The grand plan for redesigning Polk Street between McAllister and Union, a project which includes improved lighting, landscaping, curb extensions, alley improvements, improved bicycle facilities and a repaving of the road will be unveiled this Wednesday.

The contentious Polk Street redesign and fight over the removal of on-street parking spaces is intended to “improve pedestrian safety, mobility for cyclists and transit riders, and support overall commercial activity along Polk Street.”

Construction on the Polk Street redesign and repaving is slated to begin in 2015.

60 thoughts on “Polk Street Redesign: Unveiling The Grand Plan”
  1. This is a waste of money. This plan is so watered down as to be useless to bicyclists, while still costing the city a lot. I look at this and see nothing that would make riding on Polk safer. What a weak, weak, weak government we have.

  2. We used to live in the eastern side of Pacific Heights, almost Cow Hollow, not far from upper Polk Street.
    There was nothing wrong with it then and there is nothing wrong with it now, and this is a total waste of money.
    The city would be a whole lot more livable if they would deal with the homeless, MUNI, and other intractable issues and stop mucking about with things that are not broken.

  3. They should really just push the cars to one side of the street, then bikes get the other half, separated by a curb. Cars that want to park have to slowly turn into the bike path via inlets in the curb, and then yield to bikes and park. This is similar to Paris, a place that has dealt with cars/bikes/peds in narrow streets for decades.

  4. Good summary Sam. The message here is that street parking is considered more important than safety. Bicycling advocates should reject this plan because it is inadequate.

  5. Agreed. Waste of time and money! Polk is fine as it is. The City should stop screwing around with this and focus its time on developing a solid plan for Lombard Street, where it is needed.

  6. ^^^ Disagree. Polk needs to be fixed so everyone using the street can travel safe. This is not the right fix.

  7. Streets should not accommodate both 10 lb. bikes and 2 ton trucks. We don’t let mopeds onto the freeways, so why should we let bikes up against huge hunks of speeding metal? I would like to see all sidewalks widened, and the edges dedicated to bike lanes.. a lane for travel and a lane for passing, with the curb outside the bike lanes to create a barrier. Right now it’s survival of the fittest, and guess what, bikes will never win that battle.
    Sharing the road is such a stupid only in California law that creates more harm than good. SF is a city that may never get the bike problem solved because the streets are too narrow to incorporate any real planning. But places like Sacramento, which have very wide streets, have great opportunities to create bike boulevards.

  8. So let’s see… Sam and MoD are ag’in it because it doesn’t do enough… conifer and George are ag’in it because the status quo’s OK and they don’t want more money spent.
    Seems to me we have here what’s called a “compromise”. Something that until the last decade or so was a welcome development in governance, but now-a-days seems to be just one clause away from selling one’s soul to the devil.

  9. Normal I agree it is necessary to compromise. But creating a one way bike lane is a rather poor compromise because it so much less useful. It is like spending a lot of money to build a one way bridge.

  10. Yes, I agree with Wai Yip Tung. There is a minimum floor for something to be useful, painting an area green does little for safety. I can attest to this personally in biking around SOMA where people treat every road like a freeway. It’s pretty interesting biking there, and to my eyes hasn’t improved since I first started doing it years before the current improvements.
    If anything, the thing that doesn’t belong on dense streets full of pedestrians, is thousands of pounds of metal piloted by single people who merely have to step lightly with their foot to accelerate up to high speeds in seconds, and in all honesty whose attention is not anywhere near 100% focused on the road. Compare that with a bike, and wait…why are we prioritizing this? Is it our goal to ferry people as quickly as possible ‘through’ an area? People are so lazy, outside of getting to work of course.

  11. Ahh, I miss the days when it was only seasoned bike messengers and hard-core roadies braving their way thru City traffic. Only the strong survived.
    Now the roads and sidewalks are filled with tourists from Kansas (who haven’t ridden a bike in 20 years), along with pedicabs and tons of other totally unskilled millenial riders who couldn’t ride their way out of a wet paper bag.

