Valencia Street near 15th Street. Courtesy: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) recently passed legislation aimed to make Valencia Street much greener in addition to halting the high number of biking incidents along the corridor.

The new legislation came at the behest of  District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, SF Bicycle Coalition, the Valencia Corridor Merchant Association and Lyft, who demanded the street become more bike friendly and begin working with the city’s transit authority. Unanimously passed by SFMTA, it will creates protected bike lanes along Valencia Street from Market to 15th Streets.

“This project reflects the public’s detailed feedback, which was used to fine-tune the pilot’s design,” said Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA. “The project will improve safety by providing a physical barrier between bikes and moving traffic. It will be parking protected, with a buffer zone between the parked cars and the separated green lane.”

The bike lanes on Valencia Street are currently not protected, but the street was identified as part of the “high-injury network” by Vision Zero, a branch of city policy used to implement street safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.  According to city data, 75 percent of incidents occur within just 13 percent of specific city streets, Valencia Street is one of them.

From Market to 15th Street—the proposed blocks for the pilot program rolling out this month—there were 81 collisions, 65 of those lead to injury and one resulted in death, according to Vision Zero data from Dec. 4, 2018.

Collisions occurred most frequently from what is known as “dooring,” when doors are opened on bicyclists in the bike lane due to the lack of a protected bike lane. Another significant factor of incidents stemmed from passengers loading into cars.

Mayor London Breed pushed for implementation of these bike lanes last September, pointing out the transit agency’s lack of ability to move quickly on pertinent safety measures after a bicyclist was struck and killed near the corner of Howard and Third streets just weeks earlier.

“Even one pedestrian death is too many, but recently we have seen a number of sadly preventable injuries and fatalities on our streets,” Breed said in a September statement. “I am tired of waiting for months, and often years, for important Vision Zero projects to be implemented, when we know they are urgently needed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Although the transit authority is implementing the much-needed protected bike lanes, the city will not meet its Vision Zero targets this year, according to the city’s Performance Scorecard.

There was an increase in bicyclist fatalities last year, from two in 2017 to three in 2018. Although the city has managed to achieve one less death from pedestrian and driving collisions, it is not on track to meet its goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024, according to official data.

Lyft recently released a statement in support of the bike lanes, however there is cause for concern over the company’s conflict of interest: its recent acquisition of Motivate, the parent company of Ford GoBikes.

In July 2018, El Tecolote uncovered the issues stemming from the placement of the Ford GoBikes stationed up 24th Street and the controversial implementation lead to the dismemberment of bikes and slashed tires.

The Ford GoBikes bikes took away parking spaces as well as tracked bike routes, which sparked concern among community members like Erick Arguello, President of Calle 24, who mentioned how these bikes could harm immigrant people in this political climate.

However, Calle 24 is looking into how these new bike lanes will impact traffic flow on Mission and Guerrero streets.

“Folks in the community were looking at how it would affect Mission Street with traffic flow,” Arguello said. “Bicycle safety is always good, but we have to make sure its equitable and benefits everybody.”

The rideshare company said it feels a “tremendous responsibility to help advocate for safer street designs,” due to its new ownership of the docked bikes sprinkled throughout the city, specifically on 24th Street.

The SF Bicycle Coalition says that its work on Valencia Street isn’t done.

“Our vision for Valencia Street is a corridor-wide transformation with a street design that keeps Uber and Lyft drivers out of the bike lane,” the coalition said in response to the recent victory for bike-riders,” the coalition said in a public statement.