SFMTA Board Wants the Option of a Full-Length Bike Lane on Polk

As the vote on the Polk Street redesign approaches in the coming months, the SFMTA Board of Directors last week requested that planners present the board with a pilot project option for bolder bike safety improvements along the length of the project area. Currently, the SFMTA’s preferred option calls only for sharrows and rush-hour parking bans on the northbound segment of the street where merchant opposition is strongest. The southbound side of that stretch would get a conventional, unprotected bike lane.

Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/geekstinkbreath/2148698830/in/photolist-4gSDiy-4h3qdk-4h7siu-4N84tr-4N84zn-4N85FK-4N869v-4N87uK-4N88nR-4N89az-4N89ST-4N8cqt-4N8cW2-4N8daX-4N8dwR-4Ncg3W-4NcgoY-4NchNw-4Ncihw-4Ncj7E-4NcmQs-4NcnBw-4NcoiY-4NcoSW-4NcpvA-5AYeLa-5AYfgn-5AYfnT-5AYfua-5AYfFV-5AYfTg-5AYfV6-5AYfYi-5AYgbg-5AYgCB-5AYgLg-5AYhfn-5AYhAD-5B3uT5-5B3w31-5B3wmd-5B3wyY-5B3wTu-5B3xd5-5B3xEd-5B3xJw-5B3xMf-5B3xQj-5B3xYE-5Yz9Zo-66Y6vx/##Frank Chan/Flickr##

Board member Cheryl Brinkman introduced the resolution, which doesn’t specify a bike lane design but calls for “a pilot plan option, similar to what we have on the agenda for Folsom Street today,” referring to the buffered bike lane currently being installed on that street.

“The safety record speaks loudly for the need to make changes to the street,” Brinkman said at the board meeting. “The five-year pedestrian and bike injury numbers are chilling. Polk Street residents and visitors deserve better. They deserve best practice per the NACTO urban bicycle design guidelines.”

At a June meeting, the SFMTA Board’s Policy and Governance Committee “gave staff feedback that we prefer to see the options which have the greatest safety improvements,” said Brinkman. The intent of a reversible pilot, she said, would be to provide “a measurable way to determine what the impacts will be on safety, and on business.”

“It should be of significant time, should stretch the entire length of the project area, and success or failure metrics should be data-driven,” she said.

So far, the parking-obsessed merchants on Polk have been impervious to data, as has Supervisor David Chiu, but perhaps they’ll come around when improvements are actually on the ground and the sky doesn’t fall.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend, everyone. We’ll be back on Monday.

  • Brad

    Maybe all the bikers should get off their bikes and into cars to clog up ‘your’ streets and take up all ‘your’ parking spaces.

  • Brad

    What a stupid comment. Biking down Polk is an exercise in bravery; it’s impossible to go one block without having to dodge buses, pedestrians, (illegally) double-parked cars, cars not paying attention, pot holes, etc.

  • Greg

    Yes those damn peds/walkers need to get out of the way of the bikers!

  • Brad

    Life would be way more exciting if biker’s chased pedestrians down the sidewalk in the way they’re constantly accused of.

  • Sprague

    Masonic’s redesign will benefit transit riders since Muni buses will no longer have to wait to reenter traffic upon leaving stops – resulting in faster service (most likely at all hours of the day). Furthermore, Muni riders will have safer walks accessing Muni stops on Masonic (with bulbouts the crossing distances will be shorter). If there is additional motor vehicle congestion entering Masonic (ie. northbound at the Panhandle in the morning), Muni buses should be given traffic signal priority or a bus only lane in that area to mitigate such a delay. Those who defend San Francisco’s status quo ignore the great potential redesigned roads have to attract more people to travel by transit and bicycle, thereby reducing congestion (and pollution).

  • Anandakos

    No, it’s not “my tiny interest group”. I don’t even have a bicycle because my knees are too bad to climb hills. I do admit to missing riding, though.

    Cyclists are a group of people who remove demand from other modes of transport. They don’t compete with you for space on the 95+% of the streets of the city which don’t have bicycle lanes. They don’t add ridership to Muni which you have to subsidize with your taxes. They are healthier than you are because they exercise every day, lowering your contribution to health care costs.

