See an example of a fully protected bike lane with raised curbs between parking and bike lane - a real cycle track, this time on the Avenue d'Italie in Paris. Avenue d'Italie is 132.5 feet wide (lot-to-lot), so it's more comparable to Van Ness Avenue (125 feet) or Octavia Boulevard (133 feet). Although Polk Street is much narrower (68.75 feet wide lot-to-lot), a recent op-ed in the SF Chron called for a "fabulous - Paris-style avenue". To be fair, the writer later described that it should be like a Parisian "street" or "rue".
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS intersection with bus stop and left turn. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
There's been a lot of controversy over how to best redesign the street to accommodate all the modes (cars, delivery trucks, buses, bikes, pedestrians, people who are disabled or with strollers), and to address parking needs for businesses (car street parking, car garage parking, bike parking).
A lot of emotional energy has been spent by all sides (merchants, bike advocates, city staff, locals) but one problem remains, no matter what gets built: the geometry will not change. The fact that "upper" Polk Street is
A preferred plan was presented in July 2013 by the SFMTA. The plan tries to blend all the needs together through a combination of bike lanes, sharrows, and a few segments with a buffered bike lanes, and raised curbside buffered bike lanes in one direction at a time. It's not horrible, but it's also not satisfying either; especially if we consider San Francisco a "Transit First" city, not a "Car First" city.
SFMTA did examine a "curbside bikeway" (or buffered bike lane) alternative early on. Through removing parking on one side and partially on the other side, the new bikeways would be a classic unprotected bike lane in one direction and a buffered street level bike lane in the other direction. This is not a true "all cycle track" plan, and one was never presented.
I've used Streetmix to show what it might have looked like. The plan does not change sidewalk widths, and would allow for some parking and loading in some places along Polk. However parking on Polk Street itself would be reduced significantly, especially with other features part of the plan including bulb outs and longer "daylighting" red zones near intersections.
The diagrams for Upper Polk are as follows:
- Polk Street Midblock: CYCLE TRACK
- With parking and loading zones
- With bus stop
- Polk Street Street Intersections: CYCLE TRACK
- With right turn to one-way street
- With left turn to one-way street
- With no designated turn lanes for low traffic two-way cross streets
In all scenarios it is assumed that curbs will not be moved per the SFMTA study. Polk Street is
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS mid-block with parking or a loading zone. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS mid-block with bus stop. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS corner intersections with right turn. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS corner intersections with left turn. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
|Polk Street: CYCLE TRACKS corner intersections for a low traffic two-direction cross street. Image: Urban Life Signs using Streetmix|
As mentioned earlier, all of this change would reduce the amount of on-street parking on Polk. According to the SFMTA, in 2012 or 2013 between Post and Union Street (Upper Polk), there are 240 on-street spaces, 1,300 on-street spaces in the area (going one block to the east and west), and 2000 spaces overall when the Polk Parking Garage is included. That means Polk Street only comprises 18% of on-street spaces, and 10% of overall spaces, and this does not even could private spaces used by the public (e.g. Walgreens, Lombardi Sports).
|Polk Street at Pine. Image: sfbay.ca|
By my rough estimation, approximately 80 spaces would remain. That's a 66% reduction of Polk Street on-street spaces from the 240 current spaces. Area on-street spaces would be 13%, and public area parking spaces (including parking garage) would be reduced by 8%. I'll let the numbers speak for themselves and just say that this idea should have been considered much more seriously.