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Protected bike lanes approved for Valencia

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Protected bike lanes will be installed on Valencia Street between Market and 15th streets. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Physical barriers will soon protect Valencia Street’s notoriously dangerous bike lanes despite objections from a Mission District school community.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday approved bike lanes protected by parked cars and other barriers for the corridor.

The new protected bike lanes will extend from Market to 15th streets, where they will connect to existing lanes with safe-hit posts extending from 15th to 19th streets. They will be protected in some places by parking placed between cyclists and the street, and in other places by posts.

The protected lanes met with opposition, however, as numerous parents and staff from San Francisco Friends School in the Mission District argued that passing cyclists would endanger children disembarking from cars and crossing the bike lane to go to school.

“We are asking the project be shifted or delayed,” said Guybe Slangen, director of community engagement at SF Friends School, during public comment. “We still feel the overall design and concept, and speed of implementation, pose a risk to the San Francisco Friends community.”

Advocates pushing for bike lane implementation argued that cars posed a greater danger to school children than bikes. People Protected Bike Lanes advocate Matt Brezina showed a video during the meeting, taken by the helmet-mounted camera of a bicyclist parent riding with their child, that showed them weaving and ducking numerous cars that swung into the Valencia bike lane in front of them.

Valencia is one of San Francisco’s most heavily-trafficked bicycle corridors, used by more than 2,100 cyclists every day, according to the SFMTA. It has been besieged for years by double-parking Uber and Lyft vehicles, which block the bike lanes during busy commute hours.

Roughly 268 traffic collisions took place on Valencia in the last five years, one of which was fatal. Cyclists are “doored” often on the corridor, according to the SFMTA, which is when people who have parked open their car doors and hit a cyclist.

The Valencia Street Improvement Project has drawn support from Mayor London Breed, Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Rafael Mandelman, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and — in a rare move — ride-hail giant Lyft. In September, Breed called on the SFMTA to accelerate protected bike lane implementation on Valencia

“This critical public safety project has undergone a lengthy public process and we need to move forward with its implementation without delay,” Breed wrote, in a letter to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, which she sent Tuesday.

Around 80 metered parking spaces and 20 motorcycle spaces would be removed for the project.

In response to the concerns from Friends School, the project includes a concrete boarding island with guard rails on Duboce and Valencia, right across from the school. SFMTA board director Lee Hsu also tasked staff with employing a crossing guard to protect the kids crossing the bike lane on Valencia.

While many parents on Tuesday said they feared their children would be endangered, one SF Friends School student, sixth grader Molly Pile, urged the SFMTA board make it safer for her to bike with her father.

“The more protected the bike lane, the safer I feel,” 12-year-old Pile told the board, as her father, Skip Pile, leaned against a nearby wall to watch. Molly said car drivers often make room for her on the road when she bikes and, based on that experience, she said, “I think cyclists will stop for kids crossing from the island to the sidewalk to get to school.”

”Nobody,” she added, “wants to hit a kid.”

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