News & Research Archive

Bike vs. Car vs. Insanity

Apr 17, 2013

San Francisco is a progressive city – a leading example of a city that promotes itself as a green leader, and that is something to be proud of. However, when I look at the measures this city is undertaking to promote bike riding over the use of automobiles, I have to say that we are now bordering on insanity.

Take the current fight on Polk Street for example. The proposal is part of an effort by the SFMTA to use Prop B money to improve streets and safety by replacing available street parking with bike lanes, which has set off a heated debate. The Marina Times recently published this article following the debate; here are some key points I took from the article:

  • SFMTA's general goals – particularly the improvement of bike safety – were embraced by a variety of speakers at the meeting, but there was deep division about the best way to achieve them.
  • Save Polk Street estimates that the audience was nearly 400 strong, and opponents of the plan appeared to predominate. Both sides of the debate agree that the matter is far from closed.
  • Supervisor David Chiu said that Polk Street has a higher-than-average number of accidents involving bikers and pedestrians, but he said he hasn't yet "taken a perspective" on the Polk Street shakeup.
  • Kowalski said his group would be fleshing out its proposals for alternative revamps of Polk Street... relying on simple and less-expensive bike safety changes, such as making more obvious demarcation between bike and auto lanes, including painting bike lanes a different color to make them stand out, and improving signage to better alert drivers to the bicyclists and their rights.
  • Support for SFMTA's Polk plan has also come from people concerned about traffic congestion, pollution, and climate change. Resident Madeleine Savit, an architect, told the meeting that this plan would some day seem uncontroversial, arguing that a century ago, the street had no cars, and 15 years ago auto traffic was limited to two lanes, but "businesses thrived."
  • Kowalski says the Save Polk Street group will continue its own outreach... with other neighborhood groups across the City that are having similar disputes with the SFMTA. "The next thing we can do is require [SFMTA] to do an environmental impact report," which he said would require the agency to take into consideration not just Polk Street but nearby projects such as the Bus Rapid Transit plan for Van Ness and the new California Pacific Medical Center building on Geary and Van Ness.

Polk Street is just one of the streets experiencing this clash. Market Street was one of the first streets to make way for bike lanes – taking out parking meters in front of stores lining Market Street from Van Ness to Castro. As a result, a number of blocks saw store fronts go vacant while businesses such as antique stores, mattress stores and others that needed parking went out of business because they could no longer handle deliveries with parking eliminated. Other streets such as 7th Avenue and Laguna Honda Boulevard eliminated street parking. As a result, people who used to park there to take Muni from Forest Hill Station could no longer find parking to take mass transportation downtown. Looking at 7th Avenue, I am lucky to see one bike rider in two hours taking advantage of the bike lanes.

My chiropractor is on Polk Street – he has patients with Multiple Sclerosis that need parking in front of his offices because they are not capable of taking Muni or riding a bike for a visit. The Polk Street bike lanes will take away patient access to his offices and severely impact his business. I commend San Francisco for pushing "green" but its motives must still be based upon what is best for the greater good and taking out parking for a minority of bikers is not for the benefit of the greater good.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 28 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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