Important Victory Last Night for a Safer Polk

After more than two years of dogged work by your SF Bicycle Coalition, our members and allies like Folks for Polk, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board made an important decision on the future of Polk Street last night that bodes well for this critical and highly dangerous corridor.

The final outcome is a big victory for safer streets and a more bikeable San Francisco.

The approved project includes significant intersection improvements, along with key pedestrian safety enhancements.  It will also extend the existing raised protected bike lane running northbound up Polk between Market and Grove all the way up to Pine Street. In addition, the project will lengthen the existing green southbound bike lane from Union to McAllister, making it curbside as it approaches City Hall. These changes will help close a critical gap in our vision for 100 miles of crosstown protected bike lanes. Bike improvements will be staggered, starting with signal re-timing and intersection bike improvements in the next couple of months.

Most importantly, the approved project brings us closer to Vision Zero: ending all traffic deaths and severe injuries by 2024.

Going into last night’s SFMTA Board meeting, we weren’t sure that would be the case. The plan being considered for approval didn’t go far enough for safety.  That’s why we worked so hard to send a message leading up to the meeting that our decision makers must question what was being proposed.

Our message got through. Longtime livable streets champion and Vice Chair of the Board, Cheryl Brinkman, introduced an amendment that directs SFMTA staff to bring back traffic modifications to continue the northbound protected bike lane all the way up to Vallejo Street — the length of the Cyclist High Injury Corridor — within 12 months after the project is completed. At that time, the Board will vote on whether to move forward with a protected bikeway for the length of the high-injury corridor. Her amendment was unanimously approved along with the project.

This sort of amendment is unprecedented and would not have been conceivable without the hard data, analysis and voices of our members and allies. At least seventy supporters of our vision were present at last night’s three-hour marathon City Hall meeting. They spoke eloquently and passionately about their personal experience biking on Polk Street.

We also heard Supervisor Jane Kim, one of our Vision Zero champions, stress that Vision Zero means making safety the number one priority. Along with Vice-Chair Brinkman, Director Joel Ramos spoke up about the positive impact that safety improvements have on our neighborhood and merchant corridors, plus the need to give people better transportation options.

Our work to make Polk Street truly safe and welcoming for all will continue. We will keep reaching out to neighbors, merchants and other stakeholders. We will continue to track safety data and ridership on this corridor.  We will also work to ensure that the SFMTA staff brings back an improved project with a northbound protected bike lane all the way up to Vallejo Street — with funding sources identified for its implementation.

Our advocacy success all comes back to our incredible members, so THANK YOU!  Every email and phone call asking our leaders to do more… the many long and tedious public meetings… all the watchdogging and analysis… it all gets us closer to our vision. Tonight at our member welcome party for our new Executive Director Noah Budnick, we will raise a glass to the start of a better Polk Street for everyone.

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