When the SFMTA confirmed their only design option for the Valencia Street pilot, we knew that the center-running bike lane could only be successful if the SFMTA committed to using physical barriers that are stronger and safer than soft-hit posts. After further discussion with the SFMTA, we now know that the SF Fire Department is restricting this design to not allow the stronger infrastructure that we have been advocating for, like K71 bollards, tire stops, and armadillos to keep cars out of the bike lane. Soft-hit posts are not enough to protect people biking, and for this reason, we must oppose the Valencia pilot design.
While the SF Fire Department has a responsibility to make sure that their emergency vehicles can respond to calls without excessive impediment, safety infrastructure like wider bollards and armadillos do not impede emergency vehicles, as has been shown in cities like Los Angeles. We call on the SFMTA and SFFD to come together and conduct collaborative tests of these more effective materials, to confirm that they are safe for emergency vehicles while increasing safety for daily road users. Moving past this current stalemate will improve safety not just on Valencia, but on all protected bike lanes across the city.
Valencia Street has a variety of different needs and use cases — from folks living along the corridor, merchants, church-goers, and people passing through. Designing streets for the future of SF takes collaboration, discussion, strong outreach, and new solutions. Our role as bike and safety advocates is to ensure that the needs of communities and the safety of people biking on our streets are held in harmony with one another. Streets built together and not in opposition with one another will be stronger, more equitable and accessible, and long-lasting.
The center-running bike lane is new to us, but it does solve many current safety issues on Valencia Street by mitigating curb use and loading outside of the bike lane. However, this design, with only soft-hit posts as a barrier, does not meet the criteria of creating greater safety for people biking.
Quick-build projects are a way for the SFMTA to install quick, life-saving infrastructure to protect people on our streets. The SF Fire Department and SFMTA must come together to agree on materials that prioritize both the safety of people riding their bikes every day as well as people experiencing acute, though hopefully rare, emergencies.
Write a letter to the SF Fire Department and SFMTA right now to let them know that greater protection is needed in order to protect people biking on Valencia.