Sunday evening, Reena (she asked Streetsblog to withhold her last name), 34, was returning to San Francisco after a long ride through Marin on her carbon fiber road bike. She turned onto Valencia for the last few blocks to her apartment in the Mission. She was pedaling along at a leisurely eight mph, riding in the bike lane and watching out for opening car doors on her right, when somewhere between 14th and 15th, something hit her from her left.
“It happened so quickly and I flew off my bike–I was trying to understand how this happened when I hit the pavement,” said Reena. “I landed on my left side. I’m really, really bruised up. I went to the emergency room. I have a lot of soft tissue damage–no broken bones that we have discovered yet. It could have been a lot worse.”
Indeed, it could have been much worse, as Josiane Feigon, who was riding behind her, can attest. “She was absolutely in the bike lane,” said Feigon. “And then an SUV just completely turned right into her–like absolutely did not see her. And all I saw was her flying off the bike.”
Both Feigon and Reena said the driver and her passenger stopped immediately and they were apologetic and helpful. “She admitted fault at the scene,” said Reena. “She apologized profusely. She was very nice, so concerned, also very shaken.”
Reena and Feigon said an off-duty paramedic stopped to help and police arrived shortly afterwards. Both cyclists were impressed by the level of care and attention. The motorist even drove Reena and her bike home. Later, neighbors helped Reena get to the emergency room to get checked out, as the adrenaline from the crash slowly wore off and was replaced by terrible pain.
From what Reena and Feigon said, this was not a case of a malevolent or irresponsible motorist–although nobody seemed to know what motivated the driver to turn directly into the bike lane without warning. However, it still seems a bit far fetched to call this an “accident.” Instead, this seems to be yet another indication of bad road design that makes crashes inevitable.
“When SF Bicycle Coalition members first won bike lanes on Valencia in the 1990s, it was a huge win for people who bike and all-around public safety,” said Chris Cassidy, spokesman for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, of Sunday night’s collision. But with additional population and so many more people riding bikes in San Francisco, the dangers of having a major bike corridor consisting of nothing more than a striped lane are now screamingly obvious–even on those rare occasions when the bike lanes are not blocked, they’re just not safe. “The scourge of Ubers and Lyfts illegally blocking those lanes with no corporate or city accountability means that they’re now all but useless,” said Cassidy. “San Franciscans are in dire need of protected bike lanes on Valencia to restore safety for everyone using this vital corridor.”
This should be an easy fix. The SFMTA opened a very short pilot-protected bike lane on the southernmost end of Valencia earlier this year, although Reena quipped that that is the only portion of Valencia where “nobody rides.” Meanwhile, some bike advocates are so fed up with Valencia they’ve taken matters into their own hands, installing safe hit posts around intersections–only to have them ripped back out by the city. Others protest by putting their bodies in the street to form a “people protected bike lane.”
The protests and direct action seem to be getting some traction in City Hall finally, albeit too slowly to help Reena and others. The SF Examiner reported last month that Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Jeff Sheehy, whose districts encompass Valencia, are urging SFMTA to study protected bike lanes for the length of the street.
In fact, Sheehy’s office told Streetsblog that he will be at the next “people protected bike lane” protest this coming Thursday. Streetsblog also has inquiries in to Ronen and the SFMTA on updates on any movement towards actually getting some infrastructure improvements, and will update this post accordingly.
Reena, meanwhile, says she’s done riding in San Francisco.
“It’s so stupid and asinine,” she said of the city’s lack of safe infrastructure. “All these European cities have protected bike lanes–why don’t we have this in San Francisco? I just don’t understand it.”
The next people protected bike lane protest will be in two days, on Thursday, September 14, from 5 to 7 p.m., on Valencia at 18th, a few blocks from where Reena was hit.