Bike “corrals” — on-street spaces in which multiple bike racks replace car parking spaces — are cropping up throughout the city. But in the Mission, they’re burning rubber.
Since 2010, when the San Francisco Superior Court fully lifted an injunction on new bike infrastructure, San Francisco businesses have consistently pushed to convert nearby car parking to bicycle parking.
Citywide, the number of bike corrals started going up in 2010 and boomed in 2011, when the city built 15. Today 26 corrals dot the city map. While the largest, near the San Francisco Public Library’s main branch, can accommodate 38 bikes, most corrals have spaces for around 10.
Half of San Francisco’s corrals are in the Mission District.
“More and more, what we’re seeing is that businesses and community groups want on-street bike corrals,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “It’s a new trend, and we’re seeing more and more of it in the Mission.”
Shahum said that businesses are starting to realize the “real positive benefits, in terms of accessibility” that bike corrals offer to customers and employees alike.
Mitch McCartney, a manager at Bi-Rite Creamery near Dolores Park, said the store got its bike corral in 2011 after both customers and employees complained about the scarcity of nearby bike parking.
McCartney said that many Bi-Rite employees use the corral, which is less than a block away from the market. Bi-Rite has secure space inside for only 10 employee bikes, so “if you’re not an opener, you’re probably out of luck,” he said.
Before the corral was installed, Market employees had to use the two bike racks in front and whatever else they could wrap a U-lock around. Sometimes that meant the “No Parking” sign in front of the delivery truck loading area.
When the delivery truck pulled into that cramped space, things could get dicey. “My bike has been damaged once or twice,” McCartney chuckled.
Bikes parked in the corral don’t get smashed or stolen. Staff at the Bi-Rite Creamery, which is open later than the market, keep their eyes on the corral after the market closes, deterring thieves.
According to a 2011 report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which conducts annual on-the-street counts of passing cyclists, the number of cyclists citywide has gone up 71 percent since the first count was performed in 2006.
During that same period, the Mission’s 17th and Valencia street intersection has seen a 95 percent increase.
Shahum said the neighborhood’s flatness, its central location in the city, and its bike-friendly transit options like BART and Caltrain explain the steady increase of bicyclists and corrals in the Mission.
Mission businesses installed five corrals in 2010 and six the following year. A third of all pending corral applications are from Mission businesses, and if all of those are approved, the neighborhood will have added eight corrals this year.
Tom Radulovich, executive director of the local nonprofit organization Livable City, said that the city is shifting away from its car-centered culture of the past 30 years, toward a more cycling-friendly environment. But the shift is not complete and sometimes the two cultures collide — literally.
While in-street corrals leave more space for pedestrians than their sidewalk counterparts, they also make bikes more vulnerable to cars. On July 15, a car crashed into the bike corral in front of Zeitgeist bar at Valencia and Duboce streets, damaging multiple bikes and breaking one man’s leg.
But Radulovich blames the collision on the traffic along Duboce Street rather than the corral’s placement.
“We need to deal with Duboce Street. Maybe on those really high-speed traffic areas there, we should consider sidewalk bulb-outs,” he said.
“We’re having to kind of retrofit the [Mission] to accommodate the way that people want to live here now. It’s a very cycling-oriented neighborhood.”