Eyes on the Street: Polk Contra-Flow Bike Lane Nearly Ready to Ride

Photo: Tim Papandreou/Twitter

Here’s a little change of pace from the bad news this week. The Polk Street contra-flow protected bike lane, connecting Market Street northbound to Grove Street and City Hall, appears almost ready to go. A Department of Public Works spokesperson said the agency is shooting for a tentative opening date of May 2 or 5 and plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Officials at the SFMTA and DPW seem proud of the project — and rightly so. Photos of the bikeway and median planted with native succulents were tweeted by DPW Director Mohammed Nuru and Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA’s director of strategic planning and policy. DPW surprisingly jumpstarted construction on the bike lane in late January after years of delay, promising completion by Bike to Work Day on May 8.

The project also comes with a couple of bonuses. DPW is installing bulb-outs at the wide intersection of Grove and Polk, and completed one at the northwest corner last week. The pedestrian island and “bike chute” on the north side of Market at Polk were also reconfigured for more practical maneuvering for southbound bike riders. See photos after the break.

Photo: Mohammed Nuru/Twitter
The re-configured “bike chute” for southbound bike riders headed from Polk on to Market. Photo: Mark Dreger/Twitter
A new bulb-out at Grove and Polk. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • Jackson Pollock

    Few questions: 1. Assuming this is a one-way bike lane. Will there be markings indicating that? 2. What about a south bound bike lane? 3) Why is the bike lane so narrow? Can people pass one another in it? 4) Why is the planter so wide? 5) Why isn’t there something preventing cars from jumping the curb? Planter boxes or poles or something would have done this. 6) Does anyone want to bet how long those plants will last? 7) Why is the bike chute so narrow? 8) Are there design docs posted anywhere?

  • disqus_e4qPyvtwW2

    so how does one turn left onto polk from market?

  • There will be a bike box to wait in on the southeast corner of Market and 10th/Polk.

  • 94110

    I checked it out myself on Friday. The photos actually don’t do it justice. The section between Hayes and Grove is an uninterrupted Succulent Protected Bike Lane.

  • Kevin J

    How sneaky: building a “for-show” projects in front of City Hall just in time for Mayor Automobile and the Sups can pretend they care if cyclists live or die.

    How far do those bike lanes go? All the way to North Point? Or are they going only as far as they need to fill the photo of City Hall in the background?

  • Tried out the new chute–definitely much better than what was there. Very much looking forward to the contraflow lane opening. (Two important blocks that mean I no longer have to choose between the hills on Octavia or the ugly traffic on 9th/Larkin when going to City Hall, the symphony or opera.)

  • the_greasybear

    Let’s savor the rare good news! This facility is a game-changer for those traveling north from mid-Market–safe, sane, and dare I say attractive?

  • 94110

    I’ll bite: Yup, they stop right there just before City Hall. Yes, I wish there were more (many, many more) protected bike lanes in the city, but these two blocks are more important than many other places, because this is a contra flow bike lane on these two blocks that are still one way for automobiles.

    One strange but smart pattern the city has been following (without officially mentioning it as far as I know) is to do one of each thing, and then presumably study how they fair.

    One parking protected bike lane (JFK Drive). One planter protected bike lane (Fell and Oak). One truck proof concrete and metal protected bike lane (Cargo Way). One soft hit protected bike way (Cesar Chavez). One left turn pocket (Valencia). One bike signal (Masonic). One super sharrow marked route (Wiggle). One shared road (Jefferson). And now, one curb (succulent) protected contraflow bike lane.

    Others were installed in limited configurations and then years (but not many) later were added to San Francisco’s standard toolbox, like bike left turn boxes, raised crosswalks, green bike lanes, road diets, green waves (supposed to be six added this year).

    Caltrans (until a week ago) made it difficult and potentially expensive to install all of these technologies by considering them experimental. San Francisco stepped up to experiment with them.

