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SFMTA changes tune after public outcry over new ‘parking-protected’ bike lane

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New “parking protected” bikway on Valencia Street, Feb. 27, 2017 (Photo courtesy SFMTA)
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It was supposed to be a bike lane that kept drivers away from cyclists. Instead, it became a parking lot.

Late last year, just south of Cesar Chavez Street on Valencia, a new block-long bike lane was created. The lane was touted by the SFMTA as “San Francisco’s first raised, parking-protected bike lane” when construction broke ground on the project last October.

But unfortunately for the SFMTA, drivers didn’t quite understand how to use the new lane. With no signs or painted lines to guide them, they did what they’d always done: Parked next to the curb, neatly aligned with the existing parking meters.

Cars spotted parked in the new bike lane on Feb. 25, 2017. (Photo courtesy Thomas Roessler/Twitter)

Cars spotted parked in the new bike lane on Feb. 25, 2017. (Photo courtesy Thomas Roessler/Twitter)

For The City’s harried cyclists, the makeshift parking lot in a brand new bike lane became one more obstacle to avoid.  Unable to pass through the new lane, they were forced to enter busy Valencia traffic to navigate around the cars. The Examiner covered the issue earlier this week, after a slew of angry bike riders took to Twitter to expose the failing design.

Following the article, Supervisor Hillary Ronen got involved. On Tuesday she called on the SFMTA and SFPD to remedy the situation. Orange cones and laminated signs directing drivers how to use the bike lane were installed the same day.

While the design flaw could be viewed as just that, the situation appears to have become more complicated.

“San Francisco’s first raised, parking-protected bike lane, which we wrote about in October, was completed this week on a short stretch of northbound Valencia Street, south of Cesar Chavez Street,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post released Wednesday, implying that the issues above were the result of the lane being unfinished, and not due to its design.

But according to a blog post written when the bike lane construction began last October, the project was expected to take a month to complete. The transportation agency neglected to mention why construction on the project appeared to have stopped between November and February. And if laminated signs and orange cones were part of the required steps to complete the project, it’s unclear why they were not included in the original design:

The original rendering of the bike lane. Note: The bike lane and parking lanes have not been painted. (Photo courtesy SFMTA)

The original rendering of the bike lane. Note: The bike lane and parking lanes have not been painted. (Photo courtesy SFMTA)

The problem of oblivious drivers not behaving properly appears to have been solved, now that the final stage of the project—the laminated signs—have been installed. But as to why it took four months for that last detail to be installed, and why it never appeared in the initial renderings for the project, remains unknown.

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