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Lyft pilots program to curb Valencia Street double parking

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A cyclist maneuvers around cars in a bike lane along Valencia Street near 16th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The good news for Valencia Street cyclists keeps on rolling in.

On the heels of The City installing barriers on the bike lane on Valencia Street, Lyft has quietly started a pilot to direct its drivers to pick up passengers on side streets along the corridor.

That’s a stark change from Valencia’s current state, where thousands of ride hail vehicles daily pull into bike lanes, which cyclists have said puts their lives in danger. The double parking also raises the ire of drivers along the corridor.

The Lyft pilot uses the app’s technology to direct anyone requesting a Lyft ride on Valencia Street, between 16th and 19th Streets, to a side street instead of the busy corridor. This technology is called “geofencing,” because it digitally “fences off” certain streets. Lyft uses that technology now at Westfield Mall and by the 4th and King Caltrain station.

“Lyft believes that combining technology and infrastructure is necessary to creating safe, vibrant streets,” said a Lyft spokesperson, in a statement. “We’re encouraged by the City’s recent installation of safe hit posts along Valencia Street and are excited to collaborate on experiments, like this current pilot on Valencia, that can help support citywide Vision Zero and multi-modal goals.”

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier hailed the pilot.

“Lyft’s geofencing pilot is an important — and long overdue — first step by a Transportation Network Company to voluntarily attempt to improve safety on one of the Valencia Street’s busiest blocks,” Wiedenmeier said, in a statement.

But Wiedenmeier also called out Lyft’s cousin, Uber, for not opting to do a similar pilot.

“We look forward to Lyft sharing their data and potentially expanding this pilot, and we’re also eager for Uber to follow suit,” he said.

This is the latest safety measure for cyclists on Valencia Street, one of San Francisco’s busiest bicycle corridors. On March 15 the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency installed safe hit posts along the bike lane there to protect it from vehicles.

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.

However on 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.

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