  12. @anon
    Yea, man, I miss the days when spartans would pit kids against other kids and discard the weak. I long for the days when we would sterilize the mentally handicapped because they brought down society. I miss the days where cars were solid hunks of pure metal and seat belts weren’t mandatory because only the strong survived! I miss, I miss, I miss the days where you could walk into North Beach, get shanghaid and sent on a boat away for good! I miss being able to settle scores by duels!

  13. I am glad many of you moved here from the suburbs, declared yourselves “urbanists” and decided you MUST be the first person to ever live car free in San Francisco. Sorry, long before Leah Shahum moved here from suburban Florida and decided bikes were the answer, hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans every day got around by walking and MUNI.
    Basically we are giving the VERY smallest percentage of transit usage (bikes) a huge share of urban roadways. I would much rather see wider sidewalks and dedicated right of ways for MUNI vehicles. Despite all the SFBC efforts, Cars, MUNI and Walking are the way most San Franciscans get around and they should have at least as strong a voice as the bike crowd who think the world would be much better if everyone else just did what they said and got around the city the way they do.

  14. I walk and drive upper Polk several times per week. What I’d like to see in this neighborhood, and throughout the city, is the enforcement of traffic laws. What I see in upper Polk mirrors what I see throughout the city: cars rolling through stop signs, bikes blowing through stop signs and pedestrians jaywalking or crossing mid block.

  15. 97% or more of the population gets by in vehicles (cars or buses). To say that streets shouldn’t accommodate vehicles is a pipe dream created by people who find anything to get angry about, and when their impossible idealized societies don’t happen when they pound their fists on the table, they then turn their vitriol to other enemies, like people who work in tech, or republicans, or meat eaters, ad infinitum.

  16. I really cant believe city planning caved so much to the cyclists. Why are they creating city policy to serve 5% of residents? How many pedestrians have been hit on Polk St.? Its already very slow for cars. those bike lanes are going to create more bike car accidents with people trying to park. Why cant the cyclists ride single file with cars?
    seems like such a waste of resources.

  17. to all the bike haters – if 8% of trips are taken by bike, are you really going to argue that 8% of the asphalt in the city is a bike lane? If so you are crazy. There’s waaaaaaay more space dedicated to private cars. Muni carries over 700k passengers daily and drivers can’t even respect a transit-only lane.
    The part of Polk that’s getting one bike lane is only from California to Union. It’s already pretty easy to bike over in that section as there’s not much cross traffic and almost every intersection is a stop sign.

  18. ‘and almost every intersection is a stop sign. ”
    Agreed, and I hope Polk Gulch neighbors make sure the SFPD is out in force to write citations to every single bike rider who rolls through a stop sign, and they do all the time. Auto vehicles as well of course.
    Nobody is “hating” bike riders, just demanding they learn to share the city with the rest of us.

  19. @oh really?
    have you ever ridden a bike? When you’re on one your field of vision is incredibly wider than when you are driving a car. I do not condone blowing through stop signs without looking or going through an intersection out of turn but there’s really no need to completely stop and dismount at each intersection.
    As long as you are respectful and taking the intersection in turn with other people, that’s all it takes.
    now I wish people would focus their rage on the countless times I see drivers engaging in dangerous behavior, e.g. california stop W/O looking both ways, texting while driving, speeding – especially through yellow lights, and blocking the intersections.

    1. Of course you wish to get your way unimpeded but the law says otherwise, which it should because far more people get around in cars than on bikes. The constant whine from cyclists is nothing more than a demand to have things their way.

  20. Incredibly wider field of vision? Or is it just overconfidence, a deadly sin on the road? I almost got hit a few weeks ago cross the street in green light by a woman cyclists running red light, too committed to stop style.
    Respect is one thing cyclists lack. Imagine on at a stop sign where a car is stop and a bicycle is stop (me) and someone is crossing the street and then a dude just blow through pass those waiting and just spin around pedestrian if necessary. They’ll do anything. I have seen bicycle fly through an intersection in front of left turning car that’s already in the intersection.
    There is no respect even to their fellow bicyclists. Time and time again bikes will fly through an intersection in front of me forcing me to yield to them. Either they didn’t see me from their incredibly wider field of vision or they don’t care or both.

