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Posts from the "Market Street" Category

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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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Camera Enforcement for Illegal Turns at Market/Octavia Gets Green Light

Dangerous, illegal right turns from Market Street onto the freeway at the intersection with Octavia Boulevard — the location with the most pedestrian and bicycle crashes in the city — may become less frequent after a long-awaited state decision that allows the city to use camera enforcement. The decision was announced by California Attorney General Kamala Harris last week.

Photo: Bryan Goebel

The SF Bicycle Coalition has pushed for camera enforcement  to reduce injuries at this location since 2007. “We are excited about this long-awaited decision that will make San Francisco’s most dangerous intersection safer,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum in a statement. “Over the past ten years, more than 50 people walking and biking have been injured at Market and Octavia. We urge the city to install the crucial safety improvement quickly and help ensure the safety of people walking and biking through this intersection.”

