Update (12:10 p.m.): Lyft confirmed Friday morning that the geofenced area does indeed span more than one block on Valencia, from 16th to 19th.
Lyft rolled out a pilot program Thursday to move a certain percentage of its pickups on Valencia Street between 16th and 17th streets to a side street, Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Harrison confirmed Thursday in an email.
The move, enabled by geofencing technology, is aimed at decreasing the congestion on Valencia Street — long a battleground where bicyclists, double-parked ride-hail cars, and delivery vehicles have jockeyed for space on the roadway.
Harrison did not specify what percentage of users would have to catch their ride on a side street.
She said the pilot program only applies to pickups, and only for that one block of Valencia Street. However, a screenshot shared by a Mission Local reader indicates pickups may be affected as far south as 19th Street.
“We are excited to collaborate on experiments, like this current pilot on Valencia, that can help support citywide Vision Zero and multi-modal goals,” Harrison said.
On hearing the news Thursday, District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen was thrilled. “I’m glad to see Lyft taking leadership, and I hope Uber will follow suit,” she said.
She met with Uber and Lyft separately about a month ago, she said, and both companies said they understood the problem of crowding on Valencia and would look into it.
Those meetings followed an open letter Ronen sent to the ride-hailing companies in November, asking them to use geofencing technology to find safe pickup and drop-off sites away from the crowded Valencia Street.
“Hopefully we’ll start noticing an improvement for cyclists,” Ronen said. “I’m very happy to see progress and look forward to hearing from bicyclists about whether or not this has made a difference.”
Last week, 27 flex posts were installed on Valencia Street next to the bike lanes. Yet Ronen said she’s heard constituents say they have had little effect in keeping cars out of the bike lane. She said more improvements are on the way.
“It’s a welcome and overdue development,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, of Lyft’s geofencing experiment. “It’s the busiest block for pickups and drop-offs, but we would like to see all of Valencia Street blocked off.”
“I hope Uber is paying attention and decides to implement the same geofencing voluntarily,” he added.
A spokesperson from Uber was not immediately available for comment.