FYI: San Francisco’s Valencia Bikeway Just Got a Little Safer

With the addition of newly installed flex posts, one of San Francisco’s most contentious biking corridors is now a bit less friendly — (in a good way) — toward automobiles.

San Francisco remains one of the most walkable and bike-able large metropolitans in the United States… so long as you’re willing to huff and puff going up steep inclines. As of publishing, San Francisco has more than 450 miles of bikeways. But only 42 miles of these are considered protected bike lanes, meaning there’s some sort of physical barrier separating riders from drivers; bike frames from car doors; helmets from airbags.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, there were at least 377 bike-related injuries recorded in 2022 — the overwhelming majority of those involving vehicles. At least one of them proved fatal that same year.

Ever since San Francisco’s Valencia Street center bike lanes were installed in June — a venture San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) hoped would provide safe cycling refuge —  they’ve been the center of controversy. Cyclists have been hit by cars; the lanes’ “speed bumps,” which are meant to mitigate cars from making illegal three-point turns and crossing into the bike lanes, have left people injured. Drivers don’t know how to act around these pseudo-protected stripes over now-sun-aged green paint.

It’s a glaring problem — one that casts a larger spotlight on San Francisco’s lack of safe bike lanes. And the City continues to sit idle on improving cycling conditions along its network of vulnerable passageways.

Thankfully, San Francisco is home to good-doers and safe-street enthusiasts who take matters into their own hands. Safe Street Rebel, a social media handle on X and Instagram under the same username, is among them… having most recently installed flex posts on Valencia’s biking corridor.

“We installed flex posts to help dumb drivers not enter the Valencia bikeway,” the account posted in a five-part update on October 7th by way of X, citing that it’s by no means a permanent solution — “this is a stopgap” — but better than the non-existent improvements conducted by SFMTA. Even after the passage saw its first pedestrian death in September, which involved an 80-year-old woman being fatally struck by a driver, SFMTA has left the bikeway unchanged.

The center design of the lane is empirically flawed; for example, there’s no car-free avenue to access it safely. Once inside the narrow green lanes, it’s all too common for cars to… well, drive right through them.

Is the design salvageable? Perhaps not. Regardless of its moronic inception, the fact that SFMTA has remained listless in updating it to better safety speaks volumes.

“[SFMTA’s] lack of action confirms their failure & inability to ‘ensure that vehicles are not able to obstruct the lane’ by ‘any means necessary’ as required,” the thread continues, later bringing attention to complaints around flex posts by City departments, like the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) — “[SFFD] may cry and whine that flex posts obstruct their oversized trucks, yet on a weekly basis they crush an entire line of flex posts to park in the bike lane.”

It’s unclear how many people need to die or become maimed as a result of the lack of pedestrian safety both inside and along Valencia Street’s center bikeway before SFMTA takes any sort of meaningful action. Until then, it’s at least reassuring to know that anonymous do-gooders are out there with a hand drill and a dream (for ubiquitous pedestrian safety).

Feature Image: Courtesy of [at]SafeStreetRebel

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