    You ought to be grateful for them, you insufferable narcissist. ESAD.

  • NoeValleyJim
  • 94103er

    I’m well aware that this survey pertains to all trips in the city. Read my comment again. I mentioned mode for commuting because that’s a huge chunk of what accounts for trips in the city on a daily basis.

    Oh and BTW, while you’re expounding on accuracy of the report and ‘a problem with the numbers,’ Let’s look at the methodology of this practically useless survey. It’s already 2 years old (lots of bike infrastructure installed since then) and it relies on telephone-solicited responses of 520 people, supposedly ‘weighted by age.’ I can tell you, no one I know under 40 has a land line or answers random survey collectors’ calls on their phones (cell or land line).

    Getting back to the subject of Polk Street (thanks Rob for totally derailing the thread)…the mode share survey conducted on the street there is what the SFMTA needs to use as a model for future info gathering.

  • 94103er

    …Except that about 25 comments ago, I pointed out that your new ‘talking point’ study doesn’t ‘show’ anything resembling a definitive conclusion that cycling is inherently unsafe, any more than similar studies show that walking is inherently unsafe or kids are inherently unsafe when traveling in cars. All these studies show is that underreporting occurs for one reason or another (often it’s the cops screwing up, and/or pedestrians & cyclists don’t get the cops involved because they know they don’t care and won’t file a report if there was no serious property damage or injury).

    The takeaway point is that we can either tolerate the current rate of traffic incidents or we can act to do something about it. Which is why we’re talking about Polk Street. Get back to the subject, Rob.

  • Greg

    Thanks NoeValleyJim. Your citation to six angry drivers (out of 500,000) does indeed prove that I’m an hypocrite by stating bikers are angry. Lol. How much time did you spend creating your post? lol.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Those are all from the last week of reading Streetsblog. It probably took me 30 seconds.

    All are from The Bay Area too.

  • Folks, let’s avoid trying to point fingers and demonize people within imaginary groups. People in San Francisco drive, walk, bike, and take transit — such arguments are based on the false pretense that there are “tribes” which can be pigeonholed by different modes of transport. This gets us nowhere. There’s a much more fruitful discussion to be had on how to improve conditions on streets like Polk, which are currently geared heavily for convenience of people when they’re driving at the expense of their safety when they’re walking and biking.

  • Forthright

    That’s ludicrous, and would never happen. Do you not read the biker’s blogs in this town? There’s no way they’d get into a “cage”! HAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Forthright

    They sure seem to make angry commenters on websites, though!

  • @D6vLTZOMb2:disqus – Speaking of burden of proof, you referred to yourself and your lawyer as “the 99%” on the pretext that only 1% of people bike. One media source quoted you as saying this figure was from “the Census,” but you never actually supported that claim.

    Now it’s “probably more like” 1%? So are you and your lawyer going to rename yourselves “Probably More Like 99%?” Your numbers should be scrutinized by some sort of coalition for adequate review.

  • @D6vLTZOMb2:disqus – I broke my toe once, didn’t file a police report, and it was definitely a “solo fall.” If only there was a pro-pedestrian expert like John Forester around to tell me I wasn’t lawful or competent enough to be an Effective Walker.

    Clearly the only proper way to handle this is to rip out the sidewalks, crosswalks, and other segregated pedestrian facilities on Polk. Q.E.D.

  • @Greg – Credit where it’s due, Rob Anderson does use his real name and keeps his face in the media as the go-to source for anyone who wants a reliable (but unsupported) anti-bike lane opinion:


    “Upright Biker” is the name of the fellow’s easy-to-find blog, with his name and photo. Some time back there was a similar ad hominem kerfuffle in a similar distracting comment thread about “N-Judah Chronicles,” another blog.

  • @Brad – In theory a good idea, though not good enough to justify buying a car. However, somebody opposed to the city’s transit-first policy staged a “Car Critical Mass” some years back, and they went basically unnoticed in all the car traffic. Visibility’s a problem.

