Last week, Valencia Street businesses protested the controversial center bike lane and called for the scalp of SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin. Now Tumlin has published an op-ed hinting that they just might redesign the bike lane, maybe.
When the SF Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) reconfigured Valencia Street with a highly unconventional, first-of-its-kind center bike lane that was installed over the summer, cyclists who felt it was highly unsafe quickly dubbed it “the Valencia Meatgrinder.” And there have been accidents, though in fairness, there were accidents before it was installed too, and some bicyclists appreciate that they can’t get “doored” by cars with the new center-running design. But oy, there have been problems involving confused motorists unused to such a design.
But the people who hate the Valencia center bike lane the most are probably Valencia corridor businesses, who say the center bike lane has decimated their revenue largely because of the elimination of parking spaces. The new design has resulted in the loss of a reported 71 parking spaces between 15th and 23rd streets on the corridor, and one recently shuttered business directly blamed the bike lane for its demise.
More than two dozen Valencia Street merchants are blocking the center bike lane, which they say has contributed to revenues plummeting this summer on the corridor. They’re calling for bike lane’s removal and reform at @SFMTA_Muni. #SanFrancisco @sfchronicle pic.twitter.com/CAik6yRWxy— Laura Waxmann (@laura_waxee) December 5, 2023
The Chronicle reported last week that Valencia Street business owners held a protest against the center bike lane, with one shopkeeper telling the Chronicle, “Our business is down 30 to 40 percent since the bike lanes. There are zero tourists coming here.” And it’s notable that some of the protesters were calling for the removal of SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin, and “Fire Tumlin” signs were spotted in the crowd.
OPINION: OPINION: By continuing to listen and adjust, we can make sure Valencia succeeds as a place for people to be, to enjoy and to move, says the SFMTA. https://t.co/Uw3p7aiVCp— SF Examiner (@sfexaminer) December 13, 2023
So it may be no coincidence that Tumlin published an op-ed in Tuesday’s Examiner, entitled “We all love Valencia Street. Let’s make sure it works for everyone.” (The piece is co-written by SFMTA board chair Amanda Eaken.) The center-running bike lanes are a one-year pilot program, and the op-ed claims that “While the pilot looks promising, we’re still analyzing the data we’ve collected to date.”
Glad to see @SFMTA_Muni addressing current tensions and being transparent with possible future options for the center-running bike lane. And hard agree – reverting to no protected lane on Valencia is the worst option. We cannot go backwards. https://t.co/9NgV7HIKDr— SF Bicycle Coalition (@sfbike) December 13, 2023
But critics of the center bike lane like Streetsblog SF are really picking up on the tidbit that SFMTA may be reconsidering the design. But is SFMTA really reconsidering it? The article is frankly one of the more vague and non-committal op-eds you are likely to read. Still, it did somewhat tease the possibility of a protected curbside bike lane, which would be similar to the old curbside design, except the bike lane would be between the sidewalk and the parked cars.
“We could return to our original parking-protected bike-lane plan — a bike lane running between the sidewalk and parked cars on the street,” Tumlin and Eaken write. “This design is more familiar to San Franciscans. The trade-off here is that this type of protected bike lane will require removing parklets and losing more than half of the curbside parking and loading. So that’s a conversation we’re starting to have.”
Again, this whole arrangement is a pilot program, a not-permanent arrangement. It's supposed to be reevaluated within a year. Yet it does not inspire hope that SFMTA recently delayed their current reevaluation that was supposed to be done by year’s end, and is now punted until the nebulous deadline of “early 2024.” That foot-dragging by SFMTA leaves frustrated businesses and cyclists suspecting that they’re just being taken for a ride.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist