In this insightful blog post, we delve into the recent implementation of new bike lanes on Valencia Street in San Francisco, intended to enhance safety for cyclists. Positioned amidst heavy traffic and commercial activity, these lanes have generated both anticipation and skepticism even before their official launch.
The new bike lane design, stretching between 15th and 23rd streets, relocates the curbside bike lanes to the middle of the road, separating cyclists from vehicle traffic and parking spaces. Protected by a shallow rubber curb on each side and a row of plastic traffic posts, these lanes are referred to as a “center-running protected bikeway” by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
However, early reports have raised concerns about the project’s efficacy, as a series of crashes and mishaps have already been documented. Transportation advocate Luke Bornheimer points to the design’s curb, which he refers to as a “speed bump,” as a primary culprit behind the accidents. Its black color blends with the road surface, making it difficult for some cyclists to spot, leading to spills and injuries. In one instance, a scooter rider claimed to have broken a rib after crossing the curb. While the SFMTA acknowledges upcoming project updates, including new curb paint and signs to improve visibility, questions remain about the lane’s overall safety.
Moreover, the plastic traffic posts installed along the curb to discourage vehicle intrusion have proven ineffective, with many posts damaged or flattened within weeks of installation. Bornheimer notes that these posts are unlikely to offer a sustainable solution to prevent cars from entering the bikeway.
Despite citing precedents from cities like New York and Washington, D.C., where center-running bike lanes have been implemented, it is worth noting that such designs are relatively rare and sparsely researched. Professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal of San Jose State University points out that she couldn’t find extensive research on center-running bike lanes, leaving questions about their effectiveness and safety unanswered.
SFMTA emphasizes that the lanes have not officially opened and will be subject to a year-long trial period once construction is complete. During this trial, their efficacy will be reviewed to gauge their impact on safety and traffic flow.
As cyclists continue to use the unfinished lanes despite their incomplete status, businesses along Valencia Street have also voiced their concerns. The conversion of metered parking spots into loading zones as part of the new bike lane project has affected businesses, like Tacolicious, whose marketing director, Sara Deseran, points out that it has impacted their deliveries and patronage. Safety concerns arise as well, with the old bike lanes, formerly acting as a separation between parklets and car traffic, painted over, leaving outdoor diners exposed to the flow of cars.
The SFMTA argues that a center-running protected bikeway was the most balanced approach, separating cyclists from car traffic and parking spaces while retaining curb space for commercial and passenger loading activities. However, some experts, like Professor Agrawal, believe that other design options were feasible, including the removal of parking on one side of the street.
As advocates of justice and safety, we understand the complexities surrounding this infrastructure change and its potential impact on bike accident cases. We remain vigilant in monitoring the project’s developments and the safety implications it presents. If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact OnderLaw today for your free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced lawyers will fight for the justice you deserve!