Tonight: Final Open House on a Safer Polk Street

Left: a “Save Polk Street” flyer. Right: A parody from an anonymous satirist. Photos: Folks for Polk/Twitter

Tonight is the SFMTA and Planning Department’s final open house on the Polk Street redesign, the last chance to weigh in on the agency’s preferred design before it goes to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval. As you can see from the above flyer, the parking-obsessed “Save Polk Street” group is still fighting against safety measures in order to hang on to the small amount of car storage the SFMTA proposes to remove.

Meanwhile, an anonymous satirist posted a parody flyer countering some of the opposition nonsense. Perplexingly, the Save Polk Street flyer accuses the SFMTA of not approving pedestrian bulb-outs in the plan. As the parody flyer points out, it was none other than Save Polk Street that protested the bulb-outs and any measures that remove parking. (“Why did the bullies say ‘no’ to the bulbouts MTA supported for their God-given right to parking? … WHY? WHY? WHY?”)

A second satirical flyer. Photo: Folks for Polk/Twitter

The proposed design calls for a southbound, green-painted bike lane between parked cars and moving cars on the nine-block segment of Polk between California and Union Streets. The northbound direction will only have a bike lane during the morning commute hours — the rest of the day, riders will still be forced to mix with motor vehicles. While the bike lane is in effect, curbside parking won’t be allowed (hence the top of Save Polk Street’s flyer reading, “$500 TOW AWAY!”). At other times, the only provision for cycling will be green-backed sharrows in the traffic lane.

The 11-block southbound segment between McAllister and California Streets 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.

A city survey found that the top priority for people who live, work, and shop on Polk was safer conditions for walking and bicycling — easily eclipsing the importance people placed on car storage on a street where 85 percent of people arrive without a car. In November, the SFMTA Board required that planners present them with a pilot project option for a full-length bike lane.

The SFMTA planners will be on hand to discuss the proposals at the open house, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the auditorium of Tenderloin Elementary School at 627 Turk Street, between Polk and Van Ness Avenue.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Went to the first half of the meeting. Really great turnout by the complete streets friendly people. Save Polk (parking) was there as well but they couldn’t bring the numbers they’ve brought in the past. I’m hoping SFMTA was listening to our comments about how unacceptable their current design is, with a class 2 bike lane heading south and sharrows north of California.

  • Greg

    Folks that live in this hood have realized that their participation in the process is meaningless. The public meetings are just for show. The SFMTA/SFBC is going to do what they want regardless of how the impacted people who live there feel.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Sounds like you haven’t been paying attention since the SFMTA has changed the plans multiple times throughout the process based on public input. This is also an SF Planning and economic development revitalization corridor which is literally “we’re spending money to make your street better” kind of project. Hard to get upset about that.

  • @Greg – The operative verb there being “feel.” I prefer that city policy be reality- and data-driven, not held hostage to those who “feel” like screaming about Agenda 21 conspiracy theories.

  • @Greg – Speaking of which, the SFMTA and SFBC are remarkably different entities.

  • Upright Biker

    And not only have they changed the plan @Greg, they’ve changed it in ways that are responsive to the “feelings” of a very vocal minority that in many cases do not even live nearby, and away from the rational, data-driven majority of daily Polk Street users who want more bulb-outs and bike lanes to make the street a demonstrably better “hood” in which to live.

    But since you clearly didn’t go to the meeting and others such as @coolbabybookworm:disqus did, how can you possibly fault the outcome?

  • Greg

    Please cite me to the data (that is driving this change) that shows a majority of daily Polk Street users want more bike lanes.

  • coolbabybookworm

    55% of respondents want increased bike improvements to upper Polk and 56% to lower Polk, and that’s given the split between their confusing 3 alternatives that were proposed last year. Only 17% of respondents drive to Polk street and yet parking is cited as a main concern over safety for one of the most dangerous streets for biking AND walking.

  • Upright Biker

    Thanks @coolbabybookworm:disqus you beat me to the punch!

  • Greg

    Page 16 of the study you cite ACTUALLY says that 66% of residents and local merchants favor MINIMAL CHANGES to Upper Polk and 54% of residents and local merchants favor minimal changes to Lower Polk. The other choice in this survey was for bike lanes/bike improvements. Thus, a majority of the locals said no to the proposed bike lanes.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I hope you read the rest of the report because that’s not the only consideration and the residents and merchants aren’t the only factor in making decisions for the street. You also asked for Polk street users, which would be the numbers I cited not the ones you referred to. The data is the same, but how it is used and interpreted is going to differ.

    But, all of this does serve to disprove your original comment that feedback isn’t taken into consideration or that going to meetings doesn’t matter. The plans for bike lanes have been significantly reworked over the last year and a half. That said, I’d be perfectly fine with you not coming to any community meetings.

