San Francisco has a massive yet solvable unprotected bike lane problem

Stephen Braitsch
Nov 4, 2019 · 5 min read

On October 4th I organized a day of action to conduct a point in time count of every blocked bike lane violation in the city of San Francisco. Over the course of about 8 hours, approximately 80 volunteers and I documented 259 illegal parking violations using the Safe Lanes app I created earlier this year.

304 blocked bike violations includes about 60 reports from the night before

Our goal was to not only show how dangerous it is to ride a bike on key commuter corridors like Valencia, Polk, Folsom and The Embarcadero but to identify where and when the most blocked bike lane violations are happening.

Of the 259 illegal parking violations we documented on October 4th, 88 of them or approximately 34% occurred within just a 9 block stretch of Valencia St. between 15th and 24th streets. That’s right, 1 in 3 blocked bike lane violations recorded that day across the entire city occurred within just nine blocks of one street in San Francisco.

In just a few hours we documented 88 blocked bike lane violations on a 9 block stretch of Valencia St.

A breakdown of the 88 violations we recorded on Valencia shows that about 1 in 3 were delivery vehicles trying to service the popular retail corridor. The majority however were a mix of passenger drop offs & idling private vehicles.

Why are so many delivery vehicles blocking the bike lanes on Valencia? Surely one would assume that a popular retail corridor such as Valencia St. would have ample commercial loading space to accommodate the flurry of delivery vehicles that traverse it daily. Well on a couple of blocks it does, however many of the designated commercial & passenger loading spaces are so poorly maintained and under enforced by the SFMTA that they have become completely overrun by private vehicles.

A delivery truck blocking the bike lane on Valencia St. and two private vehicles parked in a loading zone

If you zoom in on this map you can see every violation we recorded on Valencia along with the type of curb that was adjacent to it. About half of the delivery trucks reported blocking the bike lane had a private vehicle parked in the adjacent commercial loading zone, the rest were simply too big to fit in the designated loading space.

Valencia St. blocked bike lane violations with adjacent commercial and passenger loading zones shown

A closer look at the loading zones along Valencia between 15th and 19th shows them to be so worn that it’s difficult to tell if they’re even still active. While photographing these curbs I spoke with 7 different motorists who did not realize that they could not legally park their vehicles in these designated loading areas. Many complained that the metering system is confusing (San Francisco has three different types of parking meters) and cited a lack of easy to read signage to help them understand when and where they could park.

The current condition of commercial & passenger loading zones on Valencia St. in San Francisco

Additionally by not maintaining these curbs The SFMTA is sending a clear message to motorists that protecting loading zones is not a priority and that they should park wherever they please. Perhaps nothing more poignantly underscores that fact than two city employees parked in one of Valencia St.’s most prominent commercial loading zones at 16th St.

City vehicles illegally parked in the commercial loading zone at 16th & Valencia St.

Alas however, all hope is not lost. There is one diamond in the rough, the recently painted passenger loading zone at Valencia and 18th St.

The sole passenger loading zone on Valencia St with fresh paint and appropriate signage, mysteriously unblocked by private or city vehicles.

Since April I have been tracking blocked bike lane violations and citations throughout San Francisco. My goal has been to try to help the SFMTA optimize their enforcement strategy based on when and where we know the most violations are happening. To date there is no indication that the SFMTA is utilizing the data I am providing them as Valencia St., especially during the evening rush hour, continues to be the single most dangerous commuter corridor for cyclists and micro mobility riders in San Francisco. In fact on the day of our action which was well socialized on social media the SFMTA wrote a mere 35 citations for blocking the bike lane citywide.

The SFMTA wrote a paltry 35 blocked bike lane citations on the day that we recorded over 250 of them

In addition to inadequate enforcement of CVC 21211 along Valencia, there also appears to be very little enforcement of TRC 7.2.25/26/27 e.g. blocking a commercial or passenger loading zone. I’ve requested data from the SFMTA on these violations and am currently waiting to hear back.

The fact is our data shows that Valencia St., Folsom, Polk, Howard, Market, Golden Gate Ave and The Embarcadero are priority commuter corridors that consistently have vehicles blocking their unprotected bike lanes. Citing vehicles for illegal parking is a necessary, short term solution but each of these corridors desperately need fully protected bike lanes their entire length as soon as possible to protect the thousands of people who cycle, scoot and skate along them daily.

In the meantime, we will continue to collect and publish data that can help the City of San Francisco fix these dangerous streets as quickly as possible.

This is the future we are fighting for. I hope you’ll join us.

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Stephen Braitsch

Written by

Safe Streets Activist / Designer / Engineer. Trying my best to make this world a safer, more equitable place. Creator of SafeLanes.org

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +787K followers.

Stephen Braitsch

Written by

Safe Streets Activist / Designer / Engineer. Trying my best to make this world a safer, more equitable place. Creator of SafeLanes.org

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +787K followers.

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