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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

S.F. cyclists deserve better, but solutions aren't easy | SF Gate

A Polk Street bicyclist has to steer past a car backing into a parking space and tourists snapping photos in the bike lane. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
A Polk Street bicyclist has to steer past a car backing into a parking space and tourists snapping photos in the bike lane. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle | Buy this photo
To experience the future, the past and the terror of commuting by bike in San Francisco, pedal north up Polk Street from Market. Polk is undergoing a reconfiguration and repaving, so it's a good test case for what may happen in the city.
Polk begins with a green, silky-smooth separated bike freeway, funnels into a thin lane marked by a white line and then morphs into the kind of narrow, scary, oh-my-God-I-hope-no-driver-opens-his-car-door obstacle course that used to be the norm in the city.
Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and I rode up Polk last week on a typical weekday afternoon. Except for the obvious - she had a nicer bike - we could have been any regular commuters. We didn't really have any near misses, but we did slalom around potholes, warn each other about erratic drivers and engage in a few of those one-way seriously-what-in-the-name-of-God-are-you-doing conversations with drivers blocking bike lanes.
"I would say the first three blocks are the gold standard, an A+," Shahum said. "Then we go to existing bike lanes, which is way better than nothing. I'd give that a C+. And then from Post to Union there's no lane, no separation. The No. 1 way people get hurt riding in the city is getting 'doored.' I'd give that a D."

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