Update: The prankster has struck again, covering up more of the Valencia center bike lane signs in the predawn hours of Saturday morning. They were still up as of noon.
Three months into construction on Valencia Street’s center bikeway, one daily commuter who could no longer stand the controversial bike path and its convoluted signs swapped them out with ones of her own making.
At noon Thursday, nine signs appeared on different sections of the bikeway, all covering the construction signs already in place. Each sign contained a phrase expressing displeasure: “LOL IDK how you will merge,” one sign reads.
“Uh, good luck turning right,” reads another one.
And the prankster’s favorite: “We regret this bike lane.”
The prankster said in a telephone interview that she made the signs because she finds the original signposts along the bike lane “pretty ridiculous.”
“They’re an obstruction to cyclists, and also extremely confusing,” she said. She asked to remain anonymous, for fear of any consequences.
The Valencia center bikeway pushes cyclists from curb-adjacent bike lanes onto a separated bikeway running down the center of Valencia Street, from 15th to 23rd streets, with cars on either side. Cyclists are protected by the occasional plastic bollard and rubber curbs, and currently have to navigate large construction signs in place until the lane is finished.
Plans for the center bike lane were approved earlier this year, despite tepid support, to avoid the removal of delivery spaces along the commercial corridor. Construction has been ongoing, cyclists have crashed, and traffic experts have derided the experiment.
The prankster said she commutes to work on Valencia’s center bikeway every day, sometimes four times a day. On one of her rides, she saw one of the construction signs in the middle of the lane cracked in half by a bicyclist. That inspired her to make one telling people to be careful with signage. “The signs are dangerous,” she said.
New inspiration kept popping up. She’s encountered some tricky right turns during rush hour, so she made another sign to tell people that it’s hard to make a right turn.
“If you have a green light and the cars have a green light, there’s this little square you have to wait in, but you don’t have much time,” she said. “You have to make eye contact with drivers and let them let you make a right turn.”
Most crazy to her is that the fire lane will be the same as the bike lane on Valencia Street. “Imagine you’re on your bike and there’re cars on both sides, and then the fire truck comes down. Where do you go?” she said. Hence the sign, “If fire truck comes, IDK.”
She fabricated the signs, called up a friend, and the two-person crew spent an hour Thursday biking from one end to the other to complete the posting.
People interacted with her in the process, both encouraging and discouraging.
Two San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency workers ran into the tricksters and told them to stop. She continued her work, and told them she felt the signs left in the middle of the bike lane were dangerous.
“And they told me that they’ve heard complaints, and they’re working on it, and that their reason why the signs are there is because all of the bollards aren’t in yet, so they need to have construction signs, in case the truck shows up,” she said. “It seems so vague, like, don’t they know when that’ll happen? It seems crazy to keep construction signs up for weeks.”
When Mission Local visited Valencia Street around 5 p.m. Thursday, the signs had been taken down, and only remnants of tape were visible. Two employees at small businesses on Valencia confirmed that they had seen the signs earlier in the day.
The instigator wasn’t entirely sure who took them down, but speculated that it might have been the SFMTA.
She plans to do it again, though she’s still unsure of the practice’s legality.
“Ultimately, I don’t think it’s the best vision for Valencia Street,” she said. “They did all this just to save 20 parking spots. It’s frustrating because Valencia would be such a nice street, if the focus was on bikes and pedestrians.”