A biker on Valencia Street, near a Valencia Street parklet. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken March 2, 2022.

The ride toward permanent, protected bike lanes on Valencia Street has resumed, but its design will yield to popular pandemic parklets.

Shared Spaces and parklets “have made it more challenging to install the original design,” Stephen Chun, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, wrote in an email. 

Valencia Street’s existing bike lanes are located between the traffic lane and cars parked along the curbs. The new, protected design would have placed the bike lane along the curb, but now that some parklets are using that space, the permanent protected lane will have to “weave around” them. Up to two parking spaces will need to be removed per parklet for the new, protected bikeway design, Chun said. Still, the city is  “committed” to updating the bikeways this year, according to an SFMTA blog post. The pandemic derailed original plans to install them by 2021. 

“It is now clear that Shared Spaces will remain a significant part of Valencia’s future but, while they must be accounted for in the roadway design, they in no way supersede the need for protected bike lanes on Valencia,” the post stated.  

An example of how the protected bike lane on Valencia Street would “weave around” parklets. Courtesy of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

An earlier design also envisioned timed cross-street meters, limited left turns on certain intersections, and some commercial loading zones. 

But, while the 2022 goal will be met, the agency said it doesn’t “currently have a new design to share, as of yet,” Chun said. 

It’s clear that pressure on the SFMTA will remain. Just last week, bike safety activists Maureen Persico and Stephen Braitsch used some street theater to keep the issue alive.  Persico darted up and down a darkened Valencia Street in a hilarious bike safety campaign, shielding bikers from the oncoming cars with neon signs. “Sorry, just a minute,” Persico explained to the confused drivers. 

Persico came to the rescue of cyclists who found double-parked cars blocking the bike lane and had to reroute onto the street. Persico, Braitsch, and other activists became the barriers between cyclists and cars, creating a makeshift “protected bike lane” for riders. 

Despite the laughs, vehicle encroachment in existing bike lanes is a serious issue, they said. In 2019, Valencia Street joined the High Injury Network as one of the most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists. 

From 2012 to 2016, 30 percent of the collisions between vehicles and bikes or vehicles and pedestrians occurred on Valencia between Market and 15th streets, resulting in 65 injuries and one death. In March, 2020, a pedestrian died at Valencia and 18th streets after a vehicle struck them.

The parking-protected bike lane in the latest Transportation Agency design is supposed to curb cyclists from getting “doored,” or getting slammed when a driver suddenly opens a door.

“It’s absolutely so dangerous for parents [on bicycles] to be navigating their children and having to merge with rapidly moving cars,” Persico said. 

The latest bikeway design also includes protected intersections. Cycling activists would also like to see concrete barriers that are harder to vandalize, and speed bumps. The slower the car, the less damage it can do, they said.  

Braitsch and Persico also advocate against increasing monetary fines or other enforcement, stating that it may disproportionately affect marginalized groups.  

These ideas should be reproduced in other high-trafficked areas of San Francisco, Braitsch said. “This is not a Valencia Street-specific problem,” he said.    

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Walked with husband over to Puerto Alegre for lunch yesterday and sat at the front tables, watching Valencia for an hour and remain unclear on the policy concept at play here.

    To what extent do we need to reconfigure a perfectly well engineered street in order to cater to the interests of the terminally frightened?

    1. OMG Valencia is “a perfectly well engineered street?” Your statements are not based in reality. In the evening hours, the bike lanes are full of drivers picking up food from the restaurants. There is nothing chill about biking in the lanes. And biking families are who we should be catering to.

    2. @Marcos, clearly you are clueless. Valencia is like a biker death trap with cars randomly pulling over all the time. Just try biking on it. Also, cut your bull shit about white supremacy. This is not about race, this is a great development for bikers, period. I’m a person of color and it’s people like you that keep us down.

  2. Valencia Street, has been so fully catered to the bicyclists. However, it seems they are never happy. Especially with those unsafe rants/protests making more unnecessary traffic. SFMTA still doing anything and everything for them, yet they want the whole street. Shame on these people for being so greedy. The streets are for all, pedestrians and cars. Not just people in a bike!

    1. If motorists hadn’t so frequently used the bike lane for double parking than there wouldn’t have been need for further modifications.

  3. Just close the whole street to cars, double the width of the sidewalks, turn the lousy parklets into nicer parklets, plant some trees and stuff down the middle, and turn the car lanes into bike/scooter lanes.

    Put solid posts at the entrances to the street that can be lowered during delivery hours etc.

  4. Valencia is perhaps one of the most chill streets to bike in SF. Relatively high injury numbers are due to intense bicycle and ped use.

    I obtained the High Injury source dataset and scripts from the SFDPH this past week, and am working on scoring an ESRI license for ArcGIS to check their work. My prediction is that the rankings are more politically grounded than empirically.

    I find it not credible that both Valencia and JFK are ranked with Market Street as “High Injury” given the numbers.

