Revised options for Polk Street that exclude bike lanes gain support from merchants

Anna Latino/S.F. Examiner file photoThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency crafted new proposals for Polk Street after the original plan

Anna Latino/S.F. Examiner file photoThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency crafted new proposals for Polk Street after the original plan

A revamped Polk Street proposal that would include safety upgrades at intersections but few improvements for cyclists has garnered support from residents and merchants.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages traffic policies, outraged merchants along the bustling corridor this year by proposing to reduce parking in favor of more access for cyclists. Following the backlash, the agency came back with six new options — three each for portions of Polk Street north and south of Geary Street.

Option A for upper Polk — the densest area of the corridor — has gained backing from the Save Polk Street Coalition, a group of merchants and neighborhood residents.

The organization has not taken a position on the plans for lower Polk, according to Dawn Trennert, a neighborhood advocate and member of the coalition.

Option A includes sidewalk extensions at intersections to reduce crossing lengths, changes to the signal timing of traffic lights to slow vehicle speeds, and curbside red zones to help improve visibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, the only amenities it offers for cyclists are green sharrows, painted-on decals that indicate to motorists that the road must be shared with bikes. About 5 percent of parking within one block of Polk Street would be removed under that plan, which is well below the 18 percent first proposed.

Another alternative would add separated bike lanes in both directions, resulting in about a 14 percent parking space removal within one block of Polk Street.

Mitchell Berg, owner of the pet store Bow Wow Meow, said Option A offers necessary safety upgrades while maintaining Polk Street’s vibrancy.

“The majority of traffic accidents on Polk Street happen at these intersections,” Berg said. “This option can make it safer for [cyclists and pedestrians] while still allowing businesses to thrive.”

Dan Kowalski, owner of Flipp, a furniture store on Polk and Green streets, said many cyclists he talked to said they’d be satisfied if the corridor was repaved and markings were made clearer — upgrades both included in Option A.

However, Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the options that don’t include separated bikeways do not take into account the growing demand for biking and public safety improvements.

Spokesman Paul Rose said the SFMTA will analyze feedback collected from an open house meeting last Saturday and another hearing scheduled for today before making recommendations on the Polk Street overhaul.

Polk Street is scheduled to be repaved in 2015, and funds for improvement projects on the artery are available through 2011’s Proposition B, a $248 streets bond. A recent survey by the transit agency found that only 15 percent of people on Polk Street arrived there via automobile.

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