    While I wish things would change faster, I can respect this strategy.

  • shotwellian

    The main fix this area still needs is a bike lane on 10th between Market and Howard. Coming south from Polk onto the 10th / Howard / 11th / Folsom route towards the Mission, the merge with the car traffic coming from Fell can be quite hairy. The problem could also be fixed by finding a way to let bikes make a left turn onto 11th from westbound Market.

  • Mario Tanev

    Can anyone explain the point of the “bulb-in” most clearly visible on the second photo? Why not have a straight median, why does it indent?

  • Ian

    I believe it’s a loading zone, there’s also a ramp curb cut at the end that’s not in the photo.

  • disqus_e4qPyvtwW2

    great! been riding up this sidewalk for 10 years so this has definitely been a long time coming! 🙂

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Loading zone for the Fox Plaza apts.

  • We can do better than ten years in the future, I hope!

  • Jacob Lynn

    Great news!

    On the other hand, if we’re going to do actual concrete work as in this case, I don’t understand why we don’t just put the bike lanes at sidewalk level like they do in civilized countries! The pictured Succulent Protected Bike Channel is suboptimal for adjacent pedestrians, especially those with strollers or wheelchairs.

  • Greg Costikyan

    Cool. Used to bike past here everyday when I lived in SF, and looking forward to seeing it when I’m there next month.

  • DrWatson

    To do a raised cycletrack (at sidewalk level) means that the drainage at the curb would need to be moved out to the new curb edge- another $1m per block.

  • caryl

    I completely agree. That merge from Polk onto 10th is a nightmare and there’s no instruction to anyone about what’s happening. It’s very frustrating when they spend a lot of money on these projects but don’t connect the dots. A little paint could go a long way.

  • caryl

    I also agree about the turn onto 11th. Would be nice if you could turn onto Westbound Market from 11th as well. When 2 bike routes intersect, it would be nice if you could *legally* connect one to the other. It’s not like there are a lot of good options around there.

  • Justin

    So far it looks very promising 🙂 An example of what should be done, building more modern 21st century protected cycling infrastructure in San Francisco and other cities as well!

  • gb52

    Regarding that ped bulb out by civic center plaza.. It’s useful, but could be so much better. There is wayyyy too much paved area around civic center, and the streets need to go on a road diet. The lanes are HUGE, the streets are WIDE, and well, it should be a space for PEOPLE.

  • Jacob Lynn

    Never thought about that! I guess we have to wait until the next time we’re redoing the stormwater system for sidewalk level cycle paths.

  • SFBS

    While I agree with the need for more protected bike lanes (and bike lanes in general), this is hugely important as well. Market has a bike lane, Polk has a bike lane (kind of) and there was no good way to connect to them in the northbound direction.

    Sure, it is near City Hall, but really this is a very important connector that didn’t exist before. Coming from the South and getting on Polk was nearly impossible in the past.

  • Im very interested in those succulent. Are they used elsewhere? I hope theyre not trampled on.

  • SFnative74

    Interesting observation. It’s worth noting that some of those designs you describe have multiple locations now: bike signals (nearly a dozen now), soft hit bikeways (also almost a dozen with more to come), super sharrows (there’s also Market St with more to come). Same thing happened with the use of green, bike boxes and there are more left turn box designs coming. I think it’s smart to get a well-designed precedent for a particular measure in, then use the experience from that as a springboard for more of the same, especially if it’s a design new or unusual to the city. With road diets, Valencia was that precedent and now the city has done more than 50 or 60 of them.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Will there be a northbound bike lane from Grove to McAllister?

  • Boo

    well this is san francisco after all


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City planners, politicians, and bicycle advocates gathered this morning for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the contra-flow bike lane on Polk Street, a two-block protected cycle track from Market to Grove Streets. Just in time for next week’s Bike to Work Day, the opening ceremony came after a decade of delays and a great deal of pressure […]

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