Bike activists to keep track of corridor injuries in opposition to Polk Street plan 

Angered that The City has revised an ambitious plan to transform Polk Street into a safer roadway, a bicyclist advocacy group has launched a campaign to keep track of injuries on the popular thoroughfare and accused the area’s supervisor of turning his back on safety.

A day after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held an open house on more detailed plans for the Polk Street corridor, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition initiated its “body-count clock” in opposition to the proposal. Initial plans had called for eliminating parking to allow for dedicated bike lanes on either side, which merchants joined together to fight.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the coalition, said on Thursday that the roadway plan “has been watered down and compromised so drastically that it’s nothing but a compromise on safety.”

“We urge planners to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents the Polk Street area, responded to the criticism by saying the plan he supports will make Polk Street “far safer.” He noted that even with the compromise, there are still some neighbors and merchants who are “vehemently opposed to this proposal.”

The cyclist group says the body-count clock will keep a tally of cyclists and pedestrians hurt along the corridor. The effort is intended to pressure SFMTA’s board of directors to alter the plan in time for its scheduled vote this summer. The count, which tracks incidents beginning five years ago, displayed 122 injuries as of Thursday.

The proposed safety plan includes a painted green bike lane along the southbound side of the street between California and Union streets, and a shared bike lane with painted green bike sharrows northbound.

“The proposed bikeway zig-zags between parked cars and the curb, stops and starts, sometimes completely disappearing for blocks at a time, leaving you hanging while biking and leaving drivers confused and stressed out,” the cyclist group said.

SFMTA is standing behind its modified proposal, calling it a “balanced solution.” “Safety will always be our first priority,” said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. “Improvements we are making will make Polk Street safer.”

Mitchell Bearg, owner of Bow Wow Meow, was among those who helped build a strong coalition to tone down the initial plans. “My sense is that the SFMTA really listened to the community,” Bearg said.

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