked up wherever they wanted. The other 50 percent of Lyft passengers requesting rides within the pilot zone were shown the experiment scenario, which asked them to walk to a dedicated pickup spot.

[...] We decided to move our project from a pilot to a permanent feature within the Lyft app. This means that currently, anyone requesting a ride on Valencia Street between 16th Street and 19th Street will be redirected to a pickup spot on a side street.

Schrimmer writes that Valencia is one of the most collision-prone corridors in the city, accounting for 268 bike bust-ups between 2012 and 2016.

According to SFMTA, that’s true, and, critically, a city workshop on cycling safety earlier this year noted that “almost half of all bike collisions involved the loading/unloading of passengers” on Valencia. The city also singled out the stretch between 17th and 18th as the most hazardous.

Note that Lyft’s big experiment, cooperative attitude, and focus on the Mission probably has less to do with civic pride and more to do with fear of the regulator’s hammer. The company began its “geofencing” experiments in 2017 at the behest of the Mayor’s Office, right around the time that Supervisor Hillary Ronen publicly complained about ride-hailing apps creating chaos in the Mission.

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