Eyes on the Street: The Quickly Fading Market Street Safety Zones

CTSZ_2.jpgPhotos: Matthew Roth

Remember the beautiful new Calm the Safety Zone trial that we raved about in late November, with a liberal application of "frappuccino" colored paint to the pavement on Market Street? Yeah, well, now not so much.

In only a month and a half, vehicular traffic on Market Street (greatly reduced, mind you, by the Better Market Street traffic diversions) has left its telltale mark on the paint. What Livable City’s Tom Radulovich originally dubbed "baby-poo brown" now looks especially charred.

Radulovich critiqued the project for innovating a color for a traffic control device that isn’t already in place elsewhere, such as green or blue. "If you encounter a stretch of baby poo as a driver, what does that mean to you? Does this signal pedestrians or bicycles, or is this just s stretch of ratty brown pavement? If you don’t encounter this color anywhere else, this doesn’t mean anything to you."

CTSZ_3.jpg

Clearly the issue is with the brown paint, because the white stencils of "10 MPH" and the bicycle sharrow are doing well. The granules that were laid down with the paint have mostly come off, though some remain in the margins.

The response from MTA Spokesperson Judson True: he’s looking into the matter.

(On a side note, this makes me cringe thinking about all the street grime that gets washed into our sanitation system and some of that into the Bay.)

CTSZ_1.jpg

My perspective might be warped from looking through my Portland Goggles again, but shouldn’t innovative street markings be done with treatments that stand out and endure? Maybe like this striking bike box?

And news flash, these are still green two years later.

  • John

    Perhaps the MTA wanted to collect data proving that doing it wrong doesn’t work, a la the Scott St. bike box with no markings, before making an attempt at doing it (semi) right.

  • the greasybear

    I have watched these curious patches of paint fade over the last couple months, and I must say–I don’t believe anyone paid them any mind even when they were visible. They’re just not readily identifiable to road users, be they on two wheels or four.

  • keep in mind these are trials, so the idea is to try things, some of which might not work.

    One sort of cheesy material that does last is the torch on “brick paver” material being tried out on some intersections in the Civic center area. The pattern is not so great graphically, though perhaps the manufacturer would be open to other tastier graphics.

    Here are some nice painted dots in Copenhagen. http://www.dbarchitect.com/article_slideshow/94.html#1153 But paint will always get grungy. Perhaps as part of the Market Street repaving durable “real” materials such as this stone “paint” in Budapest: http://www.dbarchitect.com/article_slideshow/94.html#570

  • David, nice selection of photos and comments. It puts me in mind of Tufte’s books on graphical information.

  • Nick

    Does anyone have a date when the colored pavement was installed at 5th and Market? It wasn’t there in early December and now in early January it looks like it’s in worse condition than that the original trial at 4th Street.

    Perhaps the City was experimenting with applying less coats or a cheaper grade of paint. To me it looks like they didn’t properly clean the roadway before applying the paint. The street grime appears to have eaten away at the paint from the inside out.

    As an aside, the chess players moved their operation from their traditional location on the corner of 5th to the area opposite SFBC hq’s at 6th. Anyone know why?

  • “If you encounter a stretch of baby poo as a driver, what does that mean to you? Does this signal pedestrians or bicycles, or is this just s stretch of ratty brown pavement? If you don’t encounter this color anywhere else, this doesn’t mean anything to you.”

    It sort of looks like they were aiming for the same color as the sidewalk, which gives the only message needed. Obviously would have been more effective to use real brick, but it seems like brick color was their cheap solution.

    How is the paint doing at the pedestrian plaza installed last year?

  • Nick

    That red sidewalk brick needs to be repalced with something more modern. For decades, every San Franciscan has associated it with the smell of alcohol, urine, and chlorox.

  • Maybe they were testing paints that would be sold to graffiti artists, so they won’t last too long?

  • “keep in mind these are trials, so the idea is to try things, some of which might not work.”

    Here’s an idea:

    Maybe MTA should hire bicycle transportation _Professionals_ who don’t need to waste time (and risk lives) learning-on-the-job.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    You would think the MTA has plenty of data on doing it wrong, by now.

  • James

    “Radulovich critiqued the project for innovating a color for a traffic control device that isn’t already in place elsewhere, such as green or blue”

    That poses specific problems. MTA initially wanted to use yellow, but the California Traffic Control Devices Committee shot it down because it’s already in use for another purpose elsewhere (for separating directional traffic flow). Similarly, red is a “transit color.” Not sure about green or blue; they might be bike colors.

    Also, it’s not a bike facility…or a crosswalk…it’s just there to demarcate a conflict zone. So there’s not much research or practical experience with it to draw from.

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