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Bicycle Infrastructure

Tonight: Tell the SFMTA What You Think About Its Proposal for a Safer Polk

Thanks to Lisa Ratner for shooting this video on Polk last Friday.

This evening's open house community meeting is your chance to tell the SFMTA what you think of its proposal for Polk Street, which, according to Supervisor David Chiu and SFMTA planners, will make the street safe enough for a broad range of San Franciscans to bike on.

As we've reported, the plan includes a partial protected bike lane in the southbound direction. For nine blocks, between California and Union Street, the SFMTA's proposal includes only minimal improvements for bicycle safety -- certainly not enough to invite mothers to ride with children -- in an effort to preserve car parking for merchants, one of whom tried try to stop Streetsblog from filming the street after a bike crash.

Here's a refresher on the full plan [PDF], which encompasses 20 blocks of Polk, between McAllister and Union Streets.

The 11-block southern segment between McAllister and California will include a raised, protected bike lane with bike traffic signals. The northbound side of that segment will include a green, buffered bike lane that, depending on the block, will run either curbside (without parking) or next to the parking lane.

On the nine-block segment between California and Union, only a southbound, green-painted bike lane will be added, placed between parked cars and moving cars. Most of the day, the northbound direction won't include a bike lane at all -- riders will still be forced to mix with motor vehicles, much like you see in the video above. Curbside parking will be banned on that side of the street to make room for bikes during morning commute hours, but at other times, the only provision for cycling will be green-backed sharrows in the traffic lane.

Fortunately, the plan will include all of the pedestrian improvements originally proposed, including sidewalk bulb-outs, more visible crosswalks, and greening. The traffic signals could also be timed for slower, bike-friendly speeds.

But the main reason the SFMTA watered down bike safety improvements was to preserve 95 percent of the parking within a block of Polk between California and Union -- an attempt to appease parking-obsessed merchants. Meanwhile, an average of two people are hit while walking or biking on Polk every month, and 83 percent of people on the street arrive without a car.

More people could get to businesses on Polk if it had bike lanes separated from motor traffic that most San Franciscans feel comfortable bicycling on. But as long as street accommodates only strong and fearless cyclists, access to Polk will be limited.

The open house will take place at the Old First Church Fellowship Hall at 1751 Sacramento Street (at Van Ness Avenue) between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

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