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Posts from the "Market Street" Category

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SFMTA Proposes New Car Restrictions, Extended Bus Lanes on Lower Market

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The SFMTA has proposed prohibiting private auto drivers from turning on to mid-Market Street and extending its transit-only lanes. Image: SFMTA

Last week, the SFMTA presented its proposal to ban private auto drivers from turning onto Market Street, between Third and Eighth Streets. The move would be complemented with extended transit-only lanes, plus a new system of wayfinding signs aimed at keeping drivers off of Market.

The new plans, named “Safer Market Street,” would be implemented over nearly a year, beginning next spring, and would represent a major step towards a car-free lower Market – a longtime goal of many livable streets advocates, and some city officials.

“These improvements have been long desired by people traveling regularly on Market Street,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum. “It’s clear that tens of thousands of people’s commutes, shopping trips, and any other kind of travel will be significantly improved when the most commonly used travel modes are actually prioritized on Market Street — walking, bicycling and taking transit. This will be a real example of SF leaders living up to their commitments, both to Transit First and Vision Zero.”

As we’ve reported, city studies have shown that lower Market already sees relatively little car traffic, and most drivers only travel on the street for an average of two blocks. Many of them seem to be either searching for parking (which doesn’t exist on the street) or simply lost. Since the implementation of requirements for eastbound drivers to turn off of Market at Sixth and Tenth Streets, Muni speeds have increased, even if some drivers still ignore the signs.

Although SFMTA board member Malcolm Heinicke and other proponents have pushed for a full ban on cars on Market, rather than a step-by-step approach, the proposed turn restrictions would leave only a few places where drivers could turn onto Market east of Tenth. The street would still be open to taxis, commercial vehicles, and people walking, biking, and on transit. The restrictions are seen as a precursor to the Better Market Street makeover, which could make most of the thoroughfare car-free once it begins construction in 2017.

SFMTA officials have long held off on proposing additional car restrictions, citing traffic flow complications created by the construction of the Central Subway. The agency is apparently now ready to move forward.

Market Street, looking east at Seventh Street. Photo: Sergio Ruiz/Flickr

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Just a Reminder: There Are a Ton of Bikes on Market Street

Photo: Janice Li

San Franciscans may take it for granted, but to most Americans, the volume of bike traffic on Market Street resembles a Critical Mass ride more than a weekday rush hour. SF’s main thoroughfare regularly sees more than 3,000 people ride by the bike counter on weekdays at Market and Eighth Streets — and that’s just in one direction. It may still be a ways away from matching Copenhagen’s busiest streets, and it doesn’t have raised bike lanes yet, but it’s definitely one of the highest concentrations of bike commuters you can find in this country.

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson, Jr. was awe-struck by the two-wheeled torrent when he visited from New York last summer.

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Eyes on the Street: New Curbs Coming to Market/Valencia Bike Turn

Photo: Aaron Bialick

In case you’re wondering why the left-turn “jug handle” connecting bike commuters on Market to Valencia Street suddenly disappeared behind construction barricades, we’ve got the answer. The “bike bay” is being re-built with granite curbs, replacing the original concrete curbs with materials that better match the rest of Market Street.

That’s according to SFMTA Livable Streets spokesperson Ben Jose. Jose said the re-construction is part of the ongoing work around the intersection of Market, Haight, and Gough Streets, which will create a contra-flow Muni lane and build pedestrian bulb-outs. Even though many have complained that the bike waiting zone and thru traffic lane are uncomfortably narrow, Jose did said the bike bay is not being widened, but that it could be in the Better Market Street project.

When I stumbled upon the construction site last Friday, there was no apparent alternate accommodation for people on bikes waiting for the bike signal to turn left off Market. It wouldn’t be the first time that construction crews have closed a bike lane on that stretch of Market without providing a safe detour.

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Eyes on the Street: First Block of Muni’s Red Carpet Rolled Out on Market

Photo: Cheryl Brinkman

The first segment of Market Street’s transit-only lanes was colored red this weekend, on the eastbound side between Fifth and Sixth Streets.

As we reported last week, the SFMTA is planning to roll out the “red carpet” for Muni riders on the existing bus lanes, between Fifth and 12th Streets. Riders on Muni’s F, 6, 9, 9L, 71, and 71L routes should see a faster, more reliable ride, as buses and streetcars will have to dodge fewer stray cars.

Drivers apparently need highly visible reminders to stay out of lanes reserved for buses, streetcars, and taxis. Muni bus operator Mariam Muller told ABC 7, “This is every day, all day” that Muni-only lanes are violated. “It’s very frustrating. A lot of the time, it is just for people to travel down the lane because the other lane is so congested. Bicyclists, they don’t want to use their own lane cause maybe of the congestion of the cars.”