  • The city’s bike lobby, with help from fellow travelers like you, is getting City Hall to redesign city streets on behalf of that tiny minority special interest group, but I’m a “narcissist”?

  • Sorry to learn of your reading disorder. The UC study does in fact show that riding a bike is a lot more dangerous than anyone but me thought, since the city has radically under-reported cycling accidents for years. That happened because the city was relying on SFPD reports and ignoring accidents recorded at SF General.

    Since the report goes out of its way to say that “solo falls” or “cyclist only” accidents are just as serious as those involving motor vehicles, there really isn’t anything obvious the city can do to prevent them, except keep the streets in better repair.

    Since according to the city’s own records, Polk Street is not a particularly dangerous street, taking away 200 parking spaces from that neighborhood is really just a power grab by the bike lobby at the expense of that neighborhood.

  • The numbers should be “scrutinized” by City Hall to provide policy makers with a sensible baseline. By accepting the 2.1% commuting percentage back in 2000, the city has consistently over-estimated the number of cyclists on city streets. But then that served the political interests of the bike lobby by inflating the bike fad into a serious transportation “mode.”

  • Duh. Wit doesn’t seem to be your strong suit, Jym. Pro-bike writers like Forester and Hurst simply note that most cycling accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles, which contradicts the demonology created by the anti-car movement around those wicked “death machines,” as the Bay Guardian calls them. And the UC study shows that such accidents can be just as serious as bike/car accidents.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Thanks for the reminder Rob, I just upped my annual donation to Streetsblog, SFBC, and WalkSF.

  • @D6vLTZOMb2:disqus – You’re not going to fool anyone with the “pro-bike” spin. Forester has made it very clear, through decades of invective, that he holds the vast majority of bicyclists in contempt.

  • Look, the solo fall issue is not just about Forester. I just cited him—Robert Hurst and SF’s own Bert Hill—on the consensus that the overwhelming majority of bike accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles.

  • @D6vLTZOMb2:disqus – Actually, the solo fall “issue” is a pointless nontroversy that has nothing to do with this article.

  • Upright Biker

    Me too, @coolbaby!

  • Upright Biker

    I quickly found a reference on Karen Lynn Allen’s blog of a young woman killed on Polk in 2006.

    @RobAnderson, perhaps you should track down the dead woman’s loved ones and ask if they no longer miss her because she shouldn’t have been undertaking such a dangerous activity as bicycling, and are comforted by the brave attempts of a group of caring citizens like yourself to increase the speed and Level of Service for automobiles on Polk and other SF streets, and at the same time maintain lots of parallel street parking to make the whole scene that much more chaotic.

    Especially in this holiday season, I’m certain they’d feel the cheer of your words.

  • Upright Biker

    OH, did I say “cheer?”

    I meant “chill.”

  • One fatality in seven years, about which you know nothing, except that she was riding a bike. No one is talking about increasing the speed of anything but bikes. That’s what the separated bike lanes are about, Upright.

    There are stop signs or stop lights at every intersection on Polk Street, which makes speeding pretty difficult.

    Street parking for cars and trucks on Polk St. makes it “chaotic”? LIke to hear more about that notion.

    All a lot of people on Polk Street are asking is that City Hall pave the street and spare them the “improvements” that benefit primarily cyclists, a small minority, even here in Progressive Land.

  • Upright Biker

    And no auto fatalities in that same period. Clearly you don’t have a daughter.

    Thank goodness for stop signs and traffic lights, or it would be carnage. But that’s what motorists would have if they could.

    How you miss the part about parallel parking making for more chaos is beyond me. Get out of the house much? Ever been on a street where there is no parallel parking?

    A lot more people (pedestrians mostly, but bicyclists also) than a few self-entitled merchants and motorists are asking “why have we given over all our streets, including Polk, so completely to the automobile.

    Up until the advent of the automobile, we didn’t need stop signs. We didn’t need stop lights. We didn’t need meters and markings and the pollution of signage.

    It was called the public right of way, and it has been lost. We are simply aiming to reclaim a small portion of it, and you’re standing in our way.

    But it’s comforting to know you’ll eventually lose.

