San Francisco's mid-Valencia Street bike-lane pilot project approved

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to split the Mission District's Valencia Street down the middle of the road to create new bike lanes in the interest of safety. 

It's called the Mid-Valencia Pilot, part of the Valencia Bikeway Improvements. The stretch of road impacted is between 15th to 24th streets. Cyclists would have a clear ride right down the middle of the Valencia. It's all part of the city's plan to make cycling through the Mission District safer.

Valencia is one of the busiest streets running through San Francisco's Mission District. Pedestrians, drivers and cyclists all share the road. The 12-month pilot program will see two-way bike lane traffic running down the middle of the road with cars on the sides. 

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition says the current painted bike lanes don't protect cyclists, and double-parked cars force bikes out into traffic. "This design, we are asking, essentially the MTA, as they put this pilot in the ground, to have zero, zero vehicles in this protected bike lane, and that would be a game changer for a lot of cyclists using the road, it would make it safer," said Janelle Wong, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The plan would decrease street parking, but increase loading zones for businesses; and change traffic signals to block left turns off Valencia. "It's prioritizing signaling for pedestrians and cyclists it would also make us, as the most vulnerable users, sort of front and center of Valencia," said Wong. "So, people see us, we are no longer relegated to the sides of the road."

The SFMTA says the idea, while unusual, is safe. The agency says that Valencia is an unusual street, so an unusual pilot program is needed. SFMTA tweeted, "the center-running bikeway is all about supporting this vibrant neighborhood & balancing the needs of the corridor."

Some cyclists say they're in favor of making the street safer for bicycles, but would prefer a more tried and true method. "I like a car protected bike lane, so cars can park on the outside," said Calder Lorenz. "There's still from time to time, cars pulling in on you, but it's really difficult to pull in on someone when there's cars already parked there."

While other cyclists say they want safety, but also want to make sure businesses along Valencia can thrive. "It'd be much safer for the bicycles," said Dane Pryce. "But, again, you're taking away a lot of parking for these people. Valencia is a main artery for restaurants and socializing here in the Mission District. This is where all the party is, down on Valencia. So, you're taking away a lot of their parking spaces and stuff like that."

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Construction on the new lanes is set to get underway later this month for the 12-month pilot program.