    If the goal here is to engineer streets so that predominantly upscale families “feel safe” cycling in a dense urban neighborhood with many competing demands on scarce space, resolving all conflicts in favor of the interests of predominantly upscale white families on bicycles, then I’d imagine I’ll be doing most of my cycling in the car lane on Valencia to avoid the concrete training wheels.

    The hijacking of the bicycle agenda by this crowd on JFK, Great Highway and Valencia commands limited SFMTA bandwidth away from the most dangerous streets and onto those which said entitled cyclists demand total consideration on.

    We are seeing single issue “urbanist” tendencies, sharpened by pandemic isolation and disempowerment, that fixates on the aspects of the city outside of their comfort zone, and rages that their feelings of unsafety for crime, feelings of unsafety about homelessness, feelings of unsafety about substance use must be centered and addressed.

    Breed’s government meets these demands on bended knee while the SFPD is insubordinate, the poverty nonprofit ecosystem self serves and marks time making negative progress on public squalor and Muni inexorably declines.

    1. The goal is increased safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. Officially, city government is tasked with decreasing pedestrian and cyclist injuries and death and promoting bicycling for those aged 8-80, regardless of their skin color or zip code. Due to widespread disregard of parking restrictions in bike lanes and a lack of parking enforcement, protected bike lanes are needed on many city streets – particularly as a tool to try to help encourage more sustainable transportation choices.

      1. Officially, the risks that cyclists face are not on JFK or Valencia, even though these segments were (politically?) added to the high injury network, rather the most persistent dangerous conditions are to the north and south of market.

        Sat for an hour having enchiladas at Puerto Alegre on Sunday, watching the wheels go round and round. There scene was one of the more placid in town. One delivery vehicle double parked for some time, but cyclists took the lane and went around it.

        If it is dangerous for cyclists to take the lane as allowed by law–it really is not–then that means that motorists are violating the CVC.

        Instead of enforcing the CVC on motorists on the daily, not just high profile stings, advocates are willing to tolerate those civil rights violations by doubling down on separate but (never) equal, Jim Crow cycling.

        There are dangerously engineered conditions, Howard at South Van Ness comes to mind. But our major threat is the culture of motorist impunity. You can’t engineer away asshole drivers.

  5. When San Francisco is populated only by “marginalized ” groups, the “progressive” vision will have finally been realized.

  6. “concrete barriers that are harder to vandalize”
    ?
    Folks out there with jackhammers?

    “against increasing monetary fines or other enforcement”
    ?
    I’m free to double park because I’m a minority?
    Thanks.

    Get on with it.
    Turn the air space above the police station/donut house into a hopefully non-hideous parking lot structure.
    Make Valencia a 1 lane one way for delivery vehicles only – no cars.
    Restricted to 15 mph.
    The other lane … you figure it out.

  7. It’s nice to that SFMTA isn’t sacrificing bicyclists everywhere in the city. Unfortunately, SFMTA – with the Bicycle Coalition’s blessing – has officially eliminated the northbound morning commute hours bike lane on Polk Street.

    A year and a half ago, the first “shared” space appeared in the bike lane. SFMTA and SFBC couldn’t be bothered to reply to my inquiries about that. Of course, the number of “shared” spaces expanded, rendering the bike lane useless, even if cars didn’t park in the rest of it. Car arrogance returned with a vengeance, too: a Homeless Outreach Team social worker went ballistic when I wouldn’t move my bike out of the “parking” spot he wanted to use, even though at the time there were plenty of signs indicating the existence of the part-time bike lane.

    Yesterday, I rode along Polk to Bay Street and noticed that the signs indicating the part-time bike lane had been removed and replaced with signs indicating street cleaning times. I assume those no parking times will be enforced by SFMTA, even though they woudn’t do the same when we did have the bike lane.

    Last June, I had a few exchanges with Lee Hepner in Supervisor Peskin’s office and Janice Li, then at the Bicycle Coalition, regarding the SFMTA’s takeback of a hard-won limited hour bike lane.

    While Hepner thought there might be some legitimacy in my concern, especially given the business resistance to removal of parking spaces when the Polk Street project was being developed, Li didn’t even think losing a bike lane had anything to do with transportation, and thus wasn’t a SFBC issue at all.

    Li wrote, “SF Bicycle Coalition has been in a difficult position to weigh in re: Polk Street given this seems to be driven by Shared Spaces and small businesses rather than as a transportation decision.”

    How the loss of a bike lane is not a transportation issue still needs explaining. Given the population density, the automobile, truck and bus traffic, and the hills in D3 and D6, SFBC should be pushing for more and better safe biking infrastructure along Polk and other streets in the northeast part of the city. But they were the weakest link in the chain and couldn’t be bothered to fight for Polk Street – or even work on a solution that might be a “win” for businesses and a save for bike riders.

    I’m sure SFBC isn’t going to miss my long-time membership or have to adjust its budget because I am no longer a member, but they showed me what matters to them. And what/who doesn’t.