The 100 cyclists who attended Thursday night’s meeting on the city’s three options for protected bike lanes on Valencia Street showed an interest in the novel center bike lanes, probably a preference for protected lanes on both sides of the street, and less enthusiasm for two bike lanes on one side of the street. Minimal attention was given to the additional ideas for curb changes.
Many of the attendees kept their helmets on and a single pant leg rolled up, attire usually adjusted when coming indoors. Here, there was no need — they were among their people.
“It’s a complex issue. I’m torn between the parking-protected lanes and the center idea,” said Steve Solomon, 56, who lives in Potrero Hill and volunteers with the SF Bike Coalition.
For Amandeep Jawa, 49, who has lived on Valencia Street since 2005 and in the Mission since 1996, protected lanes on either side makes the most sense — as long as they add concrete barriers.
“I’m really excited about this — it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I’ve been trying to figure it out for years, some of the questions they’re asking — like which alternative is the best. I still don’t have an answer, but it’s getting all the more important, with the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, that we get protected bike lanes on Valencia.”
The SFMTA says it’s gathering information from this workshop and a second one on July 28 at 4 p.m. at the Women’s Building, as well as future online surveys, to whittle down the options. At that point, they’ll make a more detailed proposal and include specifics such as the number of parking spaces added or taken away.
SFMTA Program Manager Miriam Sorell and her colleagues also offered a plan for curb-management improvements. This includes lengthening, adding, consolidating and converting loading zones, both commercial and passenger.
Right now, for example, there are commercial loading zones from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. across the street from passenger loading zones with limited hours. The proposed change would put passenger and commercial loading zones closer together and convert commercial loading zones to passenger loading zones after 6 p.m.
Alex Jonlin, an SFMTA staff member, noted the importance of educating drivers and rideshares about the new loading zone restrictions, including the convenience that yellow commercial loading zones can also be used for passenger drop-offs for up to three minutes.
Parking and drop-offs along Valencia have been a problem, and the agency has been cracking down. Jonlin noted that citations for being double-parked along the street have tripled in recent months.
Jeremy Frisch, 30, a Mission resident and longtime bike rider said, “One of the options on the sheet was to move the drop-off zones. So I really would like Lyft and Uber to share their data with the city. (So far, the city has failed to get that.) They’re the ones that know where people are getting dropped off, and I think we should base those loading zones on where people are actually going.”
Once feedback is gathered on the curb-management plan, it’ll go into effect this fall. Then, by the end of next year — depending on funding — they plan to implement a bikeway management plan which will require more “concrete streetscape” changes.
For the bike-lane proposals, the SFMTA set up a station for each proposal: a center two-way bikeway, a parking-protected bikeway and a curbside, two-way bikeway. At each station, a SFMTA staff member answered questions and community members added their thoughts on little post-it notes.
Once a selection is made, it’s set to be piloted from Market Street to 15th Street. The SFMTA will continue to get community feedback before moving further down the Valencia Street corridor. Eventually, the lanes will run to the end of Valencia at Mission Street.
In all of the proposals, intersections remained a concern for the cyclists who said it was the most dangerous place for a biker.
Saranya Konalia, 28, who lives in the Western Addition, thought the center idea was really interesting. “I’m a nervous biker,” she said. “Especially when nearing intersections, and this idea feels safer.”
Sorell said that each option “has a tricky intersection.”
“With any protected bikeway we have limited space and they all involve some degree of either turn restrictions or larger cost and delay because we would need to install some kind of protected signal,” she said.
Frisch likes the idea of protected bike lanes on either side of the street but is concerned about the zones where drivers, wanting to make a right turn, have to merge or mix with the bike lanes.
These merges are usually handled are with “sharrows” or mixed-use lanes, seen below, to the left of the intersection where cars and bikes share the right-hand turn lane. Another option is the “right pocket,” or diagonal broken bike path that allows cars to weave though the lane to make a right turn, seen to the right of the intersection below.
Both of these options are problematic for Frisch, who was joined by Samani, 27, and Reed, 23, who both declined to give their last names.
“Sharrows completely defeat the purpose,” Frisch said. “I’m a way more aggressive biker, but my wife doesn’t bike because she’s too afraid in the city, and protected bike lanes are the kind of thing that would make her bike more often, but she wouldn’t bike if she’s gonna have to do this kind of merging with cars.”
Reed said that most of the conflicts with cars are at the curb, where cars are parked or turning. “Right, if you’re forsaking all the protection at the curb, where all the conflicts are, what’s the point?”
“And I also hate these,” he said, talking about the right pockets that allow cars to cross the bike path to make a right turn.
“At least with the mixed, people recognize they’re entering your space,” he said.
Reed added that there are always conflicts at 8th and 10th, where there are right pockets currently. “Bikes are supposed to have the right of way, and the drivers are sliding in between the bikes, that’s the way its marked. But drivers never behave that way. Drivers always go first.”
Frisch noted that in the end, “you have to let the cars turn right somehow.”
He thought the solution at Folsom Street — a very narrow area where cars can go through, with reminders that drivers need to yield, was close to a solution.
In the end, Frisch added a sticky note based on Samani’s recommendation — a right pocket with a sharp diagonal, coupled with a hard barrier or curb that would give the cars a shorter window to get over and lessen the opportunity for conflict.
As the pizza supply ran low and the crowd became sparse, SFMTA staff started to outnumber community members.
“The takeaway is that we are trying to make incremental change on Valencia,” said Sorell.
More information can be found at the project’s website, including materials from the workshop. Also, check out our earlier coverage from March on the flex posts installed between 15th and 19th, and Lyft’s geofencing pilot program to move pickups to side streets.