Monday, March 18, 2013

Polk Street meeting tonight

The Middle Polk Street Neighborhood Association has a meeting tonight to discuss City Hall's plan to eliminate parking on Polk Street to make bike lanes:

Old First Church
1751 Sacramento Street at Van Ness

This month's meeting focuses on the SFMTA's proposed 2015 redesign of Polk Street. Our local Polk Street Merchants will join us to discuss this proposal. Also attending will be District 3 Supervisor David Chiu and the Director of SFMTA, Ed Reiskin. A key concern is the proposal to eliminate a significant amount of parking on Polk Street to accomodate bicycle lanes. (emphasis added)

Good luck discussing bike lanes with these guys. Both David Chiu and Ed Reiskin are dedicated bike guys.

From the account of the Polk Street project on the MTA's website:

This project seeks to implement aesthetic and safety improvements for all users of Polk Street between McAllister and Union Streets. In accordance with the City’s Transit First policy, improvements will primarily be focused on people who walk, use transit and ride a bicycle along Polk Street.

By their account, everything the anti-car folks in the MTA do to our streets is by definition an "improvement," but not "for all users," since that claim is contradicted in the next sentence that doesn't include motorists. Note too that "transit first" includes bicycles here in Progressive Land. Even if a bike project actually slows Muni lines, it still conforms to the city's Orwellian definition of transit first in the city Charter.

Pedestrian and bicyclist collision and injury data on Polk Street point to a corridor in need of safety improvements for all those who share the road. In fact, the southern portion from Sacramento to McAllister Streets is part of the 7% of San Francisco streets that have more than half of the City's most severe pedestrian collisions.

Maybe tonight Reiskin will provide some evidence for the safety claim, since Polk Street isn't even mentioned in the city's latest Collisions Report[Later: Wrong! Polk Street is mentioned on page 25 in a chart showing that there were 7 accidents involving cars and bikes at Polk and Ellis over a three-year period. But no intersection on Polk Street is listed on page 8 as one of the "highest injury" intersections in the city.]

The city argued belatedly that the bike lane project on Fell and Oak Streets was about safety, but the numbers they provided didn't substantiate that claim. The city is also using the safety lie to justify screwing up Masonic Avenue by removing all the street parking on Masonic between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. to make bike lanes.

This project, like all the other anti-car bike projects, is really about making cyclists "comfortable" riding on city streets. The city subscribes to the "mode shift" theory, that once all these "improvements" are made to city streets, a lot more people will ride bikes in the city, thus easing traffic congestion. The city essentially admitted in a brief during the Bicycle Plan litigation that it had no evidence to support that theory. We're dealing with a faith-based traffic theory designed to benefit the 3.5%---the city's own number---of people who now ride bikes in San Francisco based on nothing but the hope that it will result in a significant increase in people riding bikes.

The MTA cites Valencia Street in the Mission as an example of bike lanes being popular with businesses on that street, but those bike lanes were made by eliminating a traffic lane, not street parking. They also cite another study on the alleged benefits of bike lanes for business, but they don't provide a link to the study so that we can evaluate it ourselves.

But the city's anti-car, pro-bike policies are not based on evidence. The folks on Polk Street are dealing with the city's essentially religious belief in the wickedness of motor vehicles and the virtue of riding bikes.

Earlier posts on Polk Street here, here, and here.

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