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San Francisco Will Improve Biking Conditions On Valencia Street

On November 14, 2017, members of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) announced they will put the “Valencia Street Bikeway Implementation Plan” (VSBIP) into place next year. This plan, which costs approximately $145,000, will look into ways to improve the safety of cyclists on Valencia Street and figure out constructive ways to stop ride-sharing vehicles from double-parking in bike lanes.

This Valencia Street plan is just one of the many additions to the SFCTA’s initiatives across the city. In total, the SFCTA expects to spend about $2.9 million on various programs across San Francisco. All of these projects will be financed by Prop. K sales tax funds.

Ten street safety advocates were present at the Tuesday meeting to support this funding measure. The initiative easily passed SFCTA with no opposition.

In the text of the VSBIP, the SFCTA said it will focus on developing “recommendations for upgrading existing bike lanes on Valencia Street between Market Street and Mission Street.” A few of these recommendations could include stricter policies for motorists who double-park, creating designated loading areas for ride-sharing companies, and putting up barriers between bike and car lanes.

The VSBIP will begin next January and end in October of 2018.

Almost all of the bike safety activists at the SFCTA meeting said they wanted physical barriers put up between bike lanes and car lanes. A few other suggestions that came up at the meeting included putting up curbs, separating car and truck traffic with planters, and setting up a designated lane where cars can park between the street and the bikers’ lane.

Although there haven’t been any biker fatalities on Valencia Street yet, safety activist Paul Valdez told the SFCTA to act now to prevent a major accident in the near future. Valdez organizes the “Ride of Silence” every year to honor SF bikers that were killed. He told the SFCTA that he doesn’t want to add a victim from Valencia Street to this somber ceremony.

Matt Brezina, the co-founder of Xobni and noted bike safety advocate, was also present at the SFCTA board’s Tuesday meeting. He suggested putting up safe-hit surface-mount posts immediately to protect bikers on 375 Valencia Street near Four Barrel Coffee.

One issue brought up by Valencia Street resident Ivan Abasouth concerned food delivery trucks. Abasouth said that the new fund targets ride-sharing companies, but it doesn’t address the negative impacts of food delivery trucks blocking bike lanes.

One way city leaders hope to target vehicles that illegally park in bike lanes is to put up video cameras in different areas throughout Valencia Street. Video data from these cameras will give local authorities a better sense of just how many Uber, Lyft, and food delivery trucks are disregarding San Francisco’s street safety laws.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents Supervisorial District 9, sent a letter to both Lyft and Uber earlier in the year urging them to start using geo-fence technology on Valencia Street. She also wants to work with both companies to agree on designated zones around Valencia Street for picking up and dropping off clients.

Some street safety advocates say that Hillary Ronen didn’t go far enough in her letter. They criticize local police for not handing out pricey tickets to motorists who double-park on Valencia Street.

In response to these criticisms, Ronen said she will “make it known that if you double-park on Valencia you’re going to get a ticket.”

The ride-sharing company Lyft expressed interest in working with Ronen’s office to make Valencia Street safer. There’s no official word on whether or not Ronen has met with Lyft executives in the past few weeks.

Yet another issue writers on the San Francisco street safety website “StreetsBlog SF” have with this plan is its lack of intersection safety initiatives. While protected bike lanes are important, StreetsBlog SF writers point out that most fatal crashes between motorists and bikers occur at intersections. As of today, there’s only one protected intersection in all of San Francisco (9th and Division).

Jamie Parks, the SFMTA planner in charge of VSBIP, said she wants to move as fast as possible to implement near-term safety options on Valencia Street. Parks plans to put together a proposal for short-term solutions and release it March 2018.