A Safer Polk Street vs. Preserving a Sliver of Parking

On-street car parking on Polk Street, between Union and McAllister Streets, makes up just 7 percent of the 4,300 parking spaces within a block of the street. A new NIMBY group wants to "stop the radical agenda" of improving safety on Polk because it could remove some of that 7 percent. Image: SFMTA

A new entity that calls itself the “Save Polk Street Coalition” has come out against the developing plan to improve safety for people walking and biking on Polk Street because it would entail removing some parking spaces.

The group’s website, which doesn’t identify any of the businesses or residents it claims to represent, decrees: “STOP the radical agenda of the SFMTA.” The sky-is-falling rhetoric continues:

Street parking is vital to Polk St. businesses. If you eat, live, work or shop along Polk Street this WILL affect you! If you want the restaurants, shops and services on Polk Street to survive make your voice heard. Save Polk Street from this misguided experiment!

First, let’s clear this up: The notion that car parking is what brings customers to shop in walkable San Francisco neighborhoods has been debunked time and time again. Customer intercept surveys on Columbus Avenue found that just 14 percent of people arrived by car, and those people tended to spend less than people who arrived by other means. Pedestrianization projects like the proliferation of parklets and temporary bans on parking on Stockton Street in Chinatown have drawn more people to streets while subtracting parking.

To boost foot traffic and make the street a more inviting destination, re-purposing public space from automobile storage to improve conditions for walking and biking is a solid strategy. And by making it easier to get to Polk without a car, fewer visitors would need to occupy a parking space in the first place.

This is the banner for the "Save Polk Street" website. A more accurate statement of the group's goal might read: "Save car parking on Polk Street so it will stay dangerous."

Still, it must be pointed out that the number of parking spaces which these not-in-my-backyard types are so worked up over is an exceedingly small amount of parking along the Polk corridor. The area has a huge parking supply, and the SFMTA’s project would only put a tiny dent in the number of spaces. Of the 4,300 parking spaces within a block of the Polk project area, Polk’s on-street parking makes up just 7 percent, according to the SFMTA. Even counting only on-street parking spaces within the area, Polk’s share is still only 17 percent.

The SFMTA’s conceptual proposals — which are based on public input from community planning meetings — would only remove some of that 7 percent. In fact, contrary to the opponents’ claim that the agency is “planning to remove 20 blocks of street parking,” most of the proposals still include car parking.

The benefits, meanwhile, would be protected bike lanes that all ages would feel comfortable riding on, vibrant public spaces that invite people to stay, and a safer street for everyone.

The “coalition” claims that it “welcome[s] customers to the area regardless of how they arrive, but know[s] that many people come by car. Walk, bike, drive, or MUNI – the diversity of travel modes reflect the diversity of our community!” As if driving will be impossible after a fraction of 7 percent of the area’s parking supply is removed.

As for welcoming people who walk or bike, the group opposes even a trial project that would take place on just a few blocks and last only a few weeks, according to the SF Chronicle. The only thing these parking-obsessed opponents have to fear, it seems, is that the trial will be successful enough to warrant a permanent change.

There’s hardly a more “radical” agenda than one which defines “saving Polk Street” as preserving infinitesimal amounts of storage for private automobiles at the expense of a vision for a more livable street that’s based on input from the community.

  • mike
  • reality check

    There used to be a third lane on Polk. It was removed in 2001 to create some room for a bikeway (albeit a pretty minimal bikeway). Despite fears from some merchants about the lane being removed, the street has only seemed to thrive since then. Cars take up a lot of space – one car space can hold twelve bike parking spaces or a number of tables and chairs on a parklet. Perhaps some merchants can have the foresight to realize that accommodating cars is not the best use of limited space and be creative about how to best reallocate that limited space – perhaps for more people rather than 15′ long, 3500 lb cars that carry 1.3 people on average and sit empty and idle most of the time. I heard from Mojo Cafe that the first parklet on Divisadero led to 30% more business for them and a need to hire more people. Smart businesses are now asking for parklets or for car spaces to be replaced by corrals for bike parking. Evolve or die, as they say…

  • Mr. Business Casual

    So who’s gonna be the livability rep at 

  • Mr. Business Casual

    … their event on March 18th?

    6:30
    It’s a Grind coffee. 

  • voltairesmistress

    “The SFMTA’s conceptual proposals — which are based on public input from community planning meetings – would only remove some of
    that 7 percent. In fact, contrary to the opponents’ claim that the
    agency is “planning to remove 20 blocks of street parking,” most of the
    proposals still include car parking.”

    Aaron, could you clarify?  My impression is that the pilot study will involve only a handfull blocks of Polk, not the McAllister to Union length of Polk.  Therefore, is the 7% decrease in parking spaces referring only to the limited pilot study?  Or does it refer to all of Polk Street if the street were get full bike lanes on each side?  I ask, because when I looked at the SFMTA’s renderings/notes, three of its four scenarios eliminated all parking on one side of the street and a few spots on the other side of the street.  That would seem to be more than 50% of the parking spots eliminated on Polk itself.  Is that true?

