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 ## 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.

  • Anonymous

    My take on why pedestrians fear bikes (a) unlike cars, bikes are quiet and small so they surprise people on foot; (b) bikes ride closer to the edge of the road so they’re closer to peds; (c) people ride on the sidewalk which is where peds expect to be safe; (d) the last thing peds want is to have to be on guard for a new and different danger.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly at this point there isn’t a lot that’s going to change SPS folks’ minds, but I also think they’re a pretty small minority. Most of the people I saw there that were concerned about driving and parking (but not necessarily save polk ppl) were still listening and nodding when we had conversations about how daylighting makes an intersection safer and that that means some parking removal. Does that mean they now want protected bikeways? Not a chance. But it does mean they understand that a 5% parking reduction for pedestrian upgrades is necessary. At this point, I’m taking what I can get in terms of improvements 🙂

    My comment was targeted more at the overall process, if we could get the accident facts, the transit facts, the money facts, etc. at the very beginning before parking loss or bike lanes are even mentioned then it might be easier to move forward. Although I guess that did happen in December and this is in response to the flare up from Save Polk so maybe there is no way forward with consensus and SFMTA and city gov is gonna have to make a hard decision.

  • Mike

    I bicycle for very selfish reasons – it’s faster, funner, and cheaper than everything else, and it helps keep me in shape. Not degrading the environment? That’s a great byproduct. How many cyclists truly consider their actions some sort of a sacrifice for a greater good rather than an act that promotes their self interest? Let’s get real.

  • mikesonn

    Wrong, we are providing facts showing that their customers are coming to them by walking/transit/biking at a 85% clip. They are just sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring reality. Numbers are numbers, no moral superiority at issue.

  • Anonymous

    We’re not just asserting our “moral superiority.” We’re trying to overcome the merchants’ perception. They refuse to listen to any argument.

  • Anonymous

    “This gives you a smug feeling of moral superiority”

    Only because it gives us *actual* moral superiority.

  • voltairesmistress

    Karen, you got that right. From many conversations I’ve had with them, I’ve figured out the same thing. Most of the Save Polk Street backers are immune to data or facts. Worse, they despise cyclists, and say so if they think they are among allies. Don’t anyone believe a rare word of their lip service about bike safety. This will be a long struggle. But let’s not misdiagnose the problem. It’s not ignorance of the facts; it’s willful ignorance and self-interest parading as community care.

  • Anonymous

    while this may be true to an extent, I always find it interesting when people I know w/ families who are more conservative and drive everywhere seem to think that global warming won’t harm their children or grandchildren or even themselves. “It’s too far into the future, we’ll all be dead” *record drought causes food prices to go up* *another year of record lack of rainfall in California* etc.

  • Anonymous

    @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus I agree, I heard some shockingly disturbing things from people associated with Save Polk Street. My comment was more SFMTAs approach to the city in general and community processes moving forward. I think the lines are pretty drawn in the sand for Polk street.

    There were a lot of people (most of them) at the meeting that weren’t associated with Save Polk Street but had been far too exposed to their rhetoric and misinformation and I had some productive conversations with them. I think it’s SFMTAs role to make sure that at their open houses and community meetings that the basic facts have been collected and are presented.

  • voltairesmistress

    coolbaby, you may be right that SFMTA needs to gather and present a lot of information prior to or at the same time that they preview street design changes. Had that been done with Polk, the Save Polk ppl would not have had the fertile ground of fear and rumor to support their misinformation. As it is, the plans look bad for bicyclists on significant portions of Polk yet good for pedestrians. So maybe instead of having one pedestrian and one bicyclist injury each per month, we’ll get down to just injuring a cyclist each month who, no doubt, will be accused by the Polk dinosaurs of causing his/her own collisions.

    I am already changing my spending habits on Polk to spend less or nothing at shops whose owners have actively promoted continued danger for cyclists — Brownie’s Hardware, Russian Hill Book Store, the Kitchen Store, Bow Wow Meow, Nick’s tacos, the liquor store at Pine, Flipp, etc. Do I expect that to change anything? No. But I feel better supporting merchants who respect me when I arrive by whatever mode.

  • families they are dooming…

  • One correction. They despise pedestrians too. I have it on tape.

