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Posts from the "Car-Free Streets" Category

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New Renderings, Details on Car-Free Areas From “Better Market Street”

Market between First and Second Streets shown with raised bike lanes. Images: Better Market Street

The vision for Market Street (and potentially Mission) is becoming clearer with the release of new renderings of streets and plazas at public workshops for the “Better Market Street” project this week.

Planners presented renderings of specific stretches of Market, including redesigns for both UN and Hallidie Plaza (where the Powell Station entrance would be raised), as well as proposed changes to Muni stop spacing. Ellis Street would also be closed to car traffic to create a new plaza.

The presentation also shed more light on the three bikeway options — putting protected bike lanes on Market, on Mission, or neither. New street plans show how those ideas would pan out, including the spots where planners say there just isn’t enough width to maintain a continuous bikeway on Market.

For each of the three options [PDF], details on potential car-free areas have also been released.

  • Option 1, with protected bike lanes on neither Market nor Mission, would ban cars between Fremont and Eighth Streets.
  • Option 2, with protected bike lanes on Market, would prohibit cars only between Fremont and Fifth Streets. The idea is that where protected bike lanes exist, car bans aren’t as neceessary, planners said. But since there’s not enough width to provide a protected bike lane between Grant and Fifth Streets,  they say, that stretch will at least be car-free, to provide more comfort for bicyclists and keep transit moving.
  • Option 3, with protected bike lanes on Mission (but not Market), would include the longest car-free stretch on Market, from Van Ness Avenue to the Embarcadero. One reason for that is to help speed up buses that would be re-routed from Mission on to Market, according to the presentation materials.

All of the proposed car bans would apply only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Planners will present the proposals for feedback again on Saturday at the SF Main Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can also submit comments online.

Hallidie Plaza

See more images after the jump.

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City’s First “Play Streets” Event Kicks Off in the Western Addition

Photos: Aaron Bialick

Two blocks in the Western Addition were closed to cars and turned into a neighborhood gathering space Saturday for the city’s first “Play Streets” event. The program is an effort to build on the success of Sunday Streets and provide smaller-scale car-free spaces where people can play and socialize on a more frequent basis.

“This is an attempt to do all the great things that we do on Sunday Streets — creating a place for outdoor recreation, for neighbors to gather, for people to connect — but to do it on a small scale, and allow communities to self-start,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, which organizes Sunday Streets. “Sunday Streets is a big operation, and can be complicated. With Play Streets, we want it to scale down so any neighborhood can take back their streets for a day, or part of a day, and make them community space where kids can play and neighbors can be together.”

Supervisor London Breed with community activist Meaghan Mitchell (right) and Plaza East residents.

D5 Supervisor London Breed, who grew up in the immediate neighborhood, spoke at the event along with organizers from Sunday Streets and agencies that helped coordinate the program. In addition to providing a space that’s safe from car traffic, organizers said the aim was to invite residents to participate in community life with a space that feels safer from crime.

“Part of the challenge that we’ve come to face in this community has been kids not feeling comfortable and free to come outside and just enjoy themselves and be themselves,” said Breed. “I believe that we need to block off more streets to allow families and kids to play and be free.”

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Delayed Again, “Better Market Street” Could Move Bikeway to Mission Street

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Better Market Street project managers announced today that construction will be pushed back another two years to 2017, and one of the three options to be studied will include protected bike lanes on Mission Street instead of Market Street. Images: Better Market Street

The latest news from the Better Market Street project could be a setback for implementing a safe, accessible bike network in San Francisco — not just because construction has been pushed back to 2017, four years past the original date — but because one of the three proposals that planners will study involves building a protected bike lane route on Mission Street instead of Market, while re-routing Muni’s 14-Mission bus line on to Market in the downtown stretch.

The SF Chronicle reported on the proposal today, saying that protected bike lanes on parallel Mission would be easier to engineer and “far safer” for bicycle riders compared to Market. Routing the 14-Mission onto downtown Market, meanwhile, would allow more room for buses than the 9-foot-wide bus lanes on Mission, where Muni drivers today must often occupy two traffic lanes to squeeze through.

