Bicycling on Valencia Street Doubles by Leah Shahum

The official traffic counts are in, and they prove just what bike advocates have expected - bicycle travel on Valencia Street has skyrocketed since the bike lanes were added. The number of bikes has doubled - from 100 bikes per hour to 200 per hour - since the lanes were striped.

"It feels really great, so much safer, and much more pleasant to ride on Valencia Street now," says Kate Bickert, who rides along Valencia nearly every day between her home and her downtown office. "Cyclists seem much more visible and legitimate now. I have also had a lot of nice, social interaction with other riders in the bike lanes."

Another good sign for the success of the bike lanes is that a relatively small percentage of cars switched from using Valencia Street to other parallel streets, a concern of neighbors on streets near Valencia St. The Department of Parking and Traffic's counts show only a 7 percent decrease (1,400 vehicles per day) in car traffic on Valencia St. Meanwhile, the traffic counts have increased only slightly on parallel streets: such as Guerrero, Mission, and South Van Ness. The bike lanes are only approved for a one-year trial period, making this increase in bike traffic particularly important.

"We are extremely pleased by the impact of the Valencia Street bike lanes,'' says Stuart Sunshine, Executive Director of the San Francisco DPT . "DPT continues its mission to accommodate the many transit and transportation interests in San Francisco. Making our city a more bike-friendly place is one of the department's top priorities."

The major problem for bicyclists on Valencia St. now is rampant double parking in the bike lanes. The SFBC has been working with DPT to establish more short-term parking zones to help businesses and to step up enforcement of double parking. Unfortunately, our idea of allowing cars to park short-term in the medians - as churchgoers do on Sundays - was rejected by DPT.

The increase in bicycling on Valencia St. proves again that if you stripe it, they will come. Elsewhere in the city, the number of bicyclists increased by an average of 57 percent on the eight streets striped between 1996 and 1998.

"If the entire Bike Network that the SFBC has proposed is implemented by the city, we will easily see an increase of another 48,000 bike commuters in San Francisco," says Dave Snyder, SFBC Executive Director.

If you can help the SFBC work for bike lanes on other key bike routes, please call 431-BIKE, x-2.