After new red transit-only lanes were added on Church Street in spring of last year, the SFMTA said reliability for the 22-Fillmore and J-Church improved, with 20 percent of vehicles running closer to schedule. Speeds increased by 5 percent.

The Market lanes’ red paint job is expected to be completed in November, according to NBC.

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Market Street: Transit Paint Upgrades Coming, but Car Bans Still Missing

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New intersection markings could help reduce the number of drivers “blocking the box” on Market this spring, but the SFMTA has continued to postpone proposals to get cars off Market altogether. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Despite calls for more measures to get cars off of Market Street, and the benefits brought by the forced turns already put in place, the SFMTA still has yet to propose any new restrictions on private autos.

Market will have its transit-only lanes will be painted red, and cross-hatched markings will be added to discourage drivers from blocking intersections. Photos via SFMTA

Market will have its transit-only lanes will be painted red, and cross-hatched markings will be added to discourage drivers from blocking intersections. Photos via SFMTA

The agency does, however, plan to make some paint upgrades to help keep Muni moving this spring or summer. Existing transit-only lanes will be painted red, and a cross-hatched paint striping telling drivers not to “block the box” will be added at intersections where cars chronically back up and block cross traffic. SFMTA staff told its Board of Directors this week that the agency and the SFPD would also develop a plan to step up nearly non-existent enforcement of transit lanes and box-blocking on Market.

Yet the agency has repeatedly delayed its promises to put forward proposals for new forced turns or potential bans for private autos on Market, to the frustration of car-free Market champions like Malcolm Heinicke, an SFMTA Board member, and Supervisor David Chiu, who introduced his second resolution urging the SFMTA to move the efforts along. The resolution was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors this week.

“I want the people who ride those buses on Market Street to have something close to the experience I have underground of a real right-of-way and real capacity,” Heinicke told SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin at a meeting on the agency’s Strategic Plan and budget Tuesday. “I’m not suggesting any malice or obfuscation here, but my question is, what’s the delay?”

Heinicke had requested that SFMTA staff present a proposal for car restrictions at the previous planning meeting one year ago, and Reiskin said it would come by this winter, but then postponed it to Tuesday’s meeting. Now, Reiskin says the proposals will be ready to be considered as part of the SFMTA’s two-year budget, which is scheduled to be finalized by March.

Reiskin chalked up the delays to the complications caused by ongoing projects like the construction of the Central Subway. “While we have identified some preliminary proposals along with costs and impacts, there’s more work that needs to be done to figure out the interaction with all the various projects that are currently happening on Market Street.”

“I share the frustration, and take responsibility for the fact, that we don’t have something by now,” he said.

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Streetfilms Captures Bicycle Rush Hour on Market

Just wanted to drop some fun nuggets in here for fans while I’ve been on vacation in the Bay Area.

If you ask me, Market Street in San Francisco continues to do battle with Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge as the busiest bicycling channel in the United States. It’s been three years since my last visit, but Market bike traffic continues to grow and dazzle during the commuting hours.  So I cajoled myself to grab my camera from the hotel one morning and in only about 20 minutes picked up enough for the following short montage.

Of course, it makes you think back to the recent controversial New York Times article warning that there are perhaps too many bicycles in Amsterdam. I’d love to know what they would write about this alarming number of bikes taking over a major city street.

The day prior I attended my first SF Sunday Streets event. This one was in the Mission and it had a wonderful laid back vibe with the majority of the attendees walking.  There was also much more live music than any other ciclovia-cycle closed street event I have ever been to. My favorite was this bluegrass band Rusty Stringfield which played a great alfresco set to dozens of passerby who were comfortably lounging in the street on furniture.  Watch this, we need more of this in the world.

Another thing I can report: I stumbled upon San Francisco’s re-installation of its Market bike counter following a road re-paving (last year Portland minted the first in the U.S., see video here). As these photos show, the ground sensors were re-activated to detect the daily “sea of bikes” and the counter was up and running as of this morning.  Hat tip for the edit/clarification to Prinzrob in the comments.

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Heinicke to SFMTA: Let’s Not Dilly-Dally With More Forced Turns on Market

Some 20 percent of drivers on Market Street still violate the forced turn at 10th Street, but SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke thinks implementing a full ban along lower Market will be more effective at gaining compliance. Photo: Jym Dyer/Flickr

In a continued push for a car-free Market Street, SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke urged the agency to not waste time and money on phasing in more forced turn restrictions, instead calling for a full ban on private autos on lower Market.

