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

Community rumblings against the SFMTA’s proposed center-running bike lane on Valencia Street were reaffirmed by a feedback report released by the agency on Monday. 

Hard pass, said the majority of respondents to the transit agency’s open-house surveys in September. Now, the agency is headed back to the drawing board, meaning the long-awaited project will see further delays. 

“I’m not too surprised,” said Luke Bornheimer, a community organizer and cyclist, said of the community’s resounding rejection of the SFMTA’s plan. “I think that people know a safe bike lane when they see it. And they know an unsafe bike lane when they see one.” 

The proposal for an 18-month pilot, part of the Valencia Bikeway Improvements Project, proposed a ban on left turns, moving bike lanes to the center of Valencia Street, and adding loading zones to each block between 15th and 24th streets. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after the strong negative online response the proposal received when it was first published in mid-September, 70 percent of 441 feedback comment cards did not support the center bikeway or preferred an alternative solution. 

Less than 18 percent of respondents showed support for the SFMTA’s new proposal. 

The SFMTA has long promised protected bike lanes on Valencia Street: The pandemic derailed original plans to install them by 2021, and the negative feedback this fall means the project may not even begin implementation until mid-2023. 

“The project team has pushed back the project’s approval schedule in order to update the pilot design to address the feedback received during the project’s outreach processes,” read an announcement from the SFMTA on Monday. 

Since the plan was released in September, bike and pedestrian advocates have taken to the internet to blast the new proposal or suggest alternative plans of their own. One Streetsblog SF article called the proposal “ridiculous.” 

Though community members had suggested different plans for Valencia Street, the SFMTA, on Monday, cited those suggestions’ longer timelines, and an “immediate need” on Valencia, as reasons why they would not work. 

The SFMTA said it reached out to the public during a Sunday Streets event, a series of meetings with community stakeholders, and a virtual open house that took place through the second half of September. The virtual open house platform illustrating the proposed changes got thousands of views, and hundreds of responses were sent in, according to the SFMTA. 

Survey respondents and critics of the center bikeway said the current plan doesn’t do enough to protect cyclists on a street known to be a part of the city’s High-Injury Network. The plastic bollards surrounding the center bikeway would do little to prevent drivers from illegally turning left through the green lane, putting bikers at risk, respondents said. As it is now, Valencia’s bike lane is often used as an extra parking lane. 

Another concern lies with accessibility to a center-running bikeway, Bornheimer said. Less confident cyclists, such as children or people with disabilities, particularly less experienced ones, may be uncomfortable weaving through oncoming car traffic to exit the center bike lane toward the sidewalk. 

Though Bornheimer supports making Valencia Street one-way for cars, he said that even the SFMTA’s other proposed solutions during the 2018 planning process were preferable to the one they presented this fall. Those alternatives included bike lanes alongside the curb, protected from moving vehicles by parked ones. 

The stretch of Valencia between 15th and 24th streets sees about two collisions per month, more than half of which involve a bicycle or pedestrian, according to the SFMTA. More than 150 collisions have been reported there between 2017 and 2022. 

To what extent the SFMTA intends to adjust the existing plan is unclear: Spokesperson Stephen Chun said the delay would give the team time to “consider different materials for bikeway separation, and to conduct additional conversation with local merchants around the curb management portion of the plan.” 

The final proposal now is anticipated to appear before a public hearing and an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting in the spring. 

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. The Burrito Plan seems like a pretty good plan. Protected bike lanes (not plastic posts), wider sidewalks to allow nicer outdoor dining areas, and one-way car traffic with a loading zone. It’d be better for the restaurants also, since the outdoor sections wouldn’t be quite so crazy with cars flying by two feet away from your table.

      1. I suppose you could swap the car loading zone and the car traffic lane. Most of listed objections seem pretty weak. I anticipate another decade or two of debate, unless perhaps a few deaths occur due to the complete mess caused by cars weaving all over the street and parking in the unprotected bike lanes.

  2. Lately every proposal that SFMTA makes seems to come from someone who hasn’t ever ridden a bike or walked anywhere, thinks they invented bike lanes and can’t see more than 6ft in front of them. They seem intent on making bike lanes as complicated and difficult as possible, with the most obstacles and pedestrian conflicts and as many different ways of dealing with it. It’s as if they chop up the road into sections and send them to different teams who never talk to each other. Keep it simple: Maybe watch a few videos about other countries that can do this, and learn.

