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What to Know About the Valencia Bikeway Improvements

New changes are coming to Valencia Street, between 15th Street and 23nd Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, after several months of brainstorming creative solutions, citizen feedback and planning.

In April, a pilot project, dubbed the Valencia Bikeway, was approved with a vote of 6-0 by board members to make a series of changes along the lively corridor. Most notably, the existing bike lanes will be removed and a single center bikeway will be installed. This also means that there will be significant structural changes along the route, both for drivers and for cyclists.

“It’ll get the cyclists away from the parked cars and will ban the left turn so we’ll protect pedestrians from those turning vehicles,” SFMTA Streets Director Tom Maguire explained to a local television station in April.

What will the changes look like?

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has described the need for changes along Valencia Street as “immediate” since at least 2021. It’s been mapped as one of the more dangerous places to bike in the city and landed on the High Injury Network Map that prioritizes some arteries for improvements because of the number of bicycle crashes that occur on them.

SFMTA estimates that the majority of fatal car crashes are happening on just 12% of the city’s streets, which includes Valencia Street.

As a result, SFMTA has established the Valencia Bikeway Plan, in hopes to curb collisions and make a safer environment for all road users.

For cyclists: The bike lanes, which are often obstructed by parked cars along the street, will be removed and a center lane will be constructed instead. Cyclists will now be able to travel the length of the corridor without stopping at intersections or worrying about cross traffic.

For vehicle drivers: The changes mean that no left turns can be made from 15th Street to 23rd Street at all at some intersections and only during certain hours at others. SFMTA also plans to reconfigure the curbs along Valencia Street and make significant parking and loading changes.

A full list of changes, including new stop signs, parking meters and loading zones, can be found here. Changes are expected to be completed by mid-May.

How long will the pilot last?

The changes to the new center bikeway might not last forever. SFMTA has only committed to 18 months. After that, the board members will reassess whether the change is something worth keeping long term along the corridor.

SFMTA wanted to build protected bike lanes on Valencia Street by 2021, but progress was held up by the pandemic. Last fall, locals lambasted proposed plans sending the agency back to the drawing board. The result of their planning efforts was approved in April 2023.

Is a center bike lane safe?

The center bike lane is not a novel idea. It’s been done in other places around the world, and some have even seen success. But worries continue on Valencia Street, which is busy and sees lots of traffic of all kinds. Some cycling community activists and supporters aren’t convinced that moving the bike lane to the middle of the road will result in safer conditions for road users, or fewer bicycle accidents.

There are concerns that the mechanisms (called “bollards”) to keep drivers from turning left aren’t enough and cars could still make an illegal turn and put cyclists using the center lane in danger. This can be a common occurrence at other intersections across the city where it’s illegal to turn left, but cars often do and collide with other cars and even sometimes trains.

The bollards are low to the ground and some argue not strong enough to prevent a car from driving right over the top of them. The continuous lane down the middle of the street might also present challenges for cyclists needing to exit the bike lane and turn onto an intersecting street.

Concerns about the new center bike lane have been met with reassurance from the SFMTA board members, who have overseen other similar projects.

“I was around when everyone was shocked and appalled at Van Ness BRT going to the center from the side,” board member Gwyneth Borden told the SFist before the vote. “But it works.”

That project was focused around public transportation and allowing buses total usage of the center lane to pick up passengers from designated stops.

What to do if you are in a bicycle crash

Improvements to roadways can go a long way to reduce the number of serious bicycle vs. auto accidents. But, inevitably, some collisions will still occur.

If you are in a bike crash and have suffered injuries from it, it is always a good idea to call a bicycle accident lawyer for advice. Most of our clients are surprised by at least some aspects of how insurance claims are handled. And even if you have health insurance, if the accident was serious enough for you to end up in the emergency room, you’ll likely have thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs. It never costs any money to call us at Bay Area Bicycle Law. Like almost all personal injury attorneys, we are paid a percentage of a final settlement, not an hourly rate.