If you ticket, they will come.
The City increased traffic cops along Valencia Street over the last year in a bid to catch the thousands of cars that stop in the bike lanes daily.
And with more San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency parking control officers came more tickets — lots of them.
From 2018 to 2019, citations against those blocking the Valencia Street bike lane, double parking and obstructing traffic jumped from 1,341 in 2018 to 1,663 in 2019. That’s a 24 percent jump in traffic citations aimed at urging drivers to stop endangering the lives of people on bikes.
The numbers are even rosier if you look only at citations for blocked bike lanes, which jumped from 942 citations in 2018 to 1,336 citations in 2019 to date, a jump of 41 percent.
People on bikes routinely complain of drivers — particularly for Uber and Lyft — who block bike lanes, forcing cyclists to swerve into car-traffic lanes on Valencia Street in the Mission District.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman supported SFMTA’s effort and lauded the results.
“Cyclists every day are getting cut off and experiencing injuries,” Mandelman told the San Francisco Examiner. “We need to put people on notice, and do everything we can, particularly with ride-hail drivers who are using it as a dropoff and pickup space, to let them know they can’t do it.”
Roughly 17 percent of vehicles swinging into Valencia Street bike lanes are ride-hail drivers for Uber and Lyft, according to SFMTA observations. The agency cautioned the number is “likely low” as it was based on parking control officers being able to view a ride-hail company’s logo on a vehicle while issuing a citation.
The rise in tickets came after SFMTA boosted parking control officer presence by ten hours weekly along Valencia, paid for out of SFMTA’s operating budget, according to SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato. But the increase may not be a sustainable.
“There is a high demand for our (parking control officers) and as part our two-year budget, we are exploring increasing the number of officers we have so that we can continue to focus not only on bike lane violations but also on safety and congestion-related violations like ‘blocking the box,’” Kato said, in a statement.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition hailed SFMTA’s ramped up enforcement as a success, but also as a reason to do more.
“We appreciate the focus the SFMTA is placing on double parking and illegal loading in bike lanes on Valencia Street,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, director of the bike coalition. “It only highlights the urgent need for protected bike lanes on the entire length of the street to keep people biking safe.”
While not all of those protected bike lanes have been installed, so far, some have — to much success.
On Valencia between Market and 15th Streets SFMTA installed a protected bikeway, as a pilot, under direction from Mayor London Breed. After data was collected in May 2019 SFMTA found the project “practically eliminated” illegal vehicle loading in bike lanes, whereas they observed 160 such instances in October 2018.
Also, although some expressed fears that bikes would be freed to move faster, more dangerously, there were “zero observations” of cyclists coming into “close calls” with pedestrians walking past bike lanes to cross the street. There was also a dramatic reduction in instances of “dooring,” when people opening car doors hit moving bicyclists.
Bicyclists wrote to Mandelman to hail the success of the pilot. Ren Madan, who identified themselves as a Valencia resident who commutes by bike, wrote to Mandelman that they “support the bikeway pilot on Valencia” because “the number of injuries and accidents along this corridor has been very high — I saw, on my corner tonight, another bicyclist taken into an ambulance.”
SFMTA is now working to design protected bike lanes on Valencia from 19th Street to Cesar Chavez, and aim to implement those improvements by spring 2020. Protected bikeways from 15th to 19th streets may be implemented by 2021.
When those protected bike lanes are built, Kato said, “we expect that we will need less enforcement” on Valencia.