    I am for putting in the necessary bike infrastructure to make Polk safe for all riders, whatever the parking loss.  However, I want to know the particulars, because merchants need to know where auto-driving customers are going to park — around the corner, or in lots, etc.  Otherwise, one would have to argue to them that bicycle traffic customers will make up for the inevitable loss in auto-based customers.  And that is a hard sell, because while more bikers would bring them business, a combination of biking and driving customers in a safe environment would bring the most business to Polk merchants.

  • Guest

    The coalition behind this campaign appears to be the Polk District Merchants Association and the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association. They are hosting the SFMTA on their monthly meeting at It’s A Grind on March 18th, and the signs posted so far seem to be businesses on Middle Polk. 

  •  Now they are going to have 2 problems. Less parking due to bike lanes, and a bunch of cyclists who refuse to patronize their businesses because they are turkeys.

  • @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus  The “7 percent” number refers to, as you wrote, “all of Polk Street if the street were get full bike lanes on each side.” Parking spaces on Polk (b/w Union and McAllister) make up 7 percent of all parking within a block of that stretch. However, most of the proposed concepts still include some parking on Polk, and the final project seems like it will use some combination of the configurations on each stretch, so it seems unlikely that all 7 percent will be removed.
    This doesn’t relate directly to the pilot study, which, as I understand it, would indeed only take place on a few blocks. We don’t know what that pilot will look like yet.

  • Fagangh

    How about the people who live in the neighborhood and use that parking at night? The loss of those “infinitesimal amount of storage for private automobiles” will have a huge affect on the residents in those neighborhood.

    We can’t all bike to our jobs.

  • Jakewegmann2

     Sorry, but making publicly-owned land in a highly crowded neighborhood available for free car storage does not strike me as a high public policy priority.

  • reality check

    Will Steve Cornell of Brownie’s Hardware be there? He was absolutely the biggest opponent of the bike lane project back in 2000, predicting doom and gloom when the third lane would be replaced by space for people on bikes. Someone remind him the world didn’t end. In fact, Polk only got more popular.

  • Prinzrob

    Sorry, but the parking situation on Polk is only going to get worse in the future whether a few spots are taken out for bike lanes or not. That’s why the only real solution (beyond paving over the whole neighborhood) is to reconfigure the street so that people have comfortable alternatives to driving/parking, encouraging people who want to bike to do so and convincing some of those folks who “can’t bike to their jobs” that in reality yes, they can.

    Remember that for every parking spot lost you only need to convince one person to bike to come out even. When I got rid of my car years ago my neighbors probably didn’t notice, but they did find the empty parking spot in front of my house pretty quickly.

  •  Why is it that the neighborhoods that freak out most about loss of parking are the ones that refuse to participate in the Residential Parking Permit program? Just as with Oak Street, lower Polk is surrounded (on three sides) by RPP zones. This means that their parking troubles are about six times worse than they would be otherwise.  Let’s yet again go over the reasons why it is highly, highly stupid to be a non-RPP zone surrounded by RPP zones in the heart of the city.

    1) People in RPP zones who use their cars frequently will likely spring for a permit to have the convenience of parking close to home. But people who use their cars infrequently, or people who own two cars, may very well feel it’s worth walking a block or two or three once a week for free parking for the low-use car. And so they will park that car in the non-RPP zone closest to them. All the blocks from Franklin to Larkin between Sutter and McAllister are within three blocks of an RPP zone. Hyde between Post and Ellis is within three blocks of an RPP zone. I wonder how people in these blocks ever manage to park.

    2) Anyone who works in the Civic Center area and doesn’t mind walking ten minutes to work, has an enormous incentive to park for free daily in the lower Polk area. (Note: it is only a ten minute walk from Geary Street to City Hall.)

    3) Lower Polk is close to everything. People in this neighborhood have more reason than most San Franciscans to live without a car. Yes, parking is a hassle in this neighborhood, so you’d think that would be enough to discourage car ownership, but people tend to hang on to cars, especially paid-off ones, even if they rarely use them. An RPP (without easy access to a non-RPP zone) provides just enough cost and just enough bureaucratic annoyance to encourage anyone who really doesn’t use their car much to take the last step and go car-free.

    So, RPP frees up parking in a neighborhood by 1) keeping free-riders from other zones out, 2) keeping people who work in the area from using your neighborhood as a free parking lot, and 3) encouraging people who don’t really need their car to take the car-free plunge. All for the low, low price of 29 cents a day.  29 cents a day is all it will cost you to 1) have enough parking, and 2) allow Polk Street to be a happier, safer, more convivial, less polluted, more prosperous street. That it will make biking riding in the city a happier, safer, less stressful means of transportation and you will no longer have bicyclists howling and invoking dire voodoo hexes on you, is just a little lagniappe on the side.

    What I truly don’t understand is why the city doesn’t apply blanket RPP zones across the at least the northwest quadrant of the city?  From those pockets that are currently RPP-less, all they get is planning misery.

