Long-Delayed Polk Contra-Flow Protected Bike Lane Jumpstarted by DPW

DPW crews at work today on the contra-flow protected bike lane at Polk and Grove. Photo: ##https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152313261576833&set=a.87035811832.99215.24379801832&type=1&theater##SFBC/Facebook##

In a surprising development, the Department of Public Works broke ground today on a contra-flow, protected bike lane on the two southernmost blocks of Polk Street, from Market to Grove Streets (at City Hall), which are currently one-way southbound. By Bike to Work Day, two of the city’s busiest bicycling streets are expected to be linked with the first bike lane in San Francisco to be protected with a landscaped median, against the flow of motor traffic.

The short but vital connection, first proposed by the city ten years ago and included in the SF Bike Plan, was threatened with yet another year of delay due to poor coordination and a missed contracting deadline. But DPW Director Mohammed Nuru was apparently convinced by the SF Bike Coalition that the project should become a top priority. The SFBC credits Nuru with kickstarting construction, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

“When they see there’s a problem, there’s often more they can do to get things back on track, and they were able to do it in this case,” she said. “I can’t emphasize how important these two blocks are for so many people. This is going to be a game-changer for helping people ride where they need to go in a safer, more legitimate way.”

Currently, bicycle commuters have no legal way to turn from eastbound Market onto northbound Polk, except to travel a block ahead to Larkin, a one-way, heavily-trafficked three lane street with no bike lane. They must then turn left onto Grove to get back on to Polk.

To access the new contra-flow bike lane, which will replace an existing car parking lane, people bicycling on eastbound Market will have a new bike box to wait in at the intersection with 10th Street before making the turn on to Polk.

“With all the new developments, this is going to be a great way to connect a whole new community in mid-Market with the businesses on Polk Street,” said Shahum.

It’s important to note that the contra-flow lane project is being managed separately from the contested plans for partial protected bike lanes for Polk north of McAllister Street.

The existing southbound bike lane on the southern stretch of Polk will also be widened with a buffer zone and plastic posts on teh block south of Hayes Street, said DPW spokesperson Rachel Gordon. Since that bike lane runs between a parking lane and traffic lanes, it’s unclear if parking will be removed on that side of the street. No southbound bike lane improvements appeared in the Bike Plan design as of 2012, and they appear to be a recent addition.

The plan for a contra-flow bike lane on Polk at Market. New improvements to the existing southbound bike lane are not shown. Click to enlarge.
  • timsmith

    This is awesome. But wouldn’t the “first to flow against motor traffic” be the downhill lane on Conservatory Drive in Golden Gate Park?

  • disqus_e4qPyvtwW2

    YAY! just need something on 10th street connecting south of market and the mission and we’re good to go

  • shamelessly

    And then if there was just a way to legally get from the Duboce bikeway, heading south, to Market St. heading east, without using the sidewalk.

  • Transplant206

    I’m just excited for the Linea construction to wrap up. The Market/Bikeway connection has been a mess both directions lately.

  • shamelessly

    I hear you, but even without the construction, I feel like the only safe, legal option for making that move is to walk my bike on the sidewalk. I’ve tried hanging out on the corner waiting for the light, but when cars make that right turn, I feel too exposed.

  • Mario Tanev

    Is there going to be a Market-Valencia-like left-turn pocket? How does one get from Market to Polk? By merging into the train tracks?

  • My understanding is there will be a turn box to wait in, presumably next to the bike-share station.

  • mikesonn

    That one isn’t separated though.

  • This will be a huge benefit to me–I will use it to get to City Hall, the Opera House, the Symphony and the AMC Van Ness. (That’s about as far up Polk as I’m generally willing to go. The theater there has somewhat secure bike parking.) Right now turning onto Larkin and dealing with that mini-freeway is a miserable experience. Thank you SFBC and the DPW.

  • IHeartPandas

    This is wonderful! Thank you SFBC and DPW!!

