San Francisco city leaders and bike advocates kicked off Bike Month this morning with the opening of a "contraflow" bike lane at the corner of Polk and Market streets.
The $2.5-million project came together in the past year to build a smooth connection from Market Street to northbound Polk Street by funneling bicyclists traveling against traffic onto a green bike lane that passes City Hall.
The city's Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru joined San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency transportation director Ed Reiskin and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim to cut the ribbon on the lane as dozens of riders perched on bikes watched.
Nuru highlighted this project as one of many bike improvements coming to the city by the end of the year.
"All over the city, we're making the changes to make it easier to ride bicycles and walk..." he said. "We're making it a place people can enjoy and really build community."
Kim, a beginner cyclist, said the new lane provides a pathway for cyclists to safely get from the South of Market area to Polk Street.
The prevailing alternative has required navigating onto a tricky, congested route on Larkin Street before backtracking to Polk Street.
Reiskin hailed the new bike connection, which includes the painted path, landscaping, new concrete medians and new signals.
"This is not just a bike project," he said. "This stretch of Polk Street is safer" for pedestrians, motorists and bus drivers and riders on the nearby 21-Hayes line.
The project is one of many bike lane improvements under construction this year, which will help make "biking and walking safer and more attractive," he said.
The lane opened in time for next week's Bike to Work Day, which San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said was a strict deadline that expedited the project.
Shahum said her organization has been putting pressure on city leaders to make a safe and legal bicycle passage into the Civic Center area.
"This is a safe, direct and comfortable link to Polk Street," she said.
Bike to Work Day is celebrating 20 years of promoting bicycling as an alternative, healthy commute method in San Francisco and the Bay Area on May 8.
Most of the funding for the new lane came from Proposition B, the $248-million Road Repaving and Street Repair bond, which San Francisco voters passed in 2011, and from the SFMTA's 2009 Bike Plan.