SFMTA approves bike lane plan for Polk Street

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Bike lanes proposed for SF's busy Polk Street
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Officials in San Francisco are considering a controversial plan that would eliminate more than 100 parking spots in favor of bicycle lanes.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After two years and more than 50 meetings, a San Francisco agency has voted on a plan to improve safety on Polk Street. It's a plan with something for everyone to dislike.

The project will start just steps away from City Hall, at Polk and McAllister streets, and stretch all the way to Union Street.

On Tuesday night, ABC7 News reporter Carolyn Tyler says the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) approved the plan that will eliminate some parking and add dedicated bike lanes.

Polk Street is a vibrant corridor, but it's also one of the most dangerous in the city. Over a five year period, there were 122 collisions between cars and pedestrians or bicyclists.

One of the most memorable was New Year's Eve 2013, when 6-year-old Sofia Liu was killed at Polk and Ellis. The SFMTA approved the plan to make a 20 block stretch of the street safer.

"We've come up with a plan that involves protecting pedestrians through new designs of sidewalks and crosswalks, protecting cyclists with a raised cycle track as well as some new and improved new bike lanes, as well as improving parking and traffic circulation by changing traffic signals and the design of the roadway," said Tom Maguire with SFMTA.

So why is there opposition? For merchants like Fadi Berbery, owner of Smoke Signals magazine shop, the loss of parking is huge. Along Polk, 110 spots will be eliminated.

"People come from Marin, from Noe Valley, from everywhere to come shop here," he said. "And if it's not convenient for them, they cannot find parking, they won't bother."

The bicycle coalition likes half the plan. The part that runs between Pine and McAllister through the Tenderloin has a raised bike path and dedicated lanes. The portion stretching north to Union Street has lanes shared with cars and a few blocks of bike only lanes just during the morning rush.

"What we're hoping today is to see the strong part of the plan move forward and for MTA's smart staff to strengthen the part of the plan that doesn't have strong safety support," said Noah Budnick with the SF Bicycle Coalition.

But Michell Bearg, owner of Bow Wow Meow pet shop on Polk, says he thinks the existing proposal is a balanced approach.

"There are, you know, aspects of it that certainly we would prefer not be there, but understanding that compromise is part of the solution," he said.

Nearly 100 people signed up to speak at the Tuesday night meeting at City Hall.