  • Bob Gunderson

    After this, when’s the next final meeting?

  • Greg

    The survey doesn’t say anything about “Polk street users”. As stated, its says most local residents and merchants don’t want the bike lanes. That was my only point. The “data” upright biker references does not exist.

  • M.

    At the Open House last night, Dan Kowalski, a leader of the Save Polk St. Coalition and owner of Flip at Polk and Green told me that they had nothing to do with the ‘$500 Fine’ posters. Previously, Kowalski threatened legal challenge if they weren’t listened to and the SPSC and the MPNA branded themselves as united with their black ‘Save Polk Street’ T-shirts. Now, however, Kowalski’s disavowal makes sense in that the MTA heeded the input from him and other persistent members, including the owner of Cheese Plus (who has applied for a parklet near his store) and that’s reflected in the current design.

    Merchants along Polk have never been of one mind, contrary to what the SPSC has publicly claimed; many have always been in favor of the SFMTA proposal that maximizes safety and increases vitality. Folks for Polk has been collecting letters from them and begun presenting them to City agencies. We also know that there are plenty of internecine conflicts and commercial competition within their ranks such that between that and the SPSC campaign, they’ve been rightly concerned about speaking up.
    Also at the Open House, Supe David Chiu repeated his concern that delay due to challenges could cause funding to time-out and be lost. That’s despite his having spearheaded the 20/20 Resolution and championed protected cycleways a couple of years ago. I noted that there are at least 3 laws that mandate sustainability and safety for all and that a skillful, pre-emptive air-tight defense by the City would stop such action in it’s tracks and could even halt the lunatic cycle that all infrastructure initiatives now follow. #CourageousLeadership.
    The anonymous ‘Polk Sanity Satirist’ alerted us to their poster campaign and we applaud their action in response to the ludicrous effort to again spread disinformation and alarm about the Polk St. redesign.

  • coolbabybookworm

    The survey asks how you use Polk street so the survey pool is made up of different kinds of users. The Stakeholder Feedback then shows which option residents and local merchants chose (separate from the pool of those surveyed) and what bike riders chose (separate from the pool of those surveyed). I asked you before to read the project update, now I see that’s beyond your abilities.

  • M.

    the real real final final meeting is the design presentation to the SFMTA Board which is slated to happen in July or August

  • M.

    Listening and implementing are completely different. If those who don’t listen to facts and demand whatever based on misinformation and/or their own narrow interests, then we can politely can listen but they have no call to demand that their desires actually be acted on. And yes, there really are fundamental design principles that carry proof that they really work to move communities forward, though their details may change a bit over time.

  • M.

    READ the vast world literature that repeatedly confirms that slower speed and active transport positively affect health and economic vitality

  • M.
  • planning5

    It was a much more subdued meeting than the previous ones, with less turnout, but it seemed productive – or at least less argumentative.

    I did think the intersection of Pine/Polk and Broadway/Polk still needs more calming. A couple of people suggested a scramble at Broadway, but the MTA rep said that the numbers of people who would use it are below the level that would justify putting it in, say compared to Montgomery Street.

    At Pine/Polk, which is really the worst intersection for fire-breathing, anxious automobile traffic, I thought that a flashing yellow light or two – as in school zones – with a warning sign saying “busy pedestrian crossing ahead” might be helpful.

    I also wondered why there was so much need to eliminate parking on the east side of Polk in the morning hours for northbound bike traffic, that most people seem to be going the other direction, down towards Market Street. The MTA rep said that they found the morning hours mix was actually 40/60%.

    Unfortunately the parklet in front of Quextzal cafe might have to be eliminated. It’s a very popular sunny spot on Polk Street in the afternoons (Polk Gulch has no parks). Not sure about the ones in front of Jerbena at Geary or the Crepe House at Washington.

    Interesting that one of the corners at Vallejo or Green and Polk
    doesn’t have bulbouts on all corners because UPS trucks, and perhaps some
    other delivery trucks, can’t make that uphill/downhill turn.

    Regarding bike lane markings, a designer pointed out the inconsistency of southbound bike lane lane designations from block to block between Ellis and Golden Gate Streets – and that these differences would be confusing to motorists. Some are dotted with or without a solid line, others are solid and hug the curb as they make right turns.

    The MTA rep said that two of intersections would have special signals that would give bicyclists a green right “arrow” whereas the other intersections wouldn’t and so they would be marked differently. The dedicated right turn signals were very expensive and the costs weren’t justified for use at the other places. And south of Golden Gate there are even slightly different markings because those lanes were put in by a different agency.

  • NoeValleyJim

    If that were only true. The original design had protected bike lanes in both directions the whole way. This would be consistent with MTA and BoS policy.