But by abandoning Market as a priority bike route, the Mission Street option would go against a primary principle of bike planning: Improving the most direct routes, which people are naturally drawn to use. Market Street, the city’s wide, main thoroughfare, serves as the most convenient and direct east-west bicycling route from downtown to the Wiggle. And with bicycles comprising a significant share of the vehicles on Market, it’s been claimed as the busiest bicycling street west of the Mississippi.

“Bikes are a critical part of the current and future economy, social safety and transportation on Market Street,” said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “The companies that are now moving to mid-Market depend on great bicycling access. It would be odd for the city to roll back its own mid-Market revitalization efforts back by limiting biking.”

As Department of Public Works spokesperson Mindy Linetzky told the Chronicle, “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and improve San Francisco’s premier street. Market Street is San Francisco’s main street. It should look and work like one.”

So will the vision for San Francisco’s “premier” street include bicycles?

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SFMTA Director Heinicke: Let’s Get Cracking on Car-Free Market Street

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The campaign to rid lower Market Street of the delays and dangers caused by personal cars has an unexpected champion on the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors.

At an SFMTA board meeting this Tuesday — the same meeting where agency staff presented a new Strategic Plan, which includes the Bicycle and Pedestrian Strategies — board member Malcolm Heinicke called for banning private cars from Market ahead of the completion of the Better Market Street project.

Malcolm Heinicke. Photo: The Phantom Cab Driver Phites Back

“With all of this information coming forward, all of these plans coming forward, and the desire to look at the next big thing at the same time we’re getting the Central Subway done, and getting BRTs done, I think it’s really time to come back to this board with a concrete proposal as to how we will go about assessing the closure of Market Street, how and whether we can best do it, and how to fund it,” said Heinicke.

Heinicke made the case that the need to speed up Muni and increase safety for pedestrians and bicycle riders on Market is too urgent to put it off. ”I think the time is now,” he said. “I think we’ve seen enough data on the various modes and the impacts. I think there’s been enough discussion of what we can do on the alternate arteries.”

Calls for a car-free Market have recently come from city officials including Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. But while it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising to see leadership on the issue from Chiu or other known livable streets advocates, like SFMTA board members Cheryl Brinkman and Joél Ramos, the strong words from Heinicke — a lawyer known for his tenure on the former Taxi Commission — are a promising sign that a car-free Market has broader political support.

Heinicke did note that he has a “personal interest” in the idea beyond the boon for walking, biking, and transit, possibly alluding to the fact that the ban probably wouldn’t apply to taxis. But he emphasized that he sees “this coming together, not just as a bike and pedestrian proposal, but as a real civic proposal.”

“If we had the elimination of private cars on Market Street, that would expedite the many, many transit lines that use it as their final point as of getting downtown,” he said. “I think we can really have a civic plan… that our city can really be proud of, and really build something fantastic if we did that.”

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Berkeley City Council Hesitates to Fund More Sunday Streets Events

Berkeley residents are clamoring for more street openings following the city’s first Sunday Streets event last October, where an estimated 43,000 people enjoyed 17 car-free blocks of Shattuck Avenue. But the Berkeley City Council has been hesitant to make a full commitment to bring back the events on a regular basis.

Photo: Judy Silber

Livable Berkeley, the sponsor of Sunday Streets Berkeley, has asked the City Council to set aside $59,098 for two more events in fiscal year 2013-2014 (which begins this July). On Tuesday, when the council considered the grant, council members approved only an initial $7,500, with the rest to be considered along with a vote on the entire city budget in June.

Council members roundly agreed the event was a huge success, and acknowledged the health and economic benefits such open streets events bring to the city. But some were reluctant to approve such a large grant just yet, citing the need to fund other city programs.