  • Anonymous

    I think that SFMTA gave the impression, express or implied, that the protected bike lane was a slam dunk and the March meeting was just window dressing. This put the Polk Street Merchants up in arms. If the public engagement had been handled better, the proposal would have had a better chance of getting accepted.

  • Anonymous

    the March meeting wasn’t an SFMTA meeting. It was a Middle Polk Merchants Association meeting.

  • Anonymous

    Now you are hairsplitting. I never said it was an SFMTA meeting. It was a meeting at which SFMTA made a presentation.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see it as splitting hairs. You wrote that the SFMTA’s attitude toward the March meeting “put the Polk Street Merchants up in arms.” I pointed out that they were up in arms at the meeting even before Ed Reiskin’s presentation.

  • Anonymous

    Because the SFMTA treated the bike lane as a done deal. They failed to engage the community and Reiskin’s presentation did nothing to assuage them. But hey, the merchants support Option A, so there will be a bike lane on Polk Street.

  • Anonymous

    Why do you assume they treated the bike lane as a done deal? The public review period hadn’t come yet. I agree that Reiskin’s presentation at the MPNA meeting lacked information, but nothing had been finalized yet. What the MPNA and Save Polk did was kill any buffered bike lane options before they were even roughed out.

    …and Option A doesn’t include a bike lane– it’s all sharrows north of Geary (just like it is today).

  • voltairesmistress

    Really?!! I find that astounding, since demonizing bike riders is all about making our means of transportation seem frivolous. Since all of us are pedestrians part of the day, how does one make that alien? What did they say on tape?

  • Henry

    Those of you who support the Polk project with wider sidewalks and protected bike lanes are advised to come to these two meetings:

    Middle Polk Neighborhood Association May Meeting
    Monday, May 20th, 6:30pm
    It’s A Grind, 1800 Polk St @ Washington, San Francisco

    Nob Hill Neighbors Spring Meeting
    Tentatively Scheduled For Wednesday, May 22nd, will post more details as date gets closer.
    Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St, San Francisco

    (They are actually leaning towards against, but they aren’t really involved in Save Polk Street).

  • In a discussion about safety as respect to cars, the answer was “I think the SFPD needs to start enforcing the laws on pedestrians and cyclists”. It turns out that every pedestrian (other than themselves of course) is literally doing a permanent jaywalking dance up and down Polk Street, and that’s why they get hit.

  • keenplanner

    SFMTA drops the ball again.

  • Anonymous

    Many people regard the SFMTA as captive to the SF Bicycle Coalition. Consider that the Polk Street bike lane was first proposed in September 2011 Did the SFMTA engage the merchants at that time?

  • Anonymous

    The shopowners have a vested interest in the street; their very livelihood depends on it, while bicyclists are just passing through. All they re interested in is a quick way to get from the Civic Center to the Northern Waterfront. They have no connection to the community.

  • gneiss

    That’s simply not true. What is more true is that motorists driving through have no connection to the community. Only 15% of the people who shop on Polk arrive by car.

  • Anonymous

    Multiple studies as well as common sense show that pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users spend more time and money locally than car drivers. Additionally it’s been shown that store owners often overestimate how many of their customers are arriving by car.

  • mikesonn

    A cyclist’s vested interest is surviving. And gneiss is right, a motorist is WAY less likely to stop and shop than a cyclist or pedestrian as the numbers already show is the case.

  • I presume, mr chazz, that you think we should completely discount the statements of the motorists of the Sunset and Richmond with regards to any changes on Fell and Oak, who are solely interested in a quick way to get to downtown from the outer neighborhoods?

  • Wow – a new shop. Well, nowhere to park, screw it.

    Wow – a new shop. I’ll just lock my bike up to the rack.

    There is no way to scale parking of cars to that level, even if you added a free parking garage, the cost of driving into the garage, weaving up to a spot, parking, and walking out of the garage is a deterrent to random exploration.

  • I just checked the stats from 2009 American Community Survey info. (Wish there were more recent data.) Polk Street passes through three neighborhoods–Civic Center (from Market to Bush), Nob Hill (from Bush to Broadway), and Russian Hill ( from Broadway to the water.) In 2009, 2/3 of all households in these three neighborhoods did not own cars. (I would bet the rate is higher now.) Two thirds.