  21. “Why cant the cyclists ride single file with cars?”
    They can and it is known as “taking the lane”. The problem (and you can ask any seasoned urban cyclist about this) is that although the vast majority of motorists are careful, patient, and courteous when encountering a bike taking the lane there are also a few not-so-courteous motorists out there too. That type of motorist sometimes harasses and endangers bicyclists taking the lane.
    It doesn’t happen very often but when it does it can really rattle the nerves of a bicyclist. It can be pretty dangerous and scary when someone blasts past blaring their horn within inches of your left elbow. The experience causes some people swear off riding on any street where they need to take the lane. Like this stretch of Polk.
    I’ve got over a hundred thousand miles of urban cycling behind me. I’ve never ever been harassed in a bike lane, or even on a street lane that is wide enough for bikes and cars to share side-by-side. That’s why bike lanes are valuable: they encourage safe sharing of the street. Even the rare homicidal hothead behind the wheel of a two ton machine can cope.

  22. Re: the comment by S @ 4:58PM, “but there’s really no need to completely stop and dismount at each intersection.”
    Quit playing semantics about needing bicyclists to dismount at each intersection, bicyclists completely blowing through stop signs is what is being discussed.
    Heck, I could even live with bicyclists just slowing down at intersections but the SF Bicycle Coalition is proposing changes to SF vehicle code to let bicyclists run stop signs which is an accident waiting to happen.
    Enforce traffic rules on cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

  23. Just a continuation of the policy of taking away streets and the associated mobility from the majority who drive cars and handing them to the small minority who ride bikes for no other reason than the perceived political correctness of it all and the notion that the Mommy State has to encourage us all to do what it thinks we should do.

  24. “Why cant the cyclists ride single file with cars?”
    Now that I look at the diagram I notice the north bound lane has big green bike arrow. It is asking bike to take the lane and ride single file with cars. This is really better than the one way bike lane I first envision. North bound bike should comfortably follow the mark and share the lane with cars.
    The bad thing is it really sucks for cars and bus. On uphill stretch they will stuck behind the slow moving bikes. It seems there is not going to be safe for bus to pass. And it might incite anger from cars that MoD has talked about.
    For this reason I think this is a bad plan.

  25. If we know people are going to break the law jaywalking, blasting through stop signs, etc., then we should at least try to design the road way for shared use where people are the least likely to get hurt as a result of these actions. Enforcement is rarely a good long term solution — if people are breaking the law generally they have some sort of reason for it that needs to be remedied, or at least remediated.
    People saying that bikes should just take the lane are not being realistic. I bike in the city and I take the lane all of the time. I stop at every stop sign and stop light. I can tell you that most motorists get quite annoyed that bikes can’t accelerate as quickly as vehicles, and that they often move slower than the speed limit when going uphill. Cars will try to pass you all the time whether it is safe or not, sometimes swerving and cutting you off to get back into the lane. It’s not a pleasant experience, and I imagine that the intention of these drivers is to make it less pleasant in order to discourage bikers who get in their way. I should add by the way that this happens a lot on bike routes that have been designated by the city.

  26. In SF business districts skateboards are not allowed on streets or even sidewalks (code section at namelink). A ‘business district’ is a street where at least 50% of the property is commercial within 300 feet for both sides or 600 feet one side. Polk St should qualify. Otherwise skateboards are allowed on SF streets.
    I don’t think it gets enforced very often.

  27. ” I can tell you that most motorists get quite annoyed that bikes can’t accelerate as quickly as vehicles, and that they often move slower than the speed limit when going uphill.”
    It isn’t just cars you slow down this way. What about buses? Is it really fair to have a tiny minority of road users drastically slow down Muni this way?
    Try driving half the speed limit in a car and see what happens. It’s not an anti-bike thing.

