New bike lane links Polk with Market

Bicyclists in San Francisco who ride through Market Street and want to access to Polk Street and Civic Center can now do so safer and legally.

City officials and bike advocates opened a newly painted green northbound bike lane on Polk that stretches from Market to Grove.

The new lane — called a contra-flow bike lane — allows bicyclists to bike northbound safely on the two-block stretch of Polk Street against one-way traffic, thanks islands which separate the vehicle and bike traffic.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Executive Director Leah Shahum, said she is pleased that the bike lane is open in time for Bike To Work Day, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on May 8.

Shahum said the coalition has been working for years to get this project completed at Friday’s ribbon cutting:

“For years we have been asking for safe and legal passage through this area and now it has come so beautifully.”

She said bicyclists will no longer have to illegally use the sidewalk or use other busy intersections like Van Ness Avenue to get to their destinations.

Shannon Dodge, a project manager for the Chinatown Community Development Center, said she no longer has to take a detour to her office on Polk and Vallejo streets:

“For me and lots of other people it’s going to make a huge difference. It means you can now directly on to Polk Street and we can do it safely.”

The project included the installation of three bike traffic signals at Market, Hayes and Grove streets to let bicyclists know when it’s safe to cross. It also extended the painted green bike path between Grove and McAllister streets, making access easier for bicyclists to get to City Hall and Civic Center Plaza.

The southbound bike lane on the opposite side of Polk Street also received some treatment including flexible posts barriers, widening of the bike lane and extending it to McAllister Street.

Pedestrian bulbouts and a resigned pedestrian island on Market and Polk streets were also part of the streetscape project.

The project was a collaborate effort between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Department of Public Works.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin described the project as a ”complete streets project” where bicyclists, pedestrians, cars and even Muni buses will benefit from the new safety features.

Reiskin said the City will need the support of voters to pass a $500 million general obligation bond and an increase in the local vehicle license fee come this November if they want to see more projects like on the one on Market and Polk streets:

“We know the need is so great to make biking and walking safer and a more attractive means of getting around the City. If we want to do more of this we’re going to need support in November.”

The two transportation ballot measures are not yet on the November ballot, but the transit agency and Mayor Ed Lee have already begun pitching the measures to voters.

If passed, the measures would fund more bike, transit and pedestrian capital projects in the City.

The Polk Street contra-flow bike lane was funded through a 2011 voter-approved $248 million bond measure.