  3. Valencia was once the centerfold of a beautiful bike plan. A good deal of improvement has been done through the wiggle though the space between 17th street to market still feels dangerous. Once past the wiggle I now use the slow street of Page. Wow what a joy, though a hill to be sure. But worth it by staying off the race trac of fell. Then through the park and off to the beach. Market street is a gem! The waterfront back to 17th street are also as good as bike lanes get in San Francisco. I am still using other routes to avoid Cesar Chavez. I would love to see the Valencia project more bike and pedestrian friendly and less car centered. No left turns seems like the least that could be done to separate cars from bikes and pedestrians. I love the parklettes but they do make the bike lane less safe and the obvious double parking problems make the bike lane unusable on Valencia without regularly re entering car traffic. This cannot be remedied with side bike lanes. I hope this gets figured out. I would love to bike with less fear than I have now. let’s agree that Valencia is a weak link to a safe bike plan in its current state.

  4. Valencia street has gotten ridiculous with all the improvement ideas. I’m glad this yet another bad idea is finally getting rejected.

  5. Let’s face it, the proliferation of parklets is what’s preventing safer bike lanes. They’ve taken over the space next to sidewalks so swapping the bike lane and parking lane like between Market and 15th is no longer feasible. (The Streetsblog editor thinks that putting a bike lane between the sidewalk and parklets is a fine idea – talk about ridiculous.) I was no fan of the center lane idea when originally proposed but agree with Jiro, I think it’s the only idea left other than getting rid of the car traffic. And the “Burrito Plan” which got everyone all excited is a quarter-baked idea at best. Leave the planning to the planners, folks.

    Biking on Valencia is a mess – especially in the evenings because of all the diners getting dropped off and door dashers picking up food. A quick improvement would be to change half the parking spots to white zones.

  6. Valencia is not the best place for bike lanes. It is a commercial street with established businesses that are really hurting (as is the neighborhood) due to the parking that has been removed. I have seen the same vet for 30 years and it is very difficult to park or to carry heavier carriers from a distance, so I probably will need to change vets.

    There are bike lanes 4 blocks away on Folsom, and also on Harrison and Potrero. The first two streets seem the obvious choice for a more protected zone.

  7. Yay, the whinging NIMBY inexperienced bike riding lobbyists are finally told no. There should be a test for bikers as well as insurance if they weren’t former bike messengers/Bmx/AIDS ride riders. Granted driving here of bad, but it’s compounded by many bikers who lack the experience to avoid potential injury and/or flaunt the rules of the road and wind up hurt. More attention to biking in the bike lanes and testing of bike expertise could go a long way to saving lives

  8. The obvious thing to do right now, no pilot program needed: Keep bike and travel lanes safe and enforce double parking. Obvious hot spots: Valencia St, 16th St.

  9. The center lane seems like the only practical solution that can be implemented within the next 2 years. Unfortunately, it seems that state laws restrict how much can change on a street without excessive amounts of consultation and approvals. We should change those state laws, but as someone who both bikes and drives on Valencia, the proposal seems like a balanced one.

    1. It really is not unfortunate, and the requirement to consult with the people who live and work on streets proposed for bikes/closing should stay. Put yourself in the position of a merchant who has long had a business on the street. You would not be happy if the city took more parking without consulting you.

  10. Valencia has to be one of the most chill streets to bicycle on. The only reason why there are many bike involved collisions is because there are so many cyclists. I’d bet that the bike involved collision rate, collisions per cyclist-mile, is probably lower on Valencia than other streets.

    A vociferous, upscale minority is making claims on contested space in the Mission as they have citywide. This seems like diminishing returns pursuing that last modicum of safety.

    1. Despite the number of people riding on Valencia, it’s still terrifying and dangerous because of all the vehicles blocking the bike lanes, making dangerous u turns and speeding through red lights. I’ve never ridden Valencia without seeing several dangerous vehicle near misses with pedestrians and cyclists. The only reason so many people still bike through Valencia is because it practically their only choice to get to where we’re going. Valencia is a major bicycle route. Mixing cars with bicycles is dangerous because it’s causing severe life altering injuries every couple weeks. We know how to make this better, and it doesn’t involve appeasing motorists. Make Valencia vehicle free.

      Whatever inconvenience it may cause some, it will certainly save lives, reduce crippling injuries, and finally make this dangerous street safe for everyone.

    2. Valencia St at evening commute hours is about as far from chill as you can get. It’s ok if you’re an experienced cyclist that’s ok with biking in traffic. For everyone else, not so much.

  11. Eleni: Very good article @ Valencia St proposal…… Living on the Valencia corridor, I was very concerned with proposal…. I drive and bike on the street and want safe roads in my hood…. Tx again ! Fernando

  12. The center bike lane is the best of the options where car space is not diminished. There isn’t space to have parking protected bike lanes. Also, those bike lanes subject the cyclist to cars blocking the bike lanes in intersections as they turn and wait for pedestrians. The current bike lanes are awful, mostly due to ignorant or inconsiderate people in cars. Without a change in bike lane enforcement, or even less likely, driver education, cars will remain in the bike lanes. So, the best option for cyclists is just to avoid Valencia during high traffic times.