Thursday, March 28, 2013

Showdown at Polk Gulch 2

David Chiu and Leah Shahum on Polk St. in 2011

Bike zealot Paul Skilbeck is part of the counter-attack---along with the Bicycle Coalition and Streetsblog---in support of the MTA's attempt to take away street parking on Polk Street to make bike lanes. Skilbeck, who writes about cycling on, weighed in with his pro-bike spin on the meeting the other night:

Business owners and residents on San Francisco's Polk Street see cyclists as typically culpable in accidents with cars, scoff at the notion of global warming, and are strongly opposed to the SFMTA's suggestions for improving their neighborhood. This was the tone of a public meeting organized by the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association at the Old First Presbyterian church, Monday night March 18th.

The city itself sees cyclists as "culpable" in causing half their own injury accidents; people just "scoff" at using global warming to justify taking away all that parking; and the MTA's proposal is more than a mere "suggestion." It's a serious project proposal that the city will surely implement if the neighborhood doesn't continue to resist. Streetsblog talks about "fearmongering," but those fears are completely justified. We had to sue the city just to get it to do an environmental review of its massive Bicycle Plan, even though it was clearly required by the law.

Supervisor Chiu aggressively courted the bike community when he ran for mayor last year, but the bike people seem to be a little disgruntled that he hasn't come out in support of the Polk Street bike lanes. From Streetsblog: "D3 Supervisor David Chiu, who usually talks a good game on street safety, has not taken a position on the project."

Interesting to note too that Chiu hired Judson True, former MTA spokesman, as one of his legislative aides. With the MTA, True routinely defended indefensible city anti-car policies. Maybe he can give his boss some pointers on that.

Skilbeck has Chiu commenting at the March 18 meeting:

Supervisor David Chiu, representing District 3, attended the meeting and reminded the assembly that the Polk Street corridor has, over an extended period of time, suffered a higher rate of collisions between people driving cars and those traveling by foot and on bicycles.

As I've pointed out before, the only mention of Polk Street in the city's latest Collision Report is on page 25, where it's listed on a graphic of intersections that had at least 7 bike/car accidents for 2009-2011. Ellis and Polk barely made the cut with 7 such accidents in that three-year period, hardly a bloodbath that justifies taking away all that street parking. Not to mention the fact that the city itself says that cyclists are responsible for half their own injury accidents. Adjusting for that reduces the number to 3.5 such accidents in three years---or one such accident a year.

If the city is serious about using safety to justify this project---I think it's bullshit like it is in justifying other bike projects---it should provide a report on all the recent accidents on Polk Street, including, according to the SFPD, who was responsible.

The Bicycle Coalition is encouraging their membership to support the Polk Street bike lanes, even suggesting a form letter people can send to Mayor Lee, Supervisor Chiu, and Ed Reiskin. They will surely be out en masse for the next public meeting.

Backstory: Paul Skilbeck ran afoul of other bike people a few years ago.

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