Tonight: Tell the SFMTA to Put Protected Bike Lanes on the Table for Polk

The SFMTA said it won't pursue protected bike lanes on most of Polk Street, even though the agency drew up this conceptual plan in the Think Bike workshops in September 2011.

The second open house on the Polk Street safety improvements is tonight. While the agency has said protected bike lanes are not on the table for most of Polk, don’t be discouraged from showing up. This is your chance to tell the SFMTA you support protected bike lanes along the entire street. As we’ve seen, Supervisor David Chiu isn’t going to stand up and make that case for you.

Neal Patel, planning director for the SF Bicycle Coalition, wrote in a blog post today that ”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.” Patel adds that the SFBC is still trying 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.”

One explanation is that a continuous protected lane would be feasible if the agency decided to remove more parking. While the anti-bike lane ”Save Polk Street” merchants are sowing fear about removing parking on a street where 85 percent of people arrive without a car, making it a more inviting place for biking and walking will not kill businesses. In fact, since bikes take up so much less space than cars, with a safer bikeway, more people would be able to access Polk than under the dangerous status quo.

While it’s no substitute for attending tonight’s meeting, you can also sign an online petition from Folks for Polk, a group organized in support of the safest options for Polk Street. Currently the petition has amassed 670 signatures. The group is also creating a list of businesses that prioritize safety improvements over a few parking spaces, where protected bike lane supporters can spend their money.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at the First Congregational Church Fellowship Hall at 1300 Polk St (at Bush) from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.