    Unfortunately a few vocal business owners, most of whom commute in from the suburbs, derailed the project to serve their own interests and hurt the neighborhood.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Did you actually read it Greg, or is your selection bias so bad that you actually cannot comprehend what it says?

    45% of respondents wanted two bike lanes on Upper Polk and 6% wanted one. That means 51% wanted a bike lane on Upper Polk. 45 plus 6 equals 51. Do you agree Greg?

    36% wanted a buffered bike lane on Lower Polk and 20% wanted an even more extreme change to make Polk one way and add two buffered bike lanes. 20 plus 36 equals 56.

    51% and 56% are both majorities, right Greg?

    Can we agree on some basic math here?

  • NoeValleyJim

    It is amazing how you just keep repeating the same falsehoods. You are starting to embarrass yourself here.

  • murphstahoe

    including the owner of Cheese Plus (who has applied for a parklet near his store

    I don’t have it in me for the schadenfreude of showing up to the meetings on that one and saying that due to the loss of parking from the bike lane changes, a parklet is a bad idea.

  • M.

    Greg – Kudos to you for wading into this debate. We’ll assume that you’ve done so not only to troll, but to see different points of view. So here’s a scenario to try on: Let’s say you commute on Polk St. in your car 10x/week min. and a few people in the Corridor randomly decide they want no traffic lights, no traffic signage, no median stripes, and no speed limits, despite irrefutable evidence and standards of practice confirming that those measures create safety and order on the road. Still, the minority insists that a few lives and the $ costs of the ensuing crashes are a small price (for others) to pay for unencumbered driving freedom. That minority are entitled to express their opinions and the City may even be obliged to hear them. However, the minority may not misinform and spread panic and the City is not obliged to act on their misguided demands. And I’d reckon you’d be very happy they didn’t. Walking and cycling amenities included in the SFMTA’s original proposal are being put in place rapidly all over the US and the world with very good reason – they work for everyone.

  • M.

    Schadenfreude indeed. Staying in the game also requires a deeply uncomfortable level of obsessive grit. The only thing more uncomfortable is the thought of selfish, know-nothing bullies scuttling our future – and our lives.

  • This proposal is an improvement but still a horrible design that still puts the cyclists in very dangerous situations. Cyclists have to watch out for right turning vehicles that cut the turn too close and or don’t look/yield to cyclists to the right of their vehicle. Cyclists going northbound will have to evade opening car doors from parked cars, pushing the cyclist out into lane traffic. Cyclists get pushed into traffic by taxis and other vehicles when they park (double parking) on top of the designated bike paths because there is no protection of the path (curbs or plastic bollards) from vehicles, only paint. There is also no safe way for cyclists to do a left hand turn. In order to do so a cyclist must cross into the ongoing traffic lane (be hopeful that a vehicle behind them sees them stopped in the intersection), and negotiate a left turn across oncoming traffic, while negotiating pedestrians that are in the cross-walk. All of these scenarios are very dangerous to the cyclist and to potential pedestrians in crosswalks and to drivers entering and exiting their parked vehicles.

    Most cyclists that I know of and that I see riding around in the city, tend to ride fast in order to stay ahead of the cars. The only way to stay safe in this city is to stay ahead of the traffic, because a driver is more likely to see you in front of them then behind them or in their blind spot. Ask anyone that rides a motorcycle and they will tell you the same. Motorists can tend to be pretty rude when a cyclist takes up a lane in order to protect themselves from opening doors of parked cars. I’ve had times where I’ve tried to take up only a third of the right side of the lane in order to stay safe from opening doors from parked cars when a car will dangerously pass me to my left because they are in a hurry. In my experience most car drivers do not respect cyclists in the street as they would motorcycle. So in order to protect myself I will sometimes have to take the whole lane in order to protect myself and anyone else around me. The last thing I want to do is to hit a pedestrian crossing the street or one that is trying to enter or exit their vehicle.

    After some very quick research there are ways of providing a very safe environment for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers that have been proven to work and that have been implemented as a standard. This proposal seems to care more about the retailers and not the general safety of those commuting to/from/through the community. The additions of the bulb outs and street scape improvements only increase the amount of danger that a cyclist must go through. You can view this video to see what safe bike lanes and intersections should look like: You can read more about it here:

  • M.

    The redesign/repaving funding isn’t from an econ dev budget. However, we can rightly be upset that the City (MOEWD) has just awarded at least $15K as an Invest in Neighborhoods Grant to the ringleaders of opposition to progress. What is that money going for? Street banners proclaiming, ‘Middle Polk, a village in the City.’

  • M.

    66% of people can feel that gravity doesn’t exist but it doesn’t change the fact that it does and we need to proceed as if it does.


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