  • reality check

    True, not everyone can bike to work. But many can, and many will find that is a real option if the streets become safer. If you live and work in the city, it is a great way to save money, get a mini-workout in, and get to work faster (trust me on this). The goal is not to make everyone stop driving, but to make riding a bike just another normal option, just like walking a block or two is an option. In reality, the final plan, whatever it might be, would not take the max number of spaces – it will be less than the max of the 7% of the immediate supply.

  • CRS

    Somewhere in Code it states that bike lanes are not supposed to go in on primary streets; only on secondary and tertiary streets. It’s something about bikes not being safe in fast-moving traffic even in their own lanes…

    Can’t find cite…  maybe in State Code… will look later.

  • reality check

    Let us know when you find that, but you may be looking for a while because I don’t think it exists. Even if it did, Polk St is not a “primary” street or an arterial. That would be Van Ness, Gough, Franklin, and parts of Hyde and Larkin. Polk St is, by far, the street for people to ride on in this area.

  • Karen – the past year has provided very clear evidence – millions for defense, not a pence for parking. People in SF hate panhandlers but would rather give a quarter to a drunken homeless guy than a parking meter, regarldess of how rational the idea of $100 for a year of easier parking may sound. The only people who push for the RPP are the ones who get really slammed by an influx of MUNI/BART riders.

  • Yeah right. If that was in the code, you don’t think we would have had visits from Mary Miles several times over for Cesar Chavez, Fell, Oak, Alemany, etc…

  • Anonymous

    I would like to have an example of where parking has been removed from a busines corridor and what that removal did for parking fees and for total gross receipts over time.  I believe this article carriers a lot of anecdotal info as well as a lot of opinions.  The writer does not live in the hilly nearby neighborhoods who shop on Polk, the mass transit system is mediocre at best.   So I would like to see more hard numbers and less opinions (not to mention name calling) before I decide the merits of what seems a very poor prospect for a business district. 

  • Anonymous

    One of the four SFMTA plans would make Polk into a one-way street and would recirculate return traffic at some distance away on Larkin Street. This would affect bus and cab availability significantly (Polk currently is a great taxi cab street most any time of the day or night).

    This proposal is surprising since the conversion of main streets street into one-way corridors is a discredited planning practice that had its heyday in 1970s. The one-way stretch of Hayes Street between Franklin and Van Ness is currently slated to go back to two-way traffic.

    As I read it, all the parking spaces would permanently be removed along Polk from McAllister to Union from one side of the street – I don’t know if that’s 160 or 320. (The language in the SFMTA brochure goes: “Parking removed fully from one side and partially from the other” & “Parking removed fully from both sides” on Lower Polk.) That encompasses 20 blocks, a 1.3 mile stretch.

    See http://www.sfmta.com/cms/opolk/PolkStreetCompleteStreets.htm for the four proposals.

    One unaddressed question is how many additional bicyclists would use the widened Polk Street bicycle lanes considering that it is roughly a 3% grade climbing about 175 feet in elevation, according to topographic maps.

    Currently the number of bicyclists using Polk between 4:30 and 6:30 pm – according to the 2011 MTA survey – stands at 336 compared to Valencia Street & 17th at 1,059 (a smoother route).

    Are there any statistics from Portland or other cities linking steepness to climb to potential usage – that is, how many fewer people use a route when it’s 1% steeper? And are there any general statistics about the projected increase of bicycle trips on an improved bike Polk Street right of way? A plan of this importance should perhaps include such numbers.

    All in all, it’s unfair to characterize the residents of District 3 and Polk Street of being alarmist and irrational about such a significant change. Polk is a shopping district that has stayed remarkable intact since the 1890s, with traditional small grocers and bakers and fish bars – such as Swan’s, Cheese Plus-Leonards, Lottas, and Real Foods.

    Think of how much greater the neighborhood resistance would be if changes of this sort were proposed on any other San Francisco main street, on 24th Street, for instance, or Hayes, Union, Grant or Chestnut.

  • Shawn Woolard

    This is great article Aaron!  This is absolutely informative.  Thanks for sharing!

    SlowStop.com

  • The parallel streets except Van Ness all have far worse grades than does Polk.  But Van Ness is being rebuilt as a busway; there are no bicycle lanes on it now, nor will there ever be in the future.  
    There really is NO street west of Stockton except Polk and Van Ness which offer bicyclists a decent gradient between Mission/Market and the North Beach area.  Yes, Van Ness has a bit lower crest around Greenwich than does Polk and therefore slightly lower grades, but Van Ness is out because of the high speeds and huge traffic volumes.  

    Polk is by far the best choice for a north/south bike arterial.  

  • Anonymous

    Buy a cart to carry heavy bags.  My mom with arthritis in her knee did and she uses that to take groceries home when she walks to the store.

    If you can’t handle a 20 minute walk with “bags” and some hills then you need to take a serious look at your life and what you’ve let it become. 

    I enjoyed how the tone of your comment makes it seem like this whole project is going to come down to your decision and that you need more data. I’ll be sure to schedule a meeting with you and the Mayor so that you can air your grievances. 