    No wonder so few people are coming to Polk by auto. Who exactly benefits from parking on Polk Street? Who exactly is it for?

    I don’t know why merchants think they are losing business by not having parking. I have on occasion biked down Polk Street. In 19 years of living in this city I have never driven to Polk Street to visit a store or restaurant. Why would I? What does Polk Street or its merchants offer better or different than I can find on Clement, Valencia (and other parts of the Mission), Noe Valley or Cole Valley? All these areas are less dirty and noisy, have better shops, and are more pleasant and fun to visit. All are less stressful to access by bike. The upper part of Polk Street is nice (though it mostly has businesses I can find closer to home) but as a bicyclist, you have to go through the gauntlet of lower and mid Polk to get there. Without some change on lower and mid Polk, that area will remain squalid and the businesses marginal to failing.

    Polk connects the Civic Center to Ghiradelli Square and Fort Mason. Not only would merchants on Polk be more successful if parking were reduced and bike lanes put in, if Polk had no cars at all, only peds, bikes and transit, Polk would blossom and the merchants of Polk would do 300% more business instantly. It is just fear, stupidity and laziness holding them back. The SFMTA is not doing them a kindness by caving to it.

  • gneiss

    If I was a merchant who had heavy or bulky items at my store in a dense urban environment, I’d try and be creative rather than reactionary. Instead of arguing that having ‘heavy or bulky items’ means their customers need to have on street parking, why not offer a delivery service for those items. If you banded together with other merchants, you could even spread the costs so it wouldn’t necessarily be an onerous financial burden. There’s no reason why shopping needs to be coupled with having to carry things away. Certainly furniture and appliance stores don’t anticipate you’ll carry away the items – that can certainly be extended to other things as well. Offering that service to your neighbors would be a good way of gaining trust and good will too.

    As a final note – I would be more concerned about preserving foot traffic to my store than car traffic or parking. Last I checked, cars don’t walk into stores and buy stuff.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah an example of a similar understanding is Harringtons, a consignment furniture store on 17th and Valencia. They share space with a public bikes shop and seem to be doing good business because of how open they are to all the pedestrian and bike traffic.

    I forget if they have a loading zone, but you could make a convincing argument that parking in front of their store would harm the business more than a permanent loading zone.

  • Anonymous

    Plus the vast majority of residents along the Polk corridor don’t own cars–motorists have the *least* vested interest in this fight.

  • Anonymous

    Many people think the moon landing was faked. Many people are wrong.

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, if a signifiicant number of people believe that it is true they will mistrust the SFMTA and oppose its plans

  • mikesonn

    So you’ll just keep repeating that lie, huh?

  • Anonymous

    I’m just trying to tell you what the public perception is outside the bicycle community. If you don’t want to get a clue, it’s your loss not mine.

  • mikesonn

    I understand what you say you are trying to do, but continuing to repeat it again and again is only an attempt to reinforce it.

    These same people don’t believe raw data, their hysteria shouldn’t be taken with any weight and the process should leave them and their fears behind.

  • Anonymous

    You weren’t just trying to tell us at the beginning of this conversation. You were using that mistaken opinion of the Polk Street process as evidence that the MTA was forcing bike lanes on us without input. An apparently self-fulfilling (but fact-free) argument. The MTA forced the bike lanes on us (despite the fact that they made their schedule public and asked for our input) because that’s what the MTA does!

  • M.

    What I presented to Chiu, Lee and Farrell at the Mayor’s Budget Town Hall on May 18:'s%20Budget%20Town%20Hall%2018_5%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf

    We have the numbers and now they heard we have them. We’ve also made great progress in a very short time. There are several hidden players in this game and we’re working on that level, too.

    – FFP

  • M.

    re. numbers:'s%20Budget%20Town%20Hall%2018_5%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf
    What I presented to Chiu, Lee and Farrell at the Mayor’s Budget Town Hall on May 18.

    Nice that you’ve changed your spending habits. We’ve received letters from others who changed merchants’ minds. Why not share where you go now where they are open-minded?

  • M.

    A point we’ve made many, many times tho’ a pod located proximate to the CA cable car and CA 1 bus would be a very good thing.

  • Forthright

    And the delivery would be with what sort of vehicle?!?!


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