Proposed bike lane irking residents and merchants alike.

Polk Street Bike Lanes
A artists conception of what the new dedicated lanes will look like after completion.

UPDATE: 3/12/2013
Venue Change.

STOP the “Polk Street Demonstration Project” Public Meeting:
MARCH 18, 2013 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Old First Presbyterian Church,
1751 Sacramento Street between Polk & Van Ness Streets


While the battle between residents and bars is barely heating up, a new front is opening up on Polk street, the Bicycle Coalition and Municipal Transportation Agency are proposing a removal of 20 blocks of parking spots to add a bike lane. Did I hear that right? Did the city not just extend parking meter fees into Sunday because the city coffers were hurting for funding.

For those of you who would like a say or just intrigued by all action, the Save Polk Street Coalition are planning a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 18 at the It’s a Grind coffee shop, 1800 Polk St. tis where the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association have their meetings also.
I’ve got to say, I as a cyclist am completely confused at what the Bicycle Coalition and Municipal Transportation Agency are trying to achieve here. I cycle Polk street daily, in both directions and I live smack dab in the middle of the stretch not far from It’s a Grind Coffee shop. You would think if anyone would love this, I would be a prime candidate. It is a safe street to cycle as is, lower Polk already has bike lanes, traffic down there can be quite harrowing but still pretty safe, middle and upper Polk street is by far, much safer, we and I mean me, do not require a bike lane to navigate the traffic, mainly because drivers do not drive that fast up here. According to the SFMTA, there were 53 pedestrian and 69 bicycle collisions on Polk Street between Union and McAllister streets from April 2006 to March 2011 basically over a 5 year period.

Now looking at the Artists conception, I must say it does look intriguing and I have been to other cities in Europe where these are quite common.

Polk street is a bustling city street both day and night, not only are there cafes, restaurants and bars on our unique city stretch but we have almost all kind of merchants from pet care, art sales, bike shops, sports books stores, if only one left, grocery etc etc. all of which depend on shoppers walking into their stores. Now I’m not going to say opening up half the street to bikes would not increase shopping on out street. Problem is, that neither the Bicycle Coalition and Municipal Transportation Agency can say it either, because this is just a test run for a few months to see how it goes. It’s an experiment even if they are calling it a “demonstration project”.

My old Pappy had a saying “If it ain’t broken, Don’t fix it!” Guess what folks, Polk street ain’t broken, yes it could use a tweak here or there, what neighborhood doesn’t, but isn’t it up to those who happen to live here, shouldn’t us neighbors and the merchants who do business here have a huge say in projects like this? I personally do not own or operate a business on Polk street or the surrounding area, but I can tell you if I did, the proposal would scare the bejesus out of me. Between rents and overheads, merchants are already under enough pressure without  having to deal with outside entities coming in and dictating who gets to park where on our streets.

So even though I understand the concept of a nice green bicycle lane, the fact that there would be less cars on our streets, yes really good for the environment I would just like to see a more in dept plan showing locals how good this might be for the neighborhood and the local economy. This as far as I know has not been done. Neither the Bicycle Coalition and Municipal Transportation Agency nor any other agency has come forward with a report stating this will be good for all of us. San Franciscans are one group of people who are open to new ideas, but we also need to be persuaded with examples. If the plan fails, is the city going to compensate all the businesses who lost money? There are just too many unanswered questions, too many variables for us to make an educated opinion.

Leah Shahum, head of the bike coalition, is said to have cited a number of studies that show that when similar improvements are made, business increases. Such is the case of Valencia Street in the Mission district and there was also a mention of areas in New York City. SF Bike coalition need to convey these studies to the general population of Polk street. They should have done so in an open forum such as a public meeting somewhere on Polk street. If they did then I for one did not hear of any meeting, nor would I have seen “Save Polk Street” posters in many of the merchants windows..

Take a step back, if we all recall it was not that long ago, that the City made the case for Sunday DPT metering using all the cars parked on streets like Polk as a primary reason, those cars were parked there, just like any other day of the week, using local businesses which is why they parked there in the first place. It’s only fair that the city can make revenue, right? But now that Sunday metering is allowed they now propose taking 20 blocks of revenue away, yes I know it will probably be a lot less in the test run, spending a fortune of SF tax payers money(unless there’s funding from some obscure agency I did not here about), transforming those spots so that I can cycle down a street that I already cycle down anyway?

Am I for this or against it? To be honest, I’m edging towards against it, primarily because no one has bothered to educate me,(us) otherwise. Just to be clear, I am a resident here on Polk, I welcome change, as long as it does not adversely affect me, my neighbors or my neighborhood.

One of the many Save Polk Street posters displayed in windows up and down Polk street. This one is displayed in the window of The Blue Fog Market