  • Anonymous

    The difficulties of biking in the city are rarely due to hills and much more due to inadequate bike infrastructure making the ride feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you would let a 8 year old ride the route then it is adequate, otherwise it needs improving and this one isn’t safe for adults let alone children.

    But comparing Valencia today to Polk today is a false comparison.  You’d need data from Valencia before it was remade to see how much growth in cycling and walking occurred when they remade it with less car lanes, bigger sidewalks, and bike lanes. People don’t just use Valencia because it’s flat, it’s become a place to go.

    Anecdotally I like a lot of the businesses on Polk (Swans oyster depot!) but I can’t get to it very easily because I avoid biking on Polk and I don’t drive. So I end up going to other parts of the city instead. Not that Polk needs to cater to me, per se, but there is a lot of pent up demand for better biking and walking infrastructure and if it only requires moving 7% or less of parking spaces then that’s really a bargain for everyone. 

  • Anonymous

    When was the last time you bought something on Polk Street, @murphstahoe:disqus?  Thought so.

  • p_chazz  – never. Too unsafe to ride a bike on Polk so I shop on Valencia. Clean it up, and I’m there.

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to your mother, @coolbabybookworm:disqus, but just because she can use a cart doesn’t mean others can.  “If X can do it, so can you” is not a very compelling argument.  I agree with @2of3jays:disqus.  Imagine carrying a box of dishes up a steep hill.

  • Anonymous

    Humans are designed to walk and other than extreme disabilities (in which activity is still important) everyone should be able to walk 20 minutes with hills.

    Do you buy dishes every week? Maybe that’s a special trip you get a car for, but that’s like using a truck once a year to move furniture as a way of justifying driving it everywhere. He complained about carrying purchases, but we’ve invented solutions for that that don’t involve internal combustion engines and they’re called carts. You can probably buy one on Polk street as a matter of fact.

    And I know what it’s like to carry heavy things on Polk, I bought a giant pot at the nursery off of polk and since I don’t have a car I walked it 5 blocks on the bus and then took it back to work and then took it on a bike to it’s final destination. I know that’s anecdotal, but cars in downtown SF are a privilege, not a necessity.

  • Wow, since you can walk a mile in 20 minutes at a pretty easy pace, you must live at least a mile away from Polk Street–Pacific Heights or Chinatown?  You must really love to shop on Polk Street! 

    But I, too, often shop a mile or more from my home. I, too, live up a very, very big hill. For small loads (say a bag or two) I take my regular bike with paniers. For large loads, I have an electric cargo bike that will carry five bags of groceries uphill with no sweat. (It has also on various occasions carried irrigation tubing, two preteens at once, folding lawn chairs, a tai chi sword, and an enormous Kentucky Derby hat.)  If I’m just going shopping in my neighborhood (the Castro or Noe Valley are both half a mile away straight downhill and then back up the same) I just walk with an over the shoulder shopping bag or a handcart as @coolbabybookworm:disqus describes.

    Americans tend to be very unenthusiastic about any form of physical exertion, but if you are under 70 and in moderately good health, shopping without a car really isn’t that difficult. (Of course, if you’re buying a refrigerator or a sofa, you’d have it delivered!) Plus, shopping on foot keeps you healthy! My eighty-five year old neighbor across the street never owned a car and did all his shopping on foot (up and down the same hills as I do) until a few days before he died.

  • Anonymous

    @planning5:disqus As has been mentioned, Polk is the only north-south bike route in the area given it’s *relatively* flat grade. To see this more clearly, look at the SFBC’s bike map which shows elevation:
    http://www.sfbike.org/download/SF_Bike_Map_2011.pdf

    You can also see this quite clearly on Google Maps with the terrain feature on:
    http://goo.gl/maps/ZcdU4

    If you’ve tried to ride a bike in the city from/to Fort Mason, Marina, and surrounding areas coming from/going to the southern neighborhoods like the Castro, Mission, Potrero, Noe Valley, etc., you would quickly realize it is by far the best bike route.

    “Are there any statistics from Portland or other cities linking steepness
    of climb to potential usage – that is, how many fewer people use a
    route when it’s 1% steeper?”

    Not sure. But that’s a straw man argument. The issue here isn’t: we have two choices for a bike route and one is less steep than the other. Instead, the issue is: you can have dangerous bike infrastructure and risk your life on a car-centric street or you can have great bike infrastructure on a traffic calmed street with a moderate gradient. And there are *plenty* of statistics that show that the latter brings out cyclists in hordes.

    “Think of how much greater the neighborhood resistance would be if
    changes of this sort were proposed to any other San Francisco main
    street, on 24th Street for instance, or Hayes, Union, Grant or Chestnut.”

    I doubt it would be greater as all those streets, given their tight development, are perfect candidates for making them more livable via better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and less car-centric orientation. In fact, I guarantee you will see the same thing happen to these streets in the future. The Polk St neighborhood has an opportunity to be be be ahead of the curve and get on board with the future of livable cities rather than be dragged into the inevitable kicking and screaming.

  • Anonymous

    @2of3jays:disqus wrote: “I would like to have examples of where parking has been removed from a busines corridor and what that removal did for parking fees and for total gross receipts for businesses over time.”