  28. Regarding the corner “bulbs”, I am curious if the SFFD will have anything to say about this design? That looks like some pretty sharp corners for a fire truck, MUNI or Private Bus or Coach, or commercial truck to be able to navigate. (Not to mention the increasing number of GOOGLE, Facebook, and other private bus traffic in the area)
    Has the SFFD even been given an opportunity to have a voice in this plan?
    Here you had a neighborhood that never asked for, and never wanted this street re-design project, who are overwhelmingly against it, being told they need it, all because it was demanded by the SFBC (Bike Coalition).

  29. Respect is one thing cyclists lack.
    @WYT, please: this kind of talk is unhelpful, and out of character for you.
    I am a respectful and respectable cyclist, just trying to get some exercise during my commute. It’s tough enough out there, even without this kind of attitude.

  30. The bulb-outs are stupid. They don’t increase safety for pedestrians. They’ll force taxis — of which there are a huge number on Polk — to block traffic when picking up and dropping off passengers.

  31. You’re wrong BobN. Bulbouts increase safety in several ways, among them shorter distance to walk across an intersection, creating a clearer field of view, and reducing the corner radius which slows right turning traffic.
    There’s nothing that “forces” a taxi to block traffic. They’re able to obey traffic laws and exhibit common courtesy if they want.

  32. @El-D, I should have qualified it better. I don’t all of them are disrespectful, which would have include myself. I mean a large number of bicyclist in San Francisco are disrespectful and oblivious to law and safety of other people. This come from my daily interaction. And it is being play out in plain sight everyday.

  33. For the safety of both drivers and bicyclist, I am all for San Francisco road to go ‘Green’!! Yay!! It is frustrating having to play chicken with the bicyclist when it’s a tight sharing road like the mission district, you just not sure how close you are to them and consistently trying to play chicken dodging on coming cars and hoping you won’t hit a biker. Also, speaking as a biker who commute to work everyday, I do felt slightly safer and comforting when having a dedicated green bike lane, even tho some drivers can still drive like an a-hole with or without lanes. So. Yes – SF GO GREEN!

  34. THere are a lot of jerk cyclists out there (car drivers too). Its hard for anyone other than police to regulate cars, but I feel strongly that cyclists should try to regulate behavior of other cyclists. Because the really obnoxious ones are making a lot of people anti-cyclist. a good opportunity would be for the critical mass crowd to start stopping at stop signs and lights and have someone preach at those things for good cycling behavior. Also, making cyclists get training,license and insurance would help as well. i cycle and am happy to do these things. although mostly recreational as commute on my motorcycle.
    I also think we should be promoting motorcycle use as it is more efficient than cars or bicycles.

  35. I agree that a lot of cyclists lack basic respect for others on the road (drivers and peds alike). I also agree that cyclists are a minority of road users which is why I find it odd that they take the brunt of complaints.
    @Jackson – the “idaho stop” that the SFBC is trying to get legalized is not “blowing through a stop sign” – it’s slowing down, looking both ways, and proceeding if the way is clear.
    @WYT – cyclists *do* have a wider field of vision. Unfortunately that doesn’t excuse those who enter a crosswalk while there are people in it. I find that annoying as well. I only made that point to let people know that a full and complete stop for cyclists is not really necessary to be safe. Cars do a rolling California stop 99% of the time and it’s much more dangerous since they don’t even bother to look both ways first.
    @RobBob – I’m all too familiar with cars freaking out trying to pass around me while I’m biking. That makes it all the more pleasurable when I catch up to them as they’re stopped at a light and then pass them up again.
    Bottom line is this is a small, congested city. If everyone had a bit more patience I think they’d find that aggressive driving or cycling doesn’t really save time. Many of these lights/streets have been engineered for a certain speed and to have frequent stops. There’s no way around it so every one just needs to relax.

