Lyft ‘geofencing’ program also being tested on Chestnut Street in the Marina, AT&T Park, and near the Westfield Mall


From here on out, all Lyft pickups and dropoffs on Valencia Street between 16th and 19th will be diverted to side streets, the ridesharing company announced in a blog post last week.

The move is the latest in an ostensible ongoing effort to improve cyclist safety along the busy corridor, on which from January 2012 to December 2016, 204 people were injured and one died in 268 reported collisions. Portions of Valencia Street, unsurprisingly, are among Lyft’s most-visited destinations.

The decision to permanently divert rides off the three-block stretch of Valencia Street followed a three-month pilot that shunted half of customers requesting rides on the popular Mission thoroughfare onto lesser-traveled sidestreets.

“With so many different users of the street and a street design that has largely remained unchanged, it’s no surprise that the corridor has experienced growing safety concerns — particularly around increased traffic, double parking, and bicycle dooring,” reads the blog post by Debs Schrimmer, a senior transportation policy manager at Lyft.

Lyft’s decision to implement the program permanently was first reported on Monday by the Examiner. Mission Local was the first to report on the pilot program in March.

The March experiment used so-called “geofencing,” which limits where drivers can pick up their passengers. From March to June, the pilot took place on the identical streets as the future permanent program: Valencia Street between 16th and 19th streets, the three blocks that account for 27 percent of all Lyft rides on Valencia, per the company.

“Given the findings of this pilot program … we decided to move our project from a pilot to a permanent feature within the Lyft app,” Schrimmer wrote. “This means that currently, anyone requesting a ride on Valencia Street between 16th Street and 19th Street will be redirected to a pickup spot on a side street.”

But Lyft acknowledges that its geofencing efforts are not enough to improve the corridor’s safety conditions. The pilot, which attempted route pickups and dropoffs to loading zones along Valencia’s side streets, found that “existing curb space is insufficient and that the city needs more loading zones.” This, according to the company, will help its program on Valencia Street.

Obtaining city-approved curb space, akin to a taxi stand, has long been a goal of Lyft, Uber and other ride-share outfits in San Francisco — and the subject of contentious negotiations.   

Other bike-friendly experiments are underway on Valencia Street. In March, the city installed flex-posts along portions of Valencia Street to prevent cars — as well as Lyfts and Ubers — from pulling up next to bulb-out curbs and putting cyclists in danger. Lyft cited protective bike lanes as another strategy to reduce harm to cyclists along the corridor.

While Valencia is in the Vision Zero High-Injury network — the 13 percent of city streets accounting for 75 percent of severe and fatal collisions — it is not the only corridor where Lyft is diverting pickups and dropoffs: The effort is being duplicated in the Marina on Chestnut Street between Fillmore and Scott, also a busy corridor, according to a Lyft spokesperson. 

Lyft is also utilizing the geofencing technology at frequently visited locations and event venues — including AT&T Park, some BART/Muni Stations, Westfield San Francisco Centre, and San Francisco International Airport.

Uber did not respond to Mission Local’s inquiries about whether it is considering similar policies.