Designs for a Safer Polk Street

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Friday, January 30, 2015

If you’ve been to Polk Street, you know there are many special things about the corridor.

The mix of businesses and residents, plentiful neighborhood services and popular nightlife all make Polk Street a vibrant and unique place.

Can you imagine what new lighting, more trees, alley improvements and general safety measures will bring to the corridor? We think it’ll bring out more people who want to shop, dine and enjoy Polk Street.

Polk Street

Safety Needs

What some might find surprising is that Polk Street has some of the highest rates of pedestrian and bicycle collisions in San Francisco. In a 5-year period alone, there were 122 pedestrian and bicycle collisions on Polk.

One person walking and one person biking are hit by a car each month on Polk Street.

These collisions are unacceptable and preventable, and the City and County of San Francisco is committed to eliminating them. By adopting a policy in 2014 called “Vision Zero” we are now moving towards a goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024.

Vision Zero logo

Increasing safety on high-injury corridors, like Polk Street, is critical. A mere mistake on the road shouldn’t necessarily result in serious injury or death.

After an extensive analysis, we know where and why collisions are happening on Polk Street and how to prevent them through better street design. And our proposals for a safer Polk Street aren’t just data-driven; they also draw on ideas from the community.

Community Outreach

Through a 2-year public engagement effort consisting of more than 60 meetings with residents, merchants and community groups, we heard what was important to people: safety for people walking and bicycling, better loading zones for businesses, parking for people that need to see the doctor or run quick errands and better street lighting.

Outreach event

Combining the community’s ideas with a clear understanding of where and why collisions are happening on the corridor, we’re excited to put forth a proposal that targets our investments to the areas most in need of safety improvements.


So let’s walk through what we’re proposing.

First, throughout the whole project corridor (McAllister to Union streets) we want to increase safety for everyone by implementing improvements like:

  • High visibility crosswalks to increase awareness of pedestrians
  • Red zones near intersections to increase visibility of pedestrians
  • Turning lanes and separated signal phases to reduce conflicts between turning vehicles and people crossing the street.
  • Corner “bulbouts” at key locations to slow down turning vehicles
  • Improved signal timing to create a safer environment for everyone

Other improvements such as new paving, better lighting and new landscaping will also be a part of our work on the whole corridor. Enhancements like these help create a more inviting, green and vibrant corridor for all.

Improvements to help increase the reliability and efficiency Muni’s 19 Polk buses are also planned, from relocating bus stops to making bigger boarding areas.

And last but not least, improvements for people biking. We are proposing the following measures specific to different segments of the Polk corridor:

Polk between McAllister and Pine Streets

Polk Street between McAllister and Pine Streets


This segment of Polk Street has the some of the highest concentrations of injury collisions for people walking and bicycling. A detailed study of the crash patterns along each block indicates that the main safety issues on this segment of Polk Street are conflicts between turning vehicles and people biking.

To address these safety needs, we are proposing a raised bikeway in the northbound (on the east side) direction between McAllister and Pine streets. By running the raised bikeway along the curb, we can increase safety for people biking by making them more visible and the street better organized.

Polk between Pine and Broadway Streets

As we move up Polk Street, the design of the bikeway will change. On weekdays between 7 - 10 a.m. we are proposing a northbound, part-time bike lane between Pine and Broadway streets (on the east side.) This meets the safety needs of people biking north on Polk Street during the morning rush.

So, Monday – Friday, 7  – 10 a.m., there will be no parking in the northbound parking lane between Pine and Broadway streets. However, vehicles serving people with disabilities or health conditions will be permitted to enter the bike lane and make curbside pick-ups and drop-offs. Parking in this area will be available for the other 21 hours a day during the week and all day on weekends.

Pine to Broadway a.m.

Pine to Broadway p.m.


Polk Street between Broadway and Union Streets

Polk Street between Broadway and Union Streets

Finally, from Broadway to Union streets, our proposals include a new southbound (west side), green bike lane, as well as green shared lane markings in the northbound direction. The markings, called “sharrows,” indicate a shared space for people driving and people biking.

By combining these enhancements with the new bikeway improvements south of Broadway we’re able create a safer street for people biking along the whole project corridor.


This is an area of interest and we want to be clear about what we’re proposing on Polk Street.

We’ve met extensively with merchants, residents and the community at large to understand their parking needs and this design for a much safer Polk Street takes their feedback into account.

On Polk Street, from Pine to McAllister, we are proposing to convert 100 parking spaces into the northbound raised bikeway. This removes about 65 percent of parking in that area. On Polk, from Pine to Union, we are proposing to remove 10 parking spaces to implement pedestrian safety measures, which amounts to just 4 percent of the parking in this area.

In total, we are proposing to remove 110 parking spaces on Polk Street and an additional 30 parking spaces on side streets. Our design retains 90 percent of parking within a 1-block radius of Polk Street and 70 percent of parking on Polk Street itself. These changes will improve safety for everyone traveling on Polk.

Furthermore, we’ll be improving 50 loading zones in the area for merchants, as well as installing 30 new accessible parking spaces and 8 new short term parking spaces.


The final approval for this project will come from the SFMTA Board of Directors. The date for that decision is still to be determined, but it is likely to be before spring 2015, and we’ll be sure to let you know when the date is confirmed.

We’re excited that this project is moving forward and grateful to everyone who has participated in our effort to make Polk Street safer for everyone!

If you want to learn more, please visit the project page.