“It is my strong supposition that if we close Market altogether, say from Tenth Street or Van Ness all the way to the Ferry Building, and you have an actual uniform ban, that the need for enforcement would be less than if you’re doing it sort of block by block,” Heinicke told SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin at a board meeting last week.

Within the next couple of months, SFMTA staff plans to release a list of recommended intersections to divert westbound car traffic off Market, expanding upon the forced right turns implemented for eastbound traffic at 10th and Sixth Streets in 2009. The sites under consideration include Market’s intersections at O’Farrell/Grant Streets, Sutter Street, Geary Street, as well as Battery at Bush Street, where it feeds traffic on to westbound Market, according to SFMTA transportation planner Andrew Lee.

But while the SFMTA estimates that 80 percent of drivers are complying with the existing forced turn at 10th — where the through-traffic lane was physically removed — only 30 percent are adhering to the turn at Sixth, where no physical measures were put in place to discourage drivers from continuing down the street.

Reiskin cautioned that relying on police enforcement to get drivers to comply with forced turns isn’t cheap, noting that the agency has paid the SFPD up to $1 million to enforce the current turn restrictions. He also said that the ongoing construction of the Central Subway makes it difficult to divert traffic at some spots.

“We don’t have many places — there may be one or two,” said Reiskin, “where we can hard-wire and design in the turn restrictions, but for the most part, we can’t, because we need to allow transit and taxis and delivery vehicles to continue through, which means it’s softer on design and heavier on enforcement, which is extraordinarily expensive.”

In response, Heinicke said he “would favor the whole enchilada” of a car ban on Market to maximize the potential improvements in Muni speeds and safer conditions for walking and biking.

“I think that would also allow you to realize the transit and bike benefits that we’re talking about,” he said. “Two blocks of safety and expedited transit is as good as nothing because then you get to the next block and you’re right back in the traffic and the unsafe zone, so people aren’t going to make the choices we want them to make.”

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SFMTA: New Curbside Space at Market and 10th Will Be a Bike-Share Station

In case you were wondering what would become of the newly empty curb space at Market and 10th Streets, where the traffic lane stripings were re-configured over the weekend, it turns out the SFMTA plans to put a bike-share station there.

“With Bay Area Bike Share set to launch this August, the SFMTA saw an opening to initiate striping changes that would better utilize space on this segment of Market St., and provided room for an upcoming bike sharing station on the south side of Market St, just east of 10th St.,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose wrote in an email.

Fancy that.

The SFMTA says it does plan to re-install the plastic posts along the bike lanes, and Rose said the Market Street bike counter “will be up and running soon after modifications and re-calibration.”

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DPW to Re-Pave a Major Stretch of Market Street This Weekend

The outer lanes of Market Street will be re-paved between Van Ness Avenue and Sixth Street this weekend, the Department of Public Works announced today. The work is scheduled to start on Friday at 7 p.m. and finish within 24 hours.

“This will be a major improvement to the city’s most important bicycling street,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “For the growing number of people biking on Market Street — whether traveling to work or connecting to regional transit or visiting neighborhoods connected by our city’s main artery — this repaving could not come soon enough.”

DPW has patched up some of the most dangerous spots over the years — most recently last September — but the agency says the street hasn’t had a proper re-paving in about 30 years. ”This repaving initiative will last longer and create a much safer and more comfortable experience for the thousands of people who use the street every day,” said DPW Director Mohammed Nuru in a statement.

DPW does have plans to re-pave the rest of Market’s curbside lanes east of Sixth Street in two phases: “The stretch between Steuart and Third streets is tentatively scheduled for June 21-22, and the section between Third and Sixth streets is tentatively set for mid-July,” said a press release from the agency. “Work on the intersections will be completed after the summer tourism rush and special events.”

The $700,000 project is funded with gas tax funds, according to DPW. During construction, bikes, automobiles and trucks will be detoured off of Market. Muni and other public transit vehicles will still run in Market’s center lanes, and all boardings will take place on the center islands.

There are no known plans to re-pave the center lanes, which are generally only used by trolley cars, buses, and autos, until the repeatedly-delayed Better Market Street project is completed in 2019.

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Watch: Time Lapse of Market Street Bike Traffic on Bike to Work Day

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The SF Bicycle Coalition has released an awesome time lapse video of over 1,000 people on bikes rolling by the Market Street bicycle counter on the morning of Bike to Work Day.

The SFBC’s volunteer photographer Volker Neumann took photos every five seconds with a camera mounted to a nearby telephone pole.

Photos and statistics are great, but nothing shows the potential to grow bicycling in San Francisco quite like the sight of serious bike traffic in action.