    Woah, woah, woah. Is that all that matters? Just the bottom line of businesses? What about the livability of the neighborhood? The reduction in car collisions with pedestrians and cyclists? Cleaner air and less noise? What about increased revenue from cyclists and pedestrians (assuming revenue from motorists drops)? What about increases in value of property (which happens just about every time a street in SF is calmed)? Why, in your equation, is there only one term? Would you say externalizing all those other costs I just mentioned from your calculation is reasonable?

  • Anonymous

     @b82239bfa53be8fbc5e6c4e92e33a16c:disqus wrote: “We can’t all bike to our jobs”

    True. Nor can some people walk to their jobs because of a disability. Does that mean walking isn’t important? Not everybody is handicapped, so should we not have all this extra handicapped facilities? Not everybody can take the train, so should we get rid of them? Sometimes people can’t even drive, do by your argument we need to ban cars.

    Since when has transportation *ever* been driven by the philosophy of: if everybody can’t do it, then it’s not valid? Sure, some people can’t bike, but a *lot* — and I mean a *lot* — of able-bodied people can. That is who we are catering to. The idea is to give people lots of healthy and environmentally-friendly options of transit, which means public transit, walking, and cycling … and even occasionally the automobile for certain uses (which doesn’t include healthy people driving solo to work 30 miles away). A wide variety of options are needed for a healthy, livable city. But prioritizing the car over all others, so much so that it has not just made it more difficult for people to use other options but downright dangerous, is no longer acceptable. You can be a part of this realization and take advantages of the great *opportunities* that it presents to vastly improve our cities, or you can look at it as a *problem* and be stuck in past ways of thinking. However, the latter is a losing proposition based on the growing awareness of livable cities and sustainability issues related to car-centric design.

  • Anonymous

     @b82239bfa53be8fbc5e6c4e92e33a16c:disqus wrote: “We can’t all bike to our jobs”

    True. Nor can some people walk to their jobs because of a disability. Does that mean walking isn’t important? Not everybody is handicapped, so should we not have all this extra handicapped facilities? Not everybody can take the train, so should we get rid of them? Sometimes people can’t even drive, do by your argument we need to ban cars.

    Since when has transportation *ever* been driven by the philosophy of: if everybody can’t do it, then it’s not valid? Sure, some people can’t bike, but a *lot* — and I mean a *lot* — of able-bodied people can. That is who we are catering to. The idea is to give people lots of healthy and environmentally-friendly options of transit, which means public transit, walking, and cycling … and even occasionally the automobile for certain uses (which doesn’t include healthy people driving solo to work 30 miles away). A wide variety of options are needed for a healthy, livable city. But prioritizing the car over all others, so much so that it has not just made it more difficult for people to use other options but downright dangerous, is no longer acceptable. You can be a part of this realization and take advantages of the great *opportunities* that it presents to vastly improve our cities, or you can look at it as a *problem* and be stuck in past ways of thinking. However, the latter is a losing proposition based on the growing awareness of livable cities and sustainability issues related to car-centric design.

  • reality check

    murphstahoe – really, you don’t go to Polk because it’s too unsafe to ride on that street? I find that hard to believe based on your riding background and the rides and races that you’ve done over the years. I could believe a person new to riding saying that, however.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that the bottom line of the businesses and the liveability of the neighborhoods are linked.  A neighborhood with a lot of empty storefronts is a lot less liveable than one that has a thriving businesses. 

  • Anonymous

    If the inconvenience of 7% of an area’s parking spots is the death knell of a business in SF (a city that allowed a target to be built w/out its own free parking) then there is no way they’re going to survive $6 gas and increased rent, both of which are on the horizon whether this parking is removed or not.

    This isn’t a bikes vs. cars situation, it’s a bikes AND cars situation. Businesses and drivers should be clamoring for these kinds of improvements because it’s going to make it easier to drive AND bike to destinations on Polk as well as make the area more pleasant in general. 

  • Anonymous

    Also smart and profitable businesses know that a few street parking spaces have very little affect on their business compared to other ways of using those spaces. That’s why parklets and bike corrals have been installed with lots of success throughout the city, it’s just a better use of space for people and businesses.

  • reality check, I would expect someone with your internet background to know that when it comes to p_chazz, the more absurd the response, the better.

  • I’ve ridden Polk all the way north a few times. It isn’t that bad of a hill. (And if I, a fifty-one year old mother of three with flowers on her basket can ride it without trouble, most of the rest of the city can, too.) If it weren’t for all the cars, Polk would be quite pleasant. Sadly, Polk is not pleasant for bike riding right now at all, it is very stressful, and I don’t ride it unless I really, really want to get to Fort Mason (say, to view the America’s Cup races.) I do not frequent any business along Polk, not even the rice pudding place, and I love rice pudding.

    Bicyclists just don’t have many (any?) good north-south options in the city. With the exception of Van Ness (and Divisadero between Haight and California?), Polk is the least hilly north-south route between the Embarcadero and Arguello. Even if we could grab a lane of Van Ness for protected bike lanes (and I’m sure if this were even proposed, the end of the world as we know it would arrive), the noise and exhaust fumes on Van Ness are horrendous and would make for miserable riding.

