Polk Street connects thousands of San Franciscans to work, school, the waterfront and thriving commercial corridors from Market Street to the Bay. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has a vision for a street with a separated bikeway, calmed traffic and improved intersections to the street making it safer for the large numbers of people walking and biking to the local businesses, shops and restaurants.
We’re thrilled that the SFMTA is looking to improve safety for people biking and walking on Polk Street and we participated in one of the many Walking Audits they’ve planned this week. Be sure to catch one yourself (see sfbike.org/polk to see the schedule) to learn more about the opportunities and challenges of Polk Street. And we hope to see you at the SFMTA’s Open House on Saturday October 27 from 10am – 2pm at 1300 Polk – if you live, work, or travel on Polk Street, you’ll want to attend this Open House to share your ideas on how to make this street better.
The walking audit we went to this week started at Bush Street and went south to Bush Street. The current project is studying Polk Street from McAllister to Union, and there’s lots to see and think about in that stretch.
The SF Bicycle Coalition has been doing outreach to all businesses on Polk Street to make sure business owners and workers are aware of the city’s outreach and planning efforts. As we’ve learned, there are over 200 business on this stretch of Polk – everything from coffee shops and dry cleaners to social service organizations and bars. It’s an amazingly diverse corridor and we hope that making biking and walking safer on this street will bring even more customers to these shops.
The Walking Audits are meant to get the on-the-ground perspective of Polk Street as it is today from people like you. City staff asked the group questions like “So what do you think about the general walkability of this area here?” and “How do you feel about this block compared to the one we were just at?” From our walk, people felt the street has a lot of potential to be a really great walking and biking street, but it doesn’t feel connected.
You can learn a lot about a place when you walk around, and we’re excited to hear the summary of feedback from the 4 walking audits the SFMTA has scheduled this week.
One thing we’ve noticed is the number of parklets and bike racks that have sprung up on Polk Street in recent years. According to SFMTA counts, bike riding is increasing Polk Street even without infrastructure improvements to make it safer and more inviting. There has been a 66% increase in people biking at Polk and Sutter and a 79% at Polk and McAllister (from 2006-2011).
On the walk, it was obvious that people walking and biking are often squeezed into unsafe conditions. The sidewalks are often narrow, double-parked cars make biking chaotic and intersections don’t feel very comfortable when high-speed traffic is whizzing by. Most people in our group were very supportive of making Polk Street safer to bike on – specifically by separating bikes from moving traffic. That’s an idea we’ve heard from our members and we’re excited to see proposals from the city in the coming months.
It’s no surprise that when we surveyed our members earlier this year, 91% of survey respondents said they liked the separation from motor vehicles as depicted above most of all.
What kind of transportation changes do you want to see on Polk Street? There are two more walking audits (Thursday morning and Saturday morning) and an Open House on Saturday October 27 – please join one of these events to learn more about the project and speak up for bike and pedestrian safety improvements you want to see move forward.