  • True, but I am offended by Greg’s hate speech rant.

  • Greg

    Most folks in the Russian Hills/Polk Gulc area don’t drive and don’t own a car. Yet they came out against removing parking on Polk for a bike lane. Your assumption that bikers and walkers are aligned in their interests is wrong. The walkers and transit users in SF I know are not in favor of making changes to add biking infrastructure since the bikers here are making it dangerous for us walkers and slow down the buses.

  • NoeValleyJim

    “Most” people in the Russian Hills/Polk Gulch area are opposed to bike lanes? What is your evidence for that statement? Did you do a poll? A survey?

    This is more of your typical making up things as you go along to try and reinforce your personal bias. Most of the people I know who live in Polk Gulch are in favor of traffic calming and bike lanes.

  • coolbabybookworm

    At the SFMTA open houses that I went to it was split pretty evenly between supporters and opponents of improving polk street. That said, the opponents are known for bringing out of town support so it’s hard to say they reflect the neighborhood.

  • IHeartPandas

    “Bikers slow down the buses?”

    Have you looked at traffic during rush hour? It’s a sea of cars blocking buses, NOT bikers.

  • Greg

    lol. oh yes, the residents of Russian Hill paid for all those folks from Oakland to be bused in and cheer against bike lanes at the meetings. Meanwhile, in reality, the SFBC actually did promote the cause/meetings to change Russian Hill to its special interest members across SF which members did show up to advocate to change another neighborhood for their benefit/the residents’ detriment.

  • Greg

    Chui altered course since he determined most of his constituents were not with the plan to put in separated bike lanes on Polk. He’s a politician and is interested in getting elected. He realized the people of his district were not in favor of this so he backed off supporting it.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I didn’t say they bussed people in (these ppl made it clear they’d never take a bus), but they had friends drive to the meeting, at least according to more than one article that was published.

  • IHeartPandas

    Are you saying that if I live in the Marina, I shouldn’t be able to “advocate to change another neighborhood,” even though I ride up and down Polk Street 4x/week, shop there, eat at the restaurants there, and hang out with friends there? Do I no longer have the right to advocate for better biking in the Mission, when I take dance classes in the Mission 3x/week, and often grab food there before/after a class?

    Bringing in support from different neighborhoods in the SAME CITY is vastly different from bringing in “support” from different cities/counties.

  • murphstahoe

    the residents of Russian Hill paid for all those folks from Oakland to be bused in and cheer against bike lanes at the meetings.

    Quickly take a look at the list of business owners on Polk, who commute in from Marin.

  • murphstahoe

    So you’re saying Chui (sic) is a wimp? We already knew that.

  • Greg

    Well, if you live in the Marina…

  • M.

    Clearly, you don’t frequent Polk. Or if you do, you wear blinders and must be one of those drivers who run reds and try to beat yellows and so therefore also don’t see all the cyclists waiting their turn to go.

  • M.

    As noted earlier, selective blindness, Greg.

  • M.

    Thanks for that reminder, Aa.

  • M.

    Untrue. Since most of us are not activists and just go about living our lives, he only heard a very, very small clutch of power-seeking activists who had assiduously whipped others into a panicked frenzy. Though he doesn’t decide the final outcome, he’s hearing otherwise now.

  • M.

    Again Greg, it’s clear you weren’t there and you have incorrect information. The jeering, bullying mob attending that meeting wouldn’t let anyone who disagreed with them (you) speak. Afterward, several merchants boasted that they were told to bring in people from outside SF and they did. A neighborhood group that usually has no more that 10 people at their meetings doesn’t suddenly have a following of 100’s.

  • M.

    Thanks for daylighting the technical obstacles to that plan, JD 🙂

  • M.

    Not quite so. First, the majority in the MTA wants the best – yes, there is a ‘best.’ However, more tolerant citizens haven’t been as vocal so it’s hard for them to get a true picture of what’s out there. In a vacuum of support, imagine the uproar amongst EVERYONE if they forward best practice regardless of public opinion, however misinformed. There is one group that’s created several ways to give voice to reason and the Board and the MTA have heard…


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