    The irony is that Polk is very much like Valencia Street. Adding bike lanes is going to improve this neighborhood so, so much. Making it more inviting to walk or bike to this neighborhood (and less inviting to drive), is going to increase business; it’s going to strengthen the neighborhood and reduce crime; it’s going to enrich the lives and improve the health of the very people fighting the change.

  • voltairesmistress

    I am sympathetic to the fears of business owners on Polk, but I think they are simply wrong to fear the proposed change.  I agree with others here that a healthy, safe, pedestrian and bike friendly Polk Street will lead to the corridor’s improvement in every way, including upping business revenues in the medium and longer term.  I think the way to mitigate near term business loss to businesses (as some drivers cease to use the area), is to:
    1) replace the nixed parking with newly metered spots on adjoining streets;
    2) institute smart meters and extend metering into the evening, so that drivers can still shop after 6 pms.  (It’s impossible to pick up a prescription at Walgreen’s near California in the evening, because one can’t find a metered spot.)
    3) post signage alerting everyone to the numerous, but almost invisible lots that currently exist.  (I live there and haven’t been able to locate hourly parking lots, only the $15 per use places that are too much for a quick errand or two.)

    In the longer term, making the street pleasant and accessible to lots of walkers and riders will dilute lower Polk’s distressing concentration of addicts fighting, panhandling, and littering.  That would reward business owners along the street.

  • Anonymous

    @p_chazz:disqus wrote: “It seems to me that the bottom line of the businesses and the
    liveability of the neighborhoods are inextricably linked.”

    Agreed.

    “A street that
    has a separated bike lane and a lot of empty storefronts because it is
    inconvenient to shop there is much less liveable than a street that has
    no bike lane and thriving businesses.”

    Can you provide an example in SF where removing parking and adding bike lanes lead to empty storefronts? The only example of a commerical corridor I can think of which had a bike lane added at the expense of car space is Valencia St, and it has boomed since that (even after everyone claimed that it would be the death knell for all the local businesses).

  • Said business owners are probably prepping a “Bike lanes are a force of evil gentrification” after they first take down their “get rid of the junkies” flyers.

  • Bckitchens

    bikes vs jobs … try Larkin, it’s a better workout!

  • What you guys fail to realize is that while yes this project may prove fruitful in the foreseeable future, the SFMTA and SF Bike Coalition landed this project on our door step without any input from any Merchant on Polk st. You can all praise the enviralmental aspects of this project and how it MIGHT improve business, until the Cows come home.
    But if you are a Merchant, paying massive rents up here on Polk street, your dang toot’n that you would be up in arms over this.

    You say only 7 percent? That’s 360 parking spots. Out side seating booths, those are only subsidized by the city, the merchant must pay to have that installed.

    You might think I m against this project, I am not, I cycle to and from work every day from Central Polk street.
    My issue is not with the project it self, but the lack of communication to Polk street residents and Merchants, and outside entities saying this will be good for you after the fact when its them SFMTA and SFBC who have only their own interests in mind.

    Many comments here are very hypocritical considering many of you do not reside on Polk. We are the ones who will have to live with the outcome, yet we get absolutely NO say in the matter?

    PS, one poster stated the Middle Polk Street Neighbors Association have a hand in the Save Polk Street Org, They Do Not.

    If it ain’t broken Don’t Fix it!

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-756264109:disqus wrote: “What you guys fail to realize is that while yes this project may prove
    fruitful in the foreseeable future, the SFMTA and SF Bike Coalition
    landed this project on our door step without any input from any Merchant
    on Polk st”

    What do you mean? The MTA has been doing outreach since last fall, and in fact are *still* doing it.
    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/opolk/PolkStreetCompleteStreets.htm

    That’s exactly the point of all this talk and the planning meetings. Besides, how much time do you want? You seem agree that it’s ultimately a good idea, so how much time do you want to “prepare” (or whatever it is you think you need to do). I’m so confused by the stance you represent.

    “You might think I m against this project, I am not, I cycle to and from work every day from Central Polk street.”

    I don’t know if your statement is true or not, but as somebody who cycles everywhere and knows a ton of other cyclists, it’s funny how the only “cyclists” I’ve ever met who are against better bike infrastructure are always anonymous ones online. Hmmmmm ….. It’s just pretty hard to convince me that, if you truly ride to work every day, you don’t understand how challenging (and dangerous) it can be for a cyclist in this city and how you wouldn’t welcome such a project.

    “Many comments here are very hypocritical considering many of you do not
    reside on Polk. We are the ones who will have to live with the outcome,
    yet we get absolutely NO say in the matter?”

    Again, this is exactly the process that is happening right now. What more do you want? Did you want meetings about the meetings for the planned changes? And how are the comments of others any more hypothetical than your comments?

    And by the way, Polk residents aren’t the only one that has to live with the outcome. See, that’s the thing about cars: the pollution, death and destruction, noise, contribution to obesity, dehumanization of our cities, etc. that comes with creating car-centric cities affects every single last one of us. Cars have to go through other people’s neighborhoods to get to Polk St, and we all share the same air.