  36. Car drivers are injuring and killing people every day. I personally think that this is a much graver problem then “disrespectful” cyclists. When I cycle, do what is safest for me. 99% of the time that means obeying the law, but if I have to briefly go on the sidewalk or enter the intersection on a red, then I do that. I have 20 years of cycling experience in San Francisco with no accidents, so I must be doing something right.
    The overwhelming majority of Polk Street residents support making Polk Street safer, even if it means removing a few parking spaces.
    There is a well funded group of opponents, who are mostly small business owners who drive in from Marin, that have tried bullying and assaulting people who disagree with them. Save Polk Street is the example of the worst kind of San Francisco politics. Thankfully, they have mostly been rolled back.
    We got bike lanes on 3/4 of the street and a “floater” bike that will most likely be permanent on the rest. So this is a pretty big win for the good guys.
    I am personally deeply disappointed with David Chiu’s lack of leadership on this issue. I might have to vote for Campos because of it.

  37. @S, Honestly while it seems fun to continually pass up cars stopped at lights that pass me up on a bike, I very rarely do so, as I feel like it basically antagonizes motorists. The first time they pass you it is most of the time a calm affair, but by the time they have to pass you for the third or fourth time it has just gotten annoying for them. I am on a bike, I don’t want someone in a 4000 lbs vehicle angry at me. Although I do find it fairly amusing to watch the number of cars who accelerate as quickly as possible to reach a red light faster…

  38. One more thing I should probably add is that the real problem is not passenger vehicles, nearly all bicyclist fatalities in the city are from trucks and Muni busses. If the city were serious about promoting biking, they should simply ban trucks from the few designated bike routes, and make sure that the bike routes do not overlap with Muni lines.
    Although there are definitely injuries from bikes and passenger vehicles, the city doesn’t really seem focused on preventing these. But injury situations can happen in fairly different conditions compared to fatalities — some series injuries can happen from a bicyclist getting doored (running into a door being opened from a parked car), but rarely does it result in a fatality.

  39. @RobBob – totally! I’m not trying to get right in front of them. I just want them to see that their agro behavior was for nothing and we both got there at the same time. I usually just wave or smile! 🙂 I give them room to go around.
    @NVJ agree all the way!! It’s really bc the merchants themselves are driving to work and THEY want to park. Although I wouldn’t say Marin…probably more like San Bruno, Daly City, or SSF. A lot of my relatives own small businesses around the city and they’re all like that.

  40. I bike Polk Street twice daily on my commute and I don’t really see a problem. The road is plenty wide enough for bike traffic between parked cars and moving traffic. Like any group, there are cyclists out there abusing the rules and blowing stop signs. That doesn’t represent most of the people I see (or me) on my morning commute but it does taint the way people view “all” bicyclists.
    I think that a bike lane on one side at the expense of sharing the uphill (slower for bicyclists) side with traffic isn’t that helpful. If anything it should be reversed as currently I have to slow down on the downhill side so I can be ready for what cars might do. Usually I’m passing cars downhill so there’s no real traffic hold up due to me on a bike.
    Personally I think the cops should ticket every bicyclists who abuses the rules. That would make people immediately think twice the next time.
    PS: Stopping Swan Oyster Co from dumping crushed ice in the current bike area of the road would be helpful. The curb would be fine. Bit of a hazard otherwise.

  41. “We haven’t seen pedestrians being hit by vehicles on sidewalks because the sidewalks are too narrow. Furthermore, by narrowing city streets our vehicles and any other large vehicle traveling through San Francisco would be forced to cross into oncoming traffic to make a right-hand turn under normal circumstances. Proposals such as these cannot possibly make our streets, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.” (San Francisco Fire Department Statement regarding pedestrian corner “bulb” design)
    The Pedestrian Bulb idea is stupid, period.

  42. So you’re saying that the SFFD is a credible authority on safe street design? I’d expect that their core competency lies elsewhere.
    The SFFD’s objections to bulb-outs have already been discredited by people who actually have credentials in street design.