Sunday Streets Berkeley Director Emunah Hauser said organizers are “very encouraged by the Berkeley City Council’s unanimous praise for the success of our first event, and appreciative of individual councilmember pledges of discretionary funds.”

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Sunday Streets to Expand With Neighborhood-Oriented “Play Streets for All”

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San Francisco’s Sunday Streets will continue to grow next year with a new program designed to bring more neighborhood-oriented car-free street events to places that lack park space.

Kids playing at a Sunday Streets event in the Tenderloin. Photo: Bryan Goebel

“Play Streets For All,” a collaboration between Livable City, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, and public health organizations, will introduce a smaller-scale version of Sunday Streets, making it easier for residents to close a block or two to cars and open them up for play and community-building.

The pilot program, which will be held in addition to regular Sunday Streets events, will target neighborhoods that suffer from high rates of childhood obesity and lack safe places for kids to play.

“We need to remember that keeping kids active isn’t a secret — sometimes the answer is simply providing places for kids to be kids,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a statement. “Play Streets for All will build on our Sunday Street resources and organizing expertise to create family-friendly, safe recreational space in neighborhoods that need it most.”

Sunday Streets organizer Susan King said four neighborhoods are set to see Play Streets next year: the Tenderloin, Chinatown, Bayview, and the Western Addition. The exact dates and locations, along with the rest of the Sunday Streets schedule, will be announced by early January, she said.

“Due to its great success, the current demand for Sunday Streets outpaces our capacity to reach every community that wants to host these events,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin in a statement. “Play Streets for All is a simple, straightforward solution that will help make more of our streets available for kids of all ages to enjoy in safe, fun and healthy ways.”

The program should provide an easier channel for residents to hold smaller, community-based car-free street events, which have been tough to organize because of an arduous bureaucratic process and a host of questionably high fees levied by city agencies. By minimizing city staffing costs and simplifying the process, the Play Streets program “presents a nimble and inexpensive approach for creating temporary open space,” a news release said. The effort will include local workshops, led by Sunday Streets and the non-profit organization SF Beautiful, to get neighborhood organizers up to speed on “best practices” for holding successful events, said King.

“The idea behind Play Streets for All,” she said, ”is to provide support for neighborhood activists to produce and manage their own car-free streets events on a smaller scale to make the opportunities provided by neighborhood open streets events (like Sunday Streets) happen more often in areas that lack open space and recreational resources.”

Play Streets will have a stronger emphasis on improving public health than the regular Sunday Streets program — it’s funded in part by a $50,000 grant from California Blue Cross and Anthem Blue Shield, and one of the organizers is the Partnership for a Healthier America — created in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign – which is launching Play Streets programs in ten cities.

“We can’t wait to see the initiative in action,” said PHA President Lawrence Soler, ”to see kids running around these new spaces and to hear sounds of traffic replaced by sounds of kids at play.”

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Berkeley Embraces Its Inaugural Sunday Streets on Car-Free Shattuck Ave

Throngs of people filled Shattuck Avenue for Berkeley's first car-free Sunday Streets event. Photos: Judy Silber

Seventeen blocks of Shattuck Avenue, normally one of Berkeley’s most traffic-clogged streets, were filled with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people walking, biking and skating for the debut of Sunday Streets Berkeley this weekend.

“It was a huge success,” said Erin Rhoades, executive director of Livable Berkeley, one of the event’s main organizers. “It’s evidence that the community was really ready for an event like that – to be in the right of way, in a way that was totally non-auto oriented.”

For five hours, more than a mile of Shattuck — from Haste to Rose Streets, through the downtown area and Gourmet Ghetto — was car-free, dedicated to human activity and non-motorized transportation. Walking and biking down Shattuck offered an opportunity to explore the neighborhood’s stores and restaurants in a new way, and many merchants took advantage by opening their doors wide and putting out tables on the sidewalk.

“It’s being able to take back a street and not having to worry about cars,” said Berkeley Council Member Laurie Capitelli. “People see their neighborhood in a whole new light. When you’re in a car, you miss a lot of it.”

