A cyclist opposes the Polk Street bike project
Dear Supervisors Christiansen and Yee, Director Reiskin and other members of the MTA board:
I am writing to ask that you oppose the removal of 150 to 326 parking spaces along the Polk Street corridor, and the creation of a daily Tow Away Zone from Pine Street to Broadway as planned for the 2016 Polk Streetscape Project.
I ride bicycles 8,000 miles per year including daily bicycle commuting in San Francisco. Although I now reside in Supervisor Yee’s district, I resided on Nob Hill and rode my bicycle daily on upper Polk Street for 19 years until 2009. I owned and street-parked a car during my residence there, and I patronized (and still to this day patronize) many Polk Street merchants, especially the picture framers and the beverage stores. Although I am a strong cyclist I am not strong enough to carry framed artwork or cases of wine home on my commuting bicycle. I need motor transportation, which means I need parking.
As an experienced cyclist, it continues to mystify me why my city’s public servants continue to place such a high priority on such ineffective efforts as segregated bike lanes while ignoring and disregarding simpler, less-expensive and much more effective improvements that address the locations where most of the car-cyclist mayhem takes place: THE INTERSECTIONS.
If you really cared about the safety of actual cyclists (as opposed cyclist wannabees answering surveys) the first thing you would direct the MTA to do is to stripe dedicated right-turn lanes at busy intersections accompanied by directing the bike lanes to the left of the right-turn lanes. When this treatment was applied to the intersection of Folsom and Sixth Streets (where a female cyclist was right-hooked to death in 2013) the right-hook turns stopped and cyclists have enjoyed relative serenity ever since. Yes, right-turn lanes often require the removal of some parking spaces, but motorists still benefit from smoother-flowing traffic through the intersections when right-turning cars can vacate the travel lane, freeing it up for straight-through traffic to proceed.
And I have to add that as a cyclist there are few things I dread more than pedestrian bulb-outs. Typically, once these are added, the “right-hook” turns are guaranteed to increase, and cyclists like me have less escape room than we had before the bulb-outs were added. For example just look out your City Hall window at eastbound Grove Street where it meets Polk. There used to be curbside room at that intersection for motorists to make right turns; bicycle traffic proceeded smoothly to the left of the right-turning cars. During the past year the right-turn zone was replaced by a bulb-out and by additional curbside parking spaces dedicated to City Hall big shots. Now every morning the Grove Street bike lane is a terror-tunnel box canyon in which eastbound cyclists must execute daring, dog-leg maneuvers to get across Polk Street between the bumpers of this now chronically right-hooked, chronically gridlocked intersection. I want somebody to explain to me how this is considered an “improvement.”
Grove and Polk is evidence that, in the name of making things “safer,” City Hall sometimes screws things up and increases the danger. I am certain that the 2016 Polk Streetscape project will be a tragic misallocation of resources that will reduce the quality of life in the Polk-Van Ness Corridor. Please return to the drawing board.
Mr. Deane Hartley