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Protected Bike Lanes

Mayor Breed Promises Protected Bike Lanes for Street in Front of City Hall

"Even if some supervisors have to give up their parking spaces," she said at a "Bike to Wherever Day" event

A truck driving in the Polk Street painted lane in front of City Hall. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

Mayor London Breed said that her administration will install protected bike lanes on Polk Street in front of San Francisco City Hall. She made the pledge at a "Bike to Wherever Day" rally held Thursday morning.

"Why isn't there a protected bike lane right here?" asked Mayor Breed during a speech to an audience of bike advocates, referring to Polk Street. "Supervisors, you're going to have to give up your parking spaces."

Mayor Breed at Thursday morning's "Bike to Wherever" event

Streetsblog asked Mayor Breed about the lack of protected bike lanes on Polk shortly before she went on stage. And although the mayor characterized it as her idea to put in physically protected bike lanes in front of city hall, in reality advocates have complained about the Polk Street safety project from before it was even approved in 2015. Protected bike lanes were removed from the heavily watered-down plans due to merchants and other forces complaining about loss of street parking. In 2021, a reckless motorist swerved into a section of Polk's unprotected bike lane to go around a line of stopped cars, killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk one block from city hall.

And this publication has repeatedly called out the hypocrisy of city officials staging Vision Zero events on the steps of city hall right in front of the paint-only bike lane even as it is continually parked on and driven on by motorists (as seen in the lead image, Thursday morning's rally was no exception).

An SFPD cruiser was parked in the red-zoned/daylighting area by the crosswalk in front of city hall even as the mayor boasted about the city's commitment to daylighting.

"I don't have a car, so I'll gladly give up my parking spot," said District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who stood next to the mayor along with District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. Dorsey thanked the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which sponsored the event, for creating a more amicable atmosphere between motorists and cyclists. "Sharing streets with bikes is better for cars too."

“The discouragement of biking disproportionately impacts low-income and marginalized communities who must spend more time on public transportation to get to where they need to be, and often lack access to physical activity,” said Linda Ye, youth commissioner for District 4, who also spoke at the event. “For me, biking is not only practical, but also a beautiful way to practice self-care and joy.”

Supervisor Matt Dorsey said he would happily give up his parking space, since he doesn't have a car

Many speakers, such as Monique El-Amin from New Community Leadership Foundation, stressed the health benefits of cycling. People always talk about not having enough time to go to the gym, but "one can easily manage health conditions by riding a bike," she said. Others spoke about adding diversity to SFMTA staff and management so they reflect the makeup of the San Francisco population, and are therefore better able to understand the challenges faced by African-American and Latinos who either bike or would bike if they felt safe and comfortable doing so. "We do have to get more Blacks and Latinos on bikes," said Supervisor Safaí, who also spoke at the event.

District Three Supervisor Aaron Peskin and legislative aide Nate Horrell in front of city hall

From Streetsblog's view, yes, of course SFMTA should strive for diversity. But many Black and Latino cyclists are also deterred by the fear and real danger of getting run over by a motorist. And San Francisco's bicycle "network," is still composed of mostly unprotected bike lanes and traffic-choked intersections that are frightening for all but the most experienced cyclists. Safaí mentioned that he is still hesitant to ride to city hall on a regular basis by the many gnarly intersections he has to contend with. He mentioned Alemany Blvd. and Ocean Avenue, and Mission Street and Geneva Avenue as particularly intimidating.

The intersection of Alemany and Ocean. Photo: Google Streetview

And, of course, one of those areas where there's a scary gap in bike lanes, albeit not as terrifying as the ones cited by Safaí, is right in front of city hall on Polk.

Unfortunately, the mayor and her transportation advisor, Alexander Sweet, refused to commit to a time frame or give Streetsblog any indication of how long it will be before Polk gets fixed. "But she is saying it out loud," said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition interim Executive Director Christopher White. "That gives us the ability to hold her accountable."

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