Rhoades said she approached the mayor’s office with the idea to emulate the success of Sunday Streets in San Francisco, which will hold the last of this year’s ten events this weekend. With East Bay residents regularly traveling across the bay to attend SF’s events, Rhoades sought to bring Sunday Streets home.

“We wanted to see a huge [section] of the community come and experience Berkeley in a different way, to be able to imagine new possibilities for how Berkeley could become more bicycle- and transit-friendly, and become advocates,” Rhoades said.

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The Sky Didn’t Fall: Block of Mason Street Now Permanently Closed to Cars

Photo: Tony Wessling

Putting another nail in the coffin of falsely-predicted traffic jams, a block of Mason Street has been permanently closed to motorists for the construction of a plaza as part of the expansion of the North Beach Public Library.

North Beach resident Tony Wessling sent in the above photo, noting that “the predictions of Traffigeddon have not materialized, and the speed of traffic heading up and down Mason above Columbus has slowed considerably.”

That confirms the conclusions found in a trial plaza study three years ago aimed at assuaging fears voiced by an opposition group formed under the banner “Save Mason Street” (whose website no longer exists). When the Board of Supervisors approved the enrivonmental impact report for the library expansion project in June of last year, Ed Reiskin, head of the Department of Public Works at the time, said the trial “not only helped to validate the analysis of the traffic impact, but really supported the notion that there was significant positive impact for the public for the increased open space.”

The plaza is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014, said DPW spokesperson Mindy Linetzky, although she noted that “the Recreation and Parks Department may be making additional improvements to the Mason Street section as well as the surrounding Joe Di Maggio Playground that could run after this date.”

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In the Inner Sunset, a Push to Cut Sky-High Fees for Community Street Events

Last year's Inner Sunset Street Fair cost organizers $9,000 in fees. This year, it will expand as four separate one-block events called Inner Sunset Sundays, with fees totaling $25,000. Photo: Marty Chappell

San Franciscans have widely embraced events that close streets to cars and open them up to people, with Sunday Streets having expanded to 11 well-attended events per year, and possibly more to come. But for residents looking to hold car-free neighborhood events of their own, unaffordable city fees can present a major barrier.

Community organizers in the Inner Sunset, who are planning to hold four street fairs this year called Inner Sunset Sundays, have teamed up with Sunday Streets organizers to push city agencies to reduce costs and cut red tape to facilitate community street events.

Organizer Adam Greenfield said Inner Sunset Sundays is intended to build on the success of the Inner Sunset Street Fair, which was held each of the last two years. However, fees for this year’s four events, which will take place on one block of Irving Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, will saddle organizers with an estimated bill of $25,000. The fees, he said, are not only questionable, but prevent organizers from holding bigger, more frequent events and force them to commercialize much of the space.

“The current system in San Francisco is destroying community — it’s that simple,” said Greenfield. “It’s harming people psychologically and physically, it’s harming business, it’s harming everybody. And I think it should be one of the city’s core goals to help people who are building community.”

“You don’t have to pay a toll every time you get in your car and drive around,” he said, “but for some reason when it comes to building community, which I think is as important as moving around, the city lumps excessive fees on you.”

The fees for last year’s Inner Sunset Street Fair, which occupied just three blocks during a Sunday afternoon, were $9,000. “Everyone we talk to about this,” said Greenfield, “the universal reaction is shock. ‘How can it cost that much?’”

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Kick Back at Sunday Streets in Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill

July’s second Sunday Streets event returns to the Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill neighborhoods this weekend, running from Mission Bay to the Bayview Opera House.

For the third year in a row, the car-free event will connect with the Bayview Music Festival. Of course, there’s going to be a lot more happening all the way up the route as well.

The northern end of the route will be different this year — in Dogpatch, it will run on Mariposa Street to Terry Francois Boulevard, running along Mission Bay to Third and King Streets.

See you out there enjoying the sun.