Hundreds of merchants along Polk Street turned out for the March 18th meeting intent on voicing their concerns about and opposition to SFMTA’s “Save Polk Street” Project. SFMTA had drafted proposals to reduce Polk Streets parking spaces by more than 50% in an effort to decrease the number of collisions on the street after published data showed that 53 pedestrian and 69 bicycle collisions occurred on Polk Street between Union and McAllister streets from April 2006 to March 2011. The goal of the proposed significant decrease in parking spaces was create a safer path for cyclists on one of their busiest commuting streets.
Polk Street merchants were more than a little worried about the affect of the changes on their businesses and they attended the meeting to make sure that the SFMTA knew it. The Agency had a rough time at the meeting with Merchants often booing and laughing at what they had to say.
In the end, Director Ed Reiskin agreed to go back to the drawing board to see if safety improvement projects could be developed that would involve the loss of fewer parking spaces. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, argues that while this meeting was important, it was also not representative of all of the groups with a stake in the Polk Street improvements. This meeting was held with the express purpose of hearing the arguments and concerns of the Polk Street merchants. Other interested groups, like the SF Bike Coalition, were not involved. Given the one-sidedness of the meeting, she urged Director Reiskin to keep the original proposal on the table as a viable option.