San Francisco completed bike and pedestrian safety improvements along the Polk Street corridor after years of outreach with community organizations to come up with a plan to meet the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and merchants.
The project was controversial and the outreach lasted for years, as original proposals for the Polk Street Streetscape had called for dedicated bike lanes on many blocks. Early designs would have eliminated more parking spots along the corridor, causing some merchants and residents to create a group called “Save Polk Street.”
In the final proposal by the SFMTA Board of Directors in 2015, several blocks of Polk Street were dropped from receiving protected bike lanes. Some blocks contain no painted bike lanes, only shared lanes with cars.
Ed Reiskin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said at ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday that despite the controversy surrounding the project, he believed that the final project met the needs for everyone:
“We were able to get to a consensus project that resulted in a Polk Street that I think is quantum step better than what we had before we started this project.”
Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the bike safety improvements were not up to par:
“It doesn’t quite meet the standards that we have established today for protection and safety for people who bike on our Vision Zero high injury corridor.”
Supervisor Matt Haney said the Polk Street project was a lesson learned in that The City needs to carry out these type of safety projects more quickly. Outreach for the project began in 2012.
“We know that if we don’t do this, it can be deadly.”
Wiedenmeier pointed out that the SFMTA has shown to quickly make improvements as seen on Howard Street after the death of bicyclist Tess Rothstein last month.
Besides bike safety improvements, the $26.8 million Polk Street project included new pedestrian bulb outs, curb ramps, upgraded traffic signals, 136 new trees, refurbishing 31 existing streetlights, and decorating alleyways with art, such as on Fern Street.
Crews also resurfaced the road and upgraded the sewer and main water lines underneath Polk.
Mohammed Nuru, director of Public Works, said:
“This is a complete streetscape for Polk Street.”
The project area included Polk Street between McAllister to Beach streets.
Mayor London Breed said as the population continues to grow and as people are using different modes of transportation like bikes, scooters and transit, The City also needs to change:
“We have to adjust with ultimate goal of not only moving people around, but moving them around safely. That’s what these improvements projects are about.”