Frequently Asked Questions

Quick Overview

  1. The Polk St. corridor is NE San Francisco's primary commercial, pedestrian, and cycling route running from Market St. at the south to Aquatic Park in the north. We're advocating for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (SFMTA) safety and other improvements and for clear, honest information about them.
  2. The Polk Street Project was prompted by its scheduled repaving in 2016. The SFMTA will add other amenities to improve safety, viability, and health.
  3. Safer intersections. Polk Street is one of San Francisco’s high-injury corridors; about 3 people are struck by drivers on Polk Street every month and the SF Dept. of Public Health estimates that figure is underreported by 30%
  4. However, a very small group have misrepresented the proposals, intimidated, and frightened many others into believing that the SFMTA is trying to ‘kill’ local business by eliminating ‘all’ parking along Polk. corridor.
  5. As it always has, society is changing and we do best when we plan accordingly. It’s no longer the case - if it ever really was in SF - that more parking means more business. Especially on Polk St. where upwards of 80% of visitors there arrive by means other than private vehicle. We’ve found huge popular support for the proposals and we want that support heard.

Why is the SFMTA focused on promoting pedestrians, public transit, and bikes?

In 2014, the City of San Francisco signed a #Vision Zero resolution. Vision Zero SF’s goal is to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from road crashes by 2024. Folks for Polk is on both SF’s Vision Zero Task Force and in the Vision Zero Coalition.

California law makes sustainability a priority. Both Senate Bill 375 and Assembly Bill 32 require the SFMTA to reduce greenhouse gases caused by transportation. The Complete Streets Project is one way to achieve that goal.

The Polk Street repaving project is funded in part by the 2011 Roads and Repaving Streets Bond which mandates safety and encouraging different means of transport.

What is the Polk Street Complete Streets Project?

The project increases safety and adds amenities to Polk Street. It adds:

  1. Measures to attract people and encourage strolling, socializing, and shopping.
  2. Separate bicycle paths to provide protection to cyclists of all ages and ability. The safer cycle paths are, the more people will cycle and that means safer cycling for everyone.
  3. Traffic calming measures like traffic lights timed to reduce collisions, which are extremely costly in both human and economic terms.
  4. Safer intersections. Polk street needs to be made much safer; on average, 3 people are struck by drivers on Polk every month (as reported; the actual figure is likely higher)
  5. Landscaping and outdoor seating, which means a much more enjoyable Polk street.

Measures like these are tried and true, enjoyed by other neighborhoods in San Francisco and celebrated in modern cities around the world. They have greatly increased the vibrancy and economies of their neighborhoods:

  • More street activity enhances property values and decreases vacancies and crime.
  • Less congestion and increased non-vehicular travel helps reduce healthcare costs associated with exhaust fumes, stress, and inactivity.
  • TLDR; improving the streets means a happier, healthier city!

Learn more on the SFMTA website.

Who Are We?

We’re you; people who live and work and love in San Francisco. We were very dismayed at the coercion and misrepresentation of facts around the Polk Street Project. Few stakeholders had actually looked at the SFMTA proposals for Polk St. and even fewer seemed to understand them. So, we dedicated ourselves to educating and encouraging people to know the facts and to envision the possibilities.

Meet us on our Facebook Page

What Do We Do?

We aim to enhance our quality of life, health, and future by getting the very best practice put into place using The Polk Project as a model. That includes excellent and safe transit, walking, and cycling infrastructure.

We’re often at City Hall representing the very many of us who are unheard in decisions about big taxpayer-funded public projects.

We’ve created a public forum that encourages debate that is informed and fair to help foster a legacy of civil society and preserve “the infrastructure of both public space and public discourse.”

Why Are We Doing This?

A: We cannot afford not to!

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a destination street for the City; a safer, more vibrant promenade for everyone. San Francisco pays a very high price for the status quo:

  • $18-28m are spent on crashes on Polk Street alone each year.
  • Even one death or shattered or traumatized life are too many.
  • Vast amounts of time and money are spent on revamping proposals, repeated meetings, delays, appeals, resubmissions, and ballooning construction costs from delayed schedules.
  • Our current process of confrontation between ‘Us vs. Them’ as a first fallback creates enmities that live on long after the projects are complete—or not. And that’s utterly unsustainable and will further wither our ability to build consensus. We urgently need a better way to move forward together.

Our Vision

Our health is closely related to our built environment and we are now badly damaging ourselves:

  • The air we breath is loaded with emissions and fine particulates that cause more than just respiratory diseases. Asthma and learning difficulties are among the other epidemics associated with air quality.
  • More activity reduces the incidence of heart diseases and diabetes, two top killers, and ultimately costs us less.
  • San Francisco, like most urban centers around the world, is undergoing explosive growth in population. Our Transit First Policy wisely anticipated this. Excellent public transit is an efficient way to get about the city, but congestion and collisions from a high volume of private vehicles causes lots of delays, acting as a negative incentive for use of public transit.
  • Recently there has been a big uptick in cycling as a means of transport in SF but our infrastructure does not yet safely support it. Cycling helps clear our air, get us active, and it reduces peak use of public transit and vehicular congestion, which has huge impacts on everyone. When cycle paths are made safer, more people will cycle and when more people cycle, cycling is much safer.
  • Tourism is the second largest segment of San Francisco’s economy. Bike share is here a bike rental companies cannot keep up with demand. A safer, happier Polk St. will complete a tourist circuit and become a major destination for visitors.

We know that our public health is closely related to our infrastructure and that more activity builds health and ultimately costs us less. Polk can be a more terrific and safe place to walk, cycle, stroll, socialize, and shop without the necessity of a car.

SF’s Transit First policy has wisely anticipated San Francisco's enormous growth in population. Excellent public transit is an efficient way to get about the city, but congestion and collisions from a high volume of private vehicles causes lots of delays, acting as a negative incentive for use of public transit.

There has been a big uptick in cycling as a means of transport in the past few years but SF infrastructure does not yet safely support it. Cycling reduces peak use of public transit and vehicular congestion, both of which affect mobility and health for everyone.

Thousands of tourists experience San Francisco by bike. A bike share system will arrive in SF very soon. The potential for Polk, as a major north/south route is enormous. We foresee it as a safe avenue for tourists to safely continue their outdoor loop of the City.

What can I do?

We'd love to get to know you and make SF better together.

  1. Contact us at [email protected]
  2. Spread the word - Tell your friends about us!
  3. Like us on Facebook
  4. Follow us on Twitter
  5. Sign our petition
  6. Come to our next Pub Talk featuring Scott Wiener, 18 March 2015

Want more info?

What is the real impact on business of bike and pedestrian focused streets?

  • On Valencia Street, 65% of business owners feel that the introduction of bicycle lanes has positively impacted their business (Drennen, Emily, Economic Impacts of Traffic Calming on Small Urban Businesses, Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference, 2004)
  • People who visit businesses on foot or by bicycle spend 15% more overall than people who drive, according to seven studies, one of which was done in San Francisco (Clifton, Kelly, et al, “Business Cycles: Catering to the Bicycle Market.” TR News, May-June 2012)
  • In New York, vacancy rates decreased by approximately 50% and sales tax receipts increased by 50% along streets where protected bicycle lanes and streetscape improvements were built (Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets. NYC Department of Transportation, October 2012)

How can I reach Folks For Polk?

You can reach us at [email protected]

Photo of Polk Gulch in the 1860s