Polk Street: The Right Option, the Only Real Option

In the last year, hundreds of neighbors along the Polk Street corridor have voiced strong support for safety improvements on Polk Street during the SFMTA’s Polk Street community outreach process.  Specifically, people have been demanding wider sidewalks, better crosswalks and consistent, separated bikeways that will stop the current trend of two collisions per month on Polk Street and bring more people to shop and dine on this corridor.

Saturday’s SFMTA Polk Street Open House was no different – hundreds came out to support safety improvements but learned that some of these trusted safety features are not included in the options on the table right now.

Polk Option A - a forward vision for bicycle safety?

As Streetsblog reported, none of the three SFMTA options include continuous, separated bikeways the full length of Polk Street.  Community members are being asked right now to express their opinions about whether green sharrows, disappearing bike lanes or curbside bike lanes are the preferred option, especially for the Middle and Upper Polk sections (the Lower Polk section has more separated bikeways on the table).

We’ve been told by SFMTA staff that continuous, separated bikeways (including the parking-protected bikeway option presented earlier this year by the SFMTA and an idea the SF Bicycle Coalition developed years ago) are not technically feasible for Polk Street for a variety of reasons.  We are waiting to get pdf’s of images from the SFMTA presentation and will share those on our blog when we get them. We are just as eager as everyone else to understand if these are truly valid technical issues, or the SFMTA shying away from a hard decision to create one continuous north-south bikeway that’s safe for everyone who wants to bike.

What do you think?

Our members have been sharing many painful stories about getting doored when biking on Polk Street and describing many near-misses with moving cars.  Will the current SFMTA proposals fix this?  If Polk Street merchants want more business and if San Francisco is serious about more than doubling the number of people biking in the next few years, Polk Street, the only north-south bikeway for more than a quarter-mile in either direction needs a world-class bikeway. To put it in to context, there are over 42 full-time car travel lanes, 5-6 part-time car travel lanes, and approximately 0.5 bike lanes within a half-mile of Polk Street.

What you can do:

Come to the SFMTA Open House on Tuesday April 30 (1300 Polk at Bush Street, 5-8:30pm) to learn more about the SFMTA proposals and add your comments on the posters and on the survey. If you agree that Options A, B and C are not real options, options that don’t actually improve safety and welcome people of all ages and backgrounds to Polk, write in to the survey that the city that improved safety for families, commuters and weekend riders starts with a continuous, protected bikeway.  The SF Bicycle Coalition will be providing free bike valet.  Do you want to see a continous, separated bikeway raised from the street or with physical barriers? Tell SFMTA what you want to see on Polk Street tonight!

The SF Bicycle Coalition is also planning a detailed design review of the proposals for our members in our office.  Stay tuned for more details on the date and time.  We want to get into the details of the designs with you and get your direct feedback on how to make biking excellent on Polk Street.

Please contact Neal@sfbike.org if you have any questions and we look forward to seeing you at tonight’s Polk Street Open House.  You only need to drop by anytime between 5 and 8:30pm at 1300 Polk at Bush.

Neal Patel is the Planning Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and leads our Connecting the City campaign. Click here to find out how you can support 100 miles of crosstown bikeways in San Francisco.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Neal Patel, Planning Director for the SF Bicycle Coalition neal AT sfbike DOT org.

Become a member and you'll improve your commute and get discounts at shops across the city.