SFMTA “Fixes” Polk from Grove to Hayes

Work finally starts five months too late for Lovisa--and some seven years after safety was compromised in Polk rebuild

Crews removing the current "mixing zone" near where a pedestrian was killed in May. Photo: SFMTA
Crews removing the current "mixing zone" near where a pedestrian was killed in May. Photo: SFMTA

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SFMTA crews were out in the rain last week stripping pavement and preparing one more block of the southbound side of Polk, just south of City Hall, for a protected bike lane.

As posted on SFMTA’s Twitter:

“We expect that the work will be substantially complete in the next several weeks, weather-permitting,” wrote SFMTA’s Jaime Parks, in an email to Streetsblog. “It often takes several days following rain for the pavement to be dry enough to apply pavement markings.”

Streetsblog readers will recall Lovisa Svallingson, 29, was killed and Danny Ramos, 30, was seriously injured last May while crossing Polk when a motorist used the unprotected bike lane to go around a line of stopped cars. The motorist ran the red at approximately twice the speed limit. His maneuver would have been difficult if not impossible had there been a protected bike lane with a solid barrier instead of just paint.

In the left of the pic are portions of the unprotected bike lane and mixing zone that were removed by crews in prep for a protected lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
On the left of the pic are portions of the unprotected bike lane and mixing zone that were removed by crews in prep for a protected lane. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The horrifying irony, of course, is on the opposite side of Polk is one of San Francisco’s best-protected bike lanes–a northbound, contraflow lane protected by a curb and decorative boulders, seen at the top right of the photo. The entire length of Polk was redesigned to be safer just a few years ago, but compromises were made with merchants and city officials to preserve parking and drop-off zones in most locations. As a result, only a few stretches of Polk got protected bike lanes. The southbound side of Polk from Grove to Hayes was one such location where safety was compromised and no protection was installed.

That’s why “fixes” is in quotes in the headline. Polk was already supposedly fixed. And it was inevitable that the compromised design would cost someone their life at some point. Unfortunately, the “fix” that’s being installed will still depend primarily on paint and plastic posts (according to a worker on the scene when Streetsblog visited this morning). This is a key deficiency, since, as May’s crash illustrated yet again, too many motorists won’t follow the rules unless road designs and physics force them to via stone, steel, or concrete.

The worker who chatted with Streetsblog said he was happy to be part of making the street safer and said he wished they could add concrete curbs like on the northbound side. He also showed Streetsblog a printout of how the design will look (Streetsblog found the same diagram online, seen below with the before and after configurations):polkHayesdiagram

Meanwhile, SFMTA’s Parks posted on Twitter that the protected intersection with Hayes will look like the one at Folsom/Mabini pictured below. And that concrete could be added later:

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