    You can bet that, if each motorists had to actually pay the several thousand dollars extra per year that they owe society for their externalized costs, a lot more people would be demanded streets like Polk be made more accessible for other forms of transportation that are not only much more environmentally-friendly and healthier, but also cheaper. For more on externalized costs of automobiles, see

    Europe (who already pay way more in gas than we do and hence have less externalized costs)
    http://www.greens-efa.eu/fileadmin/dam/Documents/Studies/Costs_of_cars/The_true_costs_of_cars_EN.pdf

    US (with some good examples)
    http://www.ce.utexas.edu/prof/kockelman/public_html/trb08vehicleexternalities.pdf

    “If it ain’t broken Don’t Fix it!”

    Apparently you don’t read this website much because if you did I wouldn’t have to tell you how our car-centric system is entirely unsustainable and therefore completely broken. Also, see the links I listed above. What’s amazing is that people like you can sit there and completely ignore all the currently externalized costs of driving a car and pretend like the only term that matters in your equation for determining impact is how it affects motorists ability to park (which already is either free or massively subsidized). I’ll tell you what. Let’s externalize the true cost of driving a car, and then see how many Polk St residents still want to have a car-centric street.

    And why are you so concerned about the merchants? Give me an example of a street in SF that was calmed and had bike lanes added at the expense of motorist space and whose merchants aren’t doing much better than before? I can give you a counter example: Valencia St. Over a decade ago before the project was implemented, there were people *exactly* like you saying the *exact* same things, and of course they were completely wrong and business is booming on Valencia St. You keep acting like the only ones who support local businesses are motorists, but in fact it’s been shown that cyclists (and pedestrians) support local businesses even *more*:
    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/03/23/why-bicyclists-are-better-customers-than-drivers-for-local-business/

    You need to realize that we can’t continue building our cities around cars not only because it is unhealthy and unlivable, but because it is unsustainable. And you need to realize this is an opportunity to be a part of the future and the inevitable way things are headed. If you keep looking at it as a problem, you’re going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the inevitable and just looking short-sighted. Think about the long-term and bigger picture, and you’ll see this is a huge opportunity for the neighborhood you love to be a much better place both for its own residents  and visitors.

  •  @jd_x:disqus At over 900+ comments on a biking forum I’m going to assume you are a little fanatical when it comes to Not liking cars and loving Bikes.
     Since I did leave a little leeway in my post for open debate, you however did not, its your way or the highway, pun intended.

      Since you took apart my post in order to validate all your responses, allow me to do the same.

    Regarding what I said “You might think I m against this project, I am not, I cycle to and from work every day from Central Polk street.”

    I don’t know if your statement is true or not, but as somebody who
    cycles everywhere and knows a ton of other cyclists, it’s funny how the
    only “cyclists” I’ve ever met who are against better bike infrastructure
    are always anonymous ones online. Hmmmmm ….. It’s just pretty hard to
    convince me that, if you truly ride to work every day, you don’t
    understand how challenging (and dangerous) it can be for a cyclist in
    this city and how you wouldn’t welcome such a project.

    In those few lines you call me a liar and state that EVERY cyclist you have ever met sees everything in your eyes. Really thats a bold statement to make, can you back it up are are you GUESSING that every cyclist would be 100% behind this project? Besides that’s really a moot point, since I never said I was against the project in the first place, did I?
    I’ll post the quoted text again so you can re-read it.

    “You might think I m against this project, I am not, I cycle to and from work every day from Central Polk street.”
    [Not against and I cycle) Hmmmmmm!

    Tell ya what, Google “Post Street Gazette” and then email the editor, that mail will come directly to ME. Anonymous no more.
    PS, Whats your name?
    JD_x is kind of whats the word? oh yeah anonymous.

    Regarding your Outreach from the MTA, in this case the SFMTA

    The MTA did not send a letter to every resident, merchant on Polk street nor to the surrounding area, telling the same folk, that they intend to remove ALL the parking on Polk, rip up the street, install full length Bike lanes, barriers to protect same cyclist from center lanes of traffic, that can no longer park on Polk.
    Those meetings, were attended by local neighborhood groups, merchant associations, NOT every merchant on Polk, I did not attend that meeting, because I was not informed about it, like 99% of the residents of Polk street, that being said, the meetings were feelers and had a questionnaire to help the SFMTA gauge what folks thought about full bike lanes on Polk. The same Questionnaire is still available at the site you posted.
    You can argue till the cows come home that the MTA with input from the community which is BS, the merchants are part huge part of this community, got a green light to go ahead,

    You mentioned Europe gas prices being way higher than here, Since I grew up and drove in Ireland, allow me someone who has experience with this particular tit bit, as I will assume you have never owned a car in Europe.
    People in Ireland drive to worked just like here, they fill up their PETROL tanks with PETROL just like folks fill up their GAS tanks here. Fuel costs per house hold per RATIO of income cost very little more compared to the same here.
    That being said, after I fill my car here, I have enough money left for Rent, Food, a few beers and some to put aside. invest or what ever.
    I save about the same back home in Ireland doing the same Job I do here, actually more, while owning a Car.
    Ironically I had to get rid of my car here for a number of factors, NO PARKING, it was a nightly game I don’t miss, driving around my own hood looking to park my car after a hard days work.
    Parking tickets were KILLING me, it turns out its cheaper to own a car in Europe that here, including your so called inflated gas prices.

