The SF Municipal Transportation Agency has taken protected bike lanes off the table for 14 of 20 blocks of Polk Street under its latest design options [PDF].
The agency, it seems, has backed down from making bicycling on Polk safe enough for a broader range of San Franciscans, in order to placate merchants who have vociferously opposed removing a small percentage of parking to make room for safety improvements that could actually boost business on a street where 85 percent of people arrive without a car.
Instead, the SFMTA’s most ambitious proposal for Polk between Geary and Union Streets only includes bike lanes that, depending on the block, would run either curbside (without parking) or in the door zone — the kinds of bike lanes that only make a relatively small percentage of people feel comfortable enough to ride.
No longer included are options [PDF] presented by the agency in December which would have provided bike lanes that run along the curb consistently, with some stretches protected from traffic by parking lanes.
“The city is setting its sights too low if they’re not committing to a truly family-friendly bikeway that really does offer people of all ages and skill levels a safe place to ride,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We know Polk Street is already one of the more intimidating places for people walking and biking, and we also know there’s a major problem with dooring.”
In all, the SFMTA now provides three design options for the two sections of Polk — north and south of Geary. For both sections, the SFMTA has included an option that would essentially maintain the status quo for bicycling conditions, making no changes to the bike lanes except for some new green paint.
In terms of the amount of parking that could be removed, SFMTA staff said the range for these options is between 4 to 14 percent of the 2,100 on-street spaces within a block of the corridor. (When off-street parking is taken into account, for a total supply of 5,100 spaces, our calculations put the range at 1.6 percent to 6 percent.)
On the six-block stretch of Polk south of Geary to McAllister, the SFMTA does provide an option for protected bike lanes that would eliminate northbound motor traffic (precluding a potential re-route of the 19-Polk onto the street) and preserve much of the parking. Another option for that stretch would create buffered bike lanes with mixed levels of protection, running curbside on some stretches, between parked cars and moving cars on others.
Regardless of the options chosen, SFMTA planners said they would add all of the proposed pedestrian safety upgrades, like corner bulb-outs, re-timing traffic signals for slower speeds, and daylighting to improve visibility at corners.