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Lyft to permanently move pickups, dropoffs away from busy portion of Valencia Street

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Lyft will begin preventing customers from requesting pickups on certain blocks of Valencia Street in response to complaints from cyclists about double parking in bike lanes. (Courtesy image)

Lyft will permanently move pickups and dropoffs from a busy portion of Valencia Street onto side streets in response to complaints from cyclists about double parking.

The ride-hail giant announced the move in a blog post Wednesday, after studying the issue through a pilot program spanning March to June.

Cyclists said double-parking Uber and Lyft vehicles would swing into bike lanes, endangering two-wheeled commuters. The corridor is especially popular at night and on weekends, a Lyft study found, with restaurant-goers bunching up on sidewalks to be whisked away by the pink-mustachioed vehicles.

Valencia is one of the busiest bicycle commute corridors in The City and sees 2,100 cyclists along Valencia each day, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, former supervisor Jeff Sheehy, cycling activists from People Protected Bike Lanes and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition led the call for ride-hails to behave on Valencia.

In response, Lyft launched a pilot program to test a digital solution: geo-fencing. With geo-fencing, ride-hail riders could not request a Lyft vehicle pick them up along certain portions of the street, which are digitally fenced off within the Lyft app. Instead, riders are directed to specific pickup points on side streets Lyft calls “venues.”

In this case, Valencia from 16th to 19th streets was geo-fenced, a solution Lyft said worked.

SEE RELATED: Bike lane barriers installed along Valencia Street to protect cyclists from Uber, Lyft

“This forced geofencing feature helps ensure that passengers are requesting rides from safe locations and builds reliability and predictability for both passengers and drivers as they find each other,” wrote Debs Schrimmer, a senior transportation policy manager at Lyft, in the blog post announcing the pilot conclusion.

The experiment wasn’t perfect. Lyft said existing curb space is “insufficient” and that “The City needs more loading zones.” Lyft also saw a slight increase in the time it took for riders to hop into their Lyft vehicles.

Matt Brezina, who leads the People Protected Bike Lane protests that have sprouted across The City, said he was glad Lyft engaged with the community.

“It’s one small piece of the puzzle,” he said.

But delivery vehicles and people’s personal vehicles also block bike lanes on Valencia, he said. And he is concerned Lyft may block bike lanes on 17th Street, one of the side streets identified for Lyft “venues” in the permanent program.

“We’re going to have the same problem,” he said.

Data from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority supports cyclists’ assertions of danger on the corridor, as the Examiner has previously reported. On an average Dolores Street block on Fridays, about 280 ride hail pickups and dropoffs occur.

Comparatively, just one block of Valencia Street near 16th Street there are roughly 2,190 daily pickups and dropoffs by ride hail companies like Uber and Lyft.

From 2012 to 2016, 48 percent of bike crashes on the corridor involved some type of vehicle loading or unloading activity, according to data from the SFMTA.

SFMTA installed safe-hit posts along the Valencia corridor to deter double-parking vehicles, but many autos still drive in between them to park.

In her blog post, Schrimmer acknowledged that technology is “not a silver bullet.”

“We know that ridesharing is just one of the many competing uses of Valencia Street and technology alone will not solve the challenges of pickups and drop-offs,” she wrote, and “adequate infrastructure like protected bike lanes and loading zones will be necessary to achieving Vision Zero,” referencing The City’s stated goal to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024.

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