Baffled Motorists Use New Valencia Bike Lane for Parking Instead

Cars parking in the new Valencia bike lane on Feb. 26. Photo via @roessler

Cars parking in the new Valencia bike lane on Feb. 26. Photo via @roessler

The peripheries of Bernal Heights have long been a place where forward-thinking streetscape infrastructure collides head-on with the gritty realities of urban life.

Once upon a time, The Bernal Cut was carved from the hillside of southwest Bernal as part of an urban freeway network that never got built, while Army/Cesar Chavez was widened to funnel traffic onto an East Bay bridge that never came to pass. We live in more environmentally sensitive times today, but the new bike lane on the La Lengua stretch of Valencia Street between Mission and Cesar Chavez shows that we haven’t lost our capacity to create well-intentioned traffic infrastructure that’s an albatross practically from the moment when it’s completed.

As you may recall, a  new bike lane was a centerpiece of the recent effort to redesign our humble stretch of Valencia Street. Taking a cue from such famously bike-friendly cities as Copenhagen and Portland, Oregon, the Valencia bikeway was built as a dedicated lane for bikes that’s separated from the street and motor vehicle traffic by a small curb. The plan was quixotic from the outset, in part because traffic on that block of Valencia is already modest, but mostly because there was never really a plan to extend the dedicated bike lane farther down Valencia.  So the 551-foot Valencia bike lane was always destined to be something of a white elephant, more or less by design.

Now that construction is done, the dedicated bikeway on Valencia has also become an object of ridicule, as frustrated cyclists have chronicled the follies of the many confused motorists who have parked their cars directly in the bike lane. And sometimes, in the lane next to it too:

In fairness to the befuddled motorists, some confusion was to be expected given that the old parking meters rmain in place next to the sidewalk, while no signs were installed to explain how the new (and locally unfamiliar) streetscape design was intended to work.

Not to worry though; local cyclists report that SFMTA has come up with an effective way to educate motorists about the new streetscape, with help from a futuristic regiment of scientifically designed traffic cones.

CORRECTION AND UPDATE: Bernalwood is informed that the ridiculously effective traffic cones were NOT put in place by SFMTA. Instead, La Lengua’s rebel propagandist Burrito Justice installed the cones in a guerrilla action after seeing a pile of the cones sitting idle on the other side of the street.


22 thoughts on “Baffled Motorists Use New Valencia Bike Lane for Parking Instead

  1. The solution seems obvious: move the parking meters onto the island closer to the real spots. Amiright? It seems monumentally confusing (and potentially dangerous) to have car-parkers cross the bike lane traffic just to pay their meter anyhow. Seems SFMTA could get a worker out there with a concrete drill and rectify the situation right quick…‽

  2. There are other problems with that bike lane that pose real dangers for cyclists. After more than three decades of biking I had my first wipe-out joining that bike lane from the bike route on Tiffany, which meets Valencia at an angle. It was at night time and there was absolutely nothing to indicate a curb on the bike lane, which was not there before and is not on any other bike lane in the city, as far as I know. As I didn’t see the curb, I didn’t come at it straight on but at an angle and landed on my face. Who are these people who design these things?? And yes, leaving the parking meters next to the bike lane, so drivers have to cross the lane to pay, not painting the sidewalk curb red, not putting up signs…. It’s like they just do things without thinking and then see what happens.

  3. A bike lane doesn’t need to be a wide as a car. If these bike lanes weren’t so wide that a car can fit in them, there wouldn’t be any need for enforcement.

    • Um, no. If you put a bike lane between the curb and the row of cars and only made it as wide as a normal bike lane you would constantly have bicyclists being doored by passengers flinging open their car doors into the bike lane. They are made wide to allow car doors to open and not block the bike lane.

      • I think you’re right, Kevin. That is the way it is on one street going through GG Park, and it’s a terrible solution.

  4. I imagine it’s a temporary trial since that stretch of Mission is going to be torn apart god knows how many times in the next few years. It’s a decent start, but if they plan on making it permanent, move the meters to the island, raise the curb to a proper height, or at the very least install vinyl poles on the median strip.

    I get that the parking situation isn’t 100% clear, but good lord those car owners… I mean, there’s a bike symbol painted on the ground.

    • Cannot take fault with the car owners. Many are elderly patients who visit St Luke’s and are unfamiliar with this new plan. In addition, there a meters adjacent to the bike lane, not the parking spaces.

      • Probably a case of following the lead of the driver that got their first. I reserve the right to mock drivers for going up and over a small curb and parking on top of a bicycle symbol, but I’m sure folks that showed up later and followed suit were just being cautious in their own way. Always takes a minute for new rules to sink in. Evenings seem to mostly be La Luz del Mundo folks using that stretch and they’ve seemed to figure it out now.

  5. We ride the the whole length of Valencia with Bike lane next to Drivers side of cars but for these two blocks or so? Whats the point? It looks like a mess of design to me.

    • Because it’s important to try new methods. Maybe it works well and is adopted on other streets, maybe it doesn’t and is scrapped. Only one way to find out.

      • This was a horrible idea from the beginning. For some reason City planners want to reinvent the wheel. There are many ways to find out…and implementing with out research is the worst, and most expensive, way to find out.

    • Respectfully, you’re entitled to your dislike of the current bike line, but since my former neighbor was involved in the project, I can tell you’ve they been working out designs for this stretch of Valencia for at least 4 years. Nothing gets implemented without study and more study, etc. This design is effective in other cities—no guarantees but it could be here as well.

  6. I agree, rikitiki49. I rode my bike to work for many years on Valencia St, and even before the bike lanes were established it was a pretty good street to ride on because it’s flat. But that isn’t the only new problem. What about those absurd depressed, curbed garbage pits with the mini Stonehenges? My nomination for the worst idea of recent years. How much time will it take for them to start filling up with plastic bags, refuse and the detritus of urban reality?

    • Those things are such a boondoggle. They have semi full time people just picking litter out of them, and they fill up with nastiness every time it rains.

    • I might be confused, but are you talking about the swales? You know they’re not just for beautification, right? They’re also for water quality. When we are able to filter even some of the road scum (oil, trash, sediment) from the water before it hits the combined sewer system, it is a win for the Bay. I’m thrilled that SF is trying to protect the Bay from cloudy and polluted water. With warming water temperatures our wildlife have enough stacked against them. More swales! Not fewer.

    • These “pits” (swales!) are evidently not designed for appearance and after cycling by them for months I asked the construction guy what was taking so long. He laughed and said I was the hundredth person to ask that. That these were finished.

      There are way more efficient ways to separate run off debris from the sewer water and ones we don’t have to look at.

      • What are those more efficient ways, Rikki? Is appearance more important than water quality? Are you confident you have your priorities straight?

    • Right Tom. See my other comment and I could not agree with you more. Apparently they are intended to catch garbage! I still ride Valencia daily and this small area has been transformed to the ridiculous especially for bikes and it would have been so easy to do it right. Notice they only “improved” one side of the street? It is so unsafe shooting along parked cars here on their right side with pedestrians walking right across lane in front of you. They did this in GG park and you have to actually ride in the street if you have any speed at all because of it.

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