    On a related note: how do people go south on Polk to Howard? The lane ends at Market and merging with the traffic on Fell scares the crap out of me. I end up turning left on to Grove, to go Hyde/8th, use the bike lane on 8th to get to Howard. Any tips/pointers?

  • Chris J.

    To make progress like this in such a central area is awesome. Great to hear!

    Another critical spot a block away that can use some help is turning left onto Market from 11th Street (for getting onto westbound Market from westbound Howard). Currently, that intersection is marked right-turn only onto Market, so it’s not clear what bicyclists are supposed to be doing once they hit Market.

  • Guest

    Here’s a picture of approaching Market from 11th Street (courtesy of Google maps street view) a block away from Polk and Market.

  • Mark Dreger

    Likewise the turn from WB Market to 11th St – fortunately this movement is legal, though quite harrowing.

  • Chris J.

    Hmm, Disqus’s attachment feature is buggy.

  • True, I love that lane. But it would be better yet if that road wasn’t a short cut for cars to Arguello.

  • Great news! Made my evening.

    Speaking of contra-flow bike lanes, a similar stretch to this would be stockon between market and the stockon tunnel. The tunnel has a bike lane in the northern direction, but there’s no good way to get to that bike lane from market. The best is two blocks out of your way and one dangerous block of riding along sutter.

  • Upright Biker

    Totally agree. I live in North Beach, and having to walk my bike for a two block stretch or go all the way around to Grant Street seems like a needless diversion.

    I think we should ping Leah and lobby for that as the next shouldn’t-be-that-difficult-to-do traffic flow change.

    Bet the hotel on the corner of Sutter and Stockton doesn’t share our view, however.

  • Chris J.

    Yeah, I was biking there last night, and there are no safe northbound routes in that area from Market. For example, to get north of Union Square from the south end of Market Street, Google maps directs bicyclists five extra blocks past Powell Street to Sutter, and then back west five blocks. That’s quite a detour!

  • Bruce Halperin

    One word: FINALLY! Jogging over to Larkin is such a pain when riding uphill from the Mission/SoMa.

  • Bruce Halperin

    This isn’t the first bike lane in the city to flow against motor traffic. That would be Lyell Street between Alemany and Still Streets, near Glen Park BART.

  • Bruce Halperin

    I usually turn left onto Mission instead and then climb up McCoppin to Market/Octavia.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Until the construction at 10th/Market is complete (and maybe even after that), that’s probably the best way.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Forgot about that one. There’s also Lyell Street in Glen Park, which is separated with a painted buffer.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Grant Street is relatively calm, though there are no bicycle facilities south of Post (there are sharrows for two blocks north of it). The very least they could do is paint sharrows on Grant all the way from Market to Sutter.

  • Ah, that’s right! Forgot about that. I removed the claim.

  • SFnative74

    Actually, Conservatory Drive East in Golden Gate Park was the first.

  • M.

    ‘I think we should ping Leah and lobby for that.’ SFBC’s plate is quite full w/ ‘fires’ to lobby for all over SF. So, you first, UB.

  • M.

    The MTA stated that they put in turn boxes (e.g. on Market) to keep cyclists out of the ped crosswalks but it doesn’t work. If we want more sane cycling infrastrux, we gotta encourage our mates to know what’s expected of them.

  • vcs

    Because of the transit island, its unclear how you could make a safe left turn from 11th Street. Also @twinpeaks_sf:disqus left turn on Market is not a legal movement except for Muni streetcars.

  • Agreed! Can’t wait to check this out.

  • Mark Dreger

    You’re right, there’s that small little sign by the BofA ATMs. Hmm.. At Market & 2nd, they recently legislated (and installed new signs) allowing bikes to join Muni in being able to legally turn from NB 2nd to WB Market. Perhaps the same could be done here – esp since 11th St is so much more pleasant to ride on than 8th St. Though I would suggest some place for people to wait+yield. Maybe something similar to the recent reconfiguration at Market & Valencia, or a waiting area behind the boarding island.

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