Polk Street re-design approved by SFMTA

With a 6 to 0 vote for approval of protected bicycle lanes on Polk Street by the SFMTA board of directors on Tuesday, cyclists and area merchants claim to have shared in the victory, even though both sides of the debate are not happy about the compromises that had to be made.

 On one side the cycling advocates wanted a fully separated permanent bike lanes the full length of Polk street with the loss of hundreds of parking spots, which the other side the Merchants, said that would dramatically affect business on the street.

 After over 2 years & roughly 50 meetings, the debate ended on Tuesday (after about 70 speakers said their piece) with a unanimous vote by the board to approve a watered down bike lane plan.

 The new plan calls for a continuous green-painted bicycle lane on the west side of the street, but the east side would only have a lane that ends at Pine Street. Riders and motorized vehicles would share the street north of Pine, but a part time bike lane would operate between Broadway and Pine Street from 7am to 10am. There would also be extended sidewalks at intersections to focus on pedestrian safety as per the the city’s Vision Zero safety policy, which pledges to reduce pedestrian deaths to zero citywide by 2024, was also cited as a reason to move forward with the project

 This would mean places like McTeagues, Lush Lounge, Mayes, Hemlock, Bitters, & all the other bars & restaurants on the west side of lower Polk’s affluent night scene will be more pedestrian & bike friendly. I make special reference to this part of Polk-Gulch because it is one of the busiest parts of Polk especially on the week-ends. One should not be driving while out drinking anyway. The same goes for the bars & restaurants in middle Polk, all the way to Union in upper Polk. However Polk street is made up of just more than drink & dining establishments, other smaller businesses voiced their opinions at Tuesdays meeting that the removal of over 130 parking spots on Polk will make getting new business even harder. They complained that parking in or around Polk is already hard enough, it is true as it can take an average of 20 minutes to find a parking spot during peak business hours.

 Board Director Cheryl Brinkman and the board voted to move forward with the safety improvements, but she brought forward an amendment that the board revisit the project a year after it begins to evaluate its impact on businesses. 

 The project is slated to begin in the Summer of 2016, will run for about 18 months at a cost of $8 million.