Officials consider design change of SF's controversial Valencia St. bike lane after evaluation

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Sunday, February 18, 2024
Officials consider design change of controversial SF bike lane
The controversial San Francisco Valencia Street center bike lane could potentially be replaced with a different design after SFMTA released a report.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- SFMTA released its three-month pilot report this week, and it looks like the controversial San Francisco Valencia Street center bike lane could potentially be replaced with a different design.

It's been over six months since the Valencia Street Center bike lane opened. This week SFMTA released its first evaluation of the controversial bike lane.

"Biking on Valencia has become a little more comfortable. Prior to the project we saw that there was a number of blockages in our bike lanes that means that if you are someone on a bike trying to get down Valencia you were constantly having to veer out the bike lane into the vehicle travel lane," said Kimberly Leung, SFMTA Acting livable streets director.

SFMTA's 42-page report says the bike lane has met "its objective in improving traffic safety." But on Thursday, during a meeting with merchants and SFMTA, the sentiment was a bit different, according to several business owners.

RELATED: SFMTA's exec. director responds to Valencia Street bike lane concerns

"The overwhelming feeling is that folks feel like the bike lane is not working," said Kevin Ortiz, co-president of the SF Latinx Democratic Club and a small business consultant.

Ortiz represents multiple businesses on the corridor and is also a cyclist.

"I don't think it has actually made things safer. I think it's more confusing for cyclists. As a cyclist, I don't feel safe making a left turn, right turn from the center of the lane, and it's made it confusing for drivers," Ortiz said.

Luis Rodriguez is the owner of Los Amigos Restaurant. He is blaming the center bike lane for contributing to the decline in business. Two doors down from him his neighbor recently closed.

"If you see right there how many bicycles there were right now? Like pretty much none," said Rodriguez. "People don't want to come to this area. The first thing people say is we don't have parking."

RELATED: SF delays action on controversial bike lane despite many reporting it's 'killing' business

In the construction of the bike lane, SFMTA removed at least 70 parking spots, turning them into loading zones. After complaints from merchants, it turned 58 of those spaces into regular parking in the evenings. But even with that change, Luis Rodriguez says many like him are struggling.

"We are so behind in everything. I cut my servers. We have only two. They work only two to four hours a day, four days only in the week," Rodriguez said.

We took these concerns to Mayor London Breed.

Luz Pena: "Merchants are saying it is not working for them. Have you talked to SFMTA what is the plan here?"

Mayor London Breed: "Well, nothing is final. Because, I hear mixed messages from cyclists too, as well as a lot of the businesses, and we need to do something. I think that is what this first process is. We are still doing a lot of community engagement."

RELATED: SF restaurant owners say Valencia St. will 'die' if controversial bike lane is not revised

Kimberly Leung was the Project Manager of the Valencia Street center bikeway from 2017-2023 and is now livable streets director.

"The three-month evaluation has a lot of information about traffic safety, but we are taking steps to do additional analysis. So looking into the economic analysis, as well as doing surveys where we are actually talking to people out here using the roadway," Leung said.

SFMTA confirmed it is considering a change to the center bike lane.

"There is interest in doing a 'side-running bikeway.' If you go to Valencia north of 15th, between Market and 15th, you can get an example of what a 'side-running bikeway' looks like," Leung said. "There is interest in bringing that design to this stretch of Valencia. While we are continuing through the pilot for the center running bikeway we are also taking the steps to further explore what a side running bikeway could look like so that we can talk more with everyone on what those tradeoffs."

RELATED: SF's new bike lane faces mixed reviews from cyclists, drivers but will it actually be safer?

Since August, SFMTA has made multiple changes around the center bike lane. One of the changes is happening next week.

"We are actually going to adjust all the parking meters on the corridor," Leung said. "We are going back and putting in single parking meters for every stall. And as part of those changes, we are also putting in new and improved signage to really help make it a little clear about what the parking regulations are out here."

SFMTA's Board of Directors is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the three-month evaluation.

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