  43. There’s nothing that “forces” a taxi to block traffic. They’re able to obey traffic laws and exhibit common courtesy if they want.
    Where? Where are they supposed to stop in this “improved” Polk St.?
    And, if the goal is to reduce crossing a 40 ft wide street to crossing a 25 ft wide street “for safety”, maybe we should just build pedestrian bridges at every intersection.

  44. The increased density so many “experts” who write on Socketsite have been demanding has made the SFFD need additional crane trucks to fight fires in higher buildings. I believe I read they now own 30 long crane trucks and are planning more in the future. Since so many here are demanding we live and look more like Manhattan and downtown Chicago, we must realize that more busses, trucks and emergency vehicles like fire trucks will be using streets and they need to be designed to safely accommodate them. It seems to me the primary purpose of the bulb is prevent larger vehicles from making turns, prevent bus and taxi traffic from pulling over to make stops, and prevent traffic from flowing.
    Pedestrian Bulbs are what I saw on small suburban shopping streets like outside of Santa Barbara and in the center area of Laguna Beach, not a major city of increasing density like San Francisco. There is a LOT of bus and truck traffic on Polk Street.

  45. @Oh Really – large vehicles usually make wider turns – not tight turns against the sidewalk. these bulb outs are to prevent drivers from cutting off pedestrians about to cross the street. of course a “no right turn on red” law would have the same effect at a fraction of the cost but I digress.
    I live up in bernal heights – the roads are incredibly narrow yet by some miracle buses take these turns and snake up and down the hill on a daily basis. If these bulbouts were really an issue I’d like to think that someone would have noticed by now.

  46. @S, we might be in agreement in that the bulbs create tighter turns if you look at the diagram above, and therefore are what has caused the objections from the SFFD. I would also agree that a no right turn on red would create better safety for pedestrians than “bulbs” and I would be for this as well as the SFFD suggestion for sidewalk path lights that illuminate when someone activates the crosswalk button.
    The bulbs are an “issue” and have been widely discussed on various sites and media outlets. The so-called safety created by the bulbs is not a conclusion agreed upon by many transit planners.
    I actually like the landscaped bulbs in some of the residential parts of the city such as Noe street north of Market in Duboce Triangle. Placing the Bulbs on busy streets such as Masonic and Polk is just silly however.

  47. it sounds like a lot of money to spend for so little, if any, improvement.
    Could we save this money and put in the Geary BART piggy bank?

  48. I don’t think this is a waste of money but time will tell. What was a waste? I wasted my time reading these comments!

  49. This will grind traffic down to a halt. Instead of having space for buses to move aside to pick up passengers, this plan has the street move out to the buses. So now when they pick up passengers, all cars behind them will be forced to wait as the buses will be blocking the lane. Traffic will grind down even slower, causing even more frustration to drivers. Seems like the luddites and Socialist on the Bd. of Stupidvisors will not be happy until every person who owns a car leaves SF, and everyone left in the city is either on Muni or a bike.

    1. “this will grind traffic down to a halt”

      I could not agree more, but sadly, I think that IS the intention of the SFMTA and SFBC. They have never publicly stated they want traffic to flow better, and faster, in fact, their stated goal is quite the opposite, they want street mobility to be slower, and traffic flow is not their concern. They call it “traffic calming”.

      Somehow- this city got hijacked by the former director of the SF Bike Coalition, who moved here from Florida in the 90s, went on a trip to Amsterdam, and came back and decided to fight to create what she saw there here. The trouble is, we are not Amsterdam, and we don’t have their in place rail and transit network. Now Ms. Shahum has received a government grant to go live in Europe and “study” bike usage there, and we are stuck with her policies. IMAGINE if she had advocated for more and better public transit instead of bike lanes?! She is such a forceful and clever organizer I could imagine if she had fought for transit, we may have a Geary and Van Ness subway operating today instead of “the wiggle”.

    2. muni will also be stuck behind doubleparked cars and trucks unloading. this plan slows down every form of traffic except bikes

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