    I have lived on Polk for 20 years, My local is on Polk, McTeagues, My Hardware store Brownies is on Polk, my Bank is on Polk, My barber is on Polk, My post office is on Pine/Polk, I buy most of my Groceries on Polk, I eat at the various restaurants/Cafes/Deli’s on Polk several times a week, I have PERSONALLY talked with many of those Owners, regarding an upcoming story I am writing on this very subject. NOT one of them were notified regarding what the SFMTA and the SFBC were really intending to do to Polk st.

    I ask you, if all the merchants were informed of the real intent of these so called out reach meetings, then why are so many stores displaying “Save Polk Street” Posters?
    The author of this article and I quote, called these Merchants who organized “Save Polk Street” nothing more than Radicals, in what world are hard working store owners Radicals for wanting to protect their businesses.

    Tell me, who is more of a Radical?
    A person who is afraid of losing his.her business and stands up to fight for it.
    Or a person with a one minded agenda and has no room for debate!

    Do you really think a Well Informed Public would place a Poster like that in their window?

    If its only a Biking corridor that you Hard Core cyclist really want, then lets do what the previous poster said

    DO IT ON LARKIN, Better RIDE!

    JD_x, You are EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY one sided in this for want of better word, Debate!

    You see things only as a cyclist and you dismiss everyone Else’s opinions, well you have in my case.

    You think I don’t see the bigger picture, I really DO see the bigger picture, you just assume anyone with an alternate thinking does not. I know cars are not healthy, I know we depend on foreign oil, I know there are alternatives like green energy. but shoving your ideals down someone elses throat is not the way to change someones mind, especially since we actually agree in most parts.

    PSS
     If you need me to post a picture of any of the following please hit me up
    1. 10 Posters within a 3 block radius of  “Save Polk Street” posters
    2. My bike with me on it, holding a Polk Street Gazette.
    3. A picture of me in Ireland and my School “HOGWARTS” actually St. Eunans College Letterkenny, Ireland (Seriously Google image it and you will see why I call it Hogwarts)

  • Tell me, who is more of a Radical? 
    A person who is afraid of losing his.her business and stands up to fight for it.
    Or a person with a one minded agenda and has no room for debate!
    This is a streetscape improvement that has shown time and time again to increase business receipts. What’s radical about being afraid of losing your business and fighting against a proven method of increasing it?

    “I have lived on Polk for 20 years, My local is on Polk, McTeagues, My Hardware store Brownies is on Polk, my Bank is on Polk, My barber is on Polk, My post office is on Pine/Polk, I buy most of my Groceries on Polk, I eat at the various restaurants/Cafes/Deli’s on Polk several times a week”

    You are making the point for changing Polk. Polk is a dense area in a dense town. You aren’t doing 1000’s of dollars of business daily from people coming from Walnut Creek. And face it, you aren’t doing 1000’s of dollars of business from people coming from Noe Valley, even though Tuggey’s Hardware closed and Bliss Bar burned down. If there was no barber in Noe I won’t be running to Polk. Business owners on Polk’s best opportunity to attract business is to keep the people living on Polk from going 2 neighborhoods over, and attract people from that same radius. The best way to do that is to reshape the street. 

    Having lived within spittin distance of Valencia for 15 years it’s pretty clear what the makeovers there have done. 

    Then again, maybe why the businesses you claim are fearing losing their business know exactly what has happened to Valencia. If the street gets too nice, their dated business will be doomed, so best to fight improvements. Ask Tuggey’s Hardware how well that strategy worked…

  •  So when you lived on Polk street Eight years ago, when it was a complete decrepit shithole, crack heads roamed the streets, drugs abound, hookers every night, locals actually walked thru Tenderloin to AVOID Polk street because it was too dangerous, and here I have you guys telling me that Polk street is BROKEN!

    Wait, did any of you guys do your home work when it comes to what Polk street was Eight years ago?

    WoW the Audacity ,

    US, the Neighbors, the BARS, the Merchants, cleaned this street up thru bare perseverance and now we have you guys coming in here and telling us that our street is busted?

    Nothing personal, But How Dare You!

  • 8 years ago it was completely broken.

    The merchants we hear talking about saving Polk tell us that they have lived there for decades. Seems to me that they are the ones responsible for letting Polk fall into decay in the first place, n’est pas?

    Meanwhile the surge in bicycle use citywide, including using Polk Street as a primary travel corridor for cyclists, started roughly 10 years ago, coinciding with the improved results on Polk. Part of Polk has bike lanes – when did they go in? 8 years ago?

  • Anonymous

    I propose that we freeze Polk street in amber so that we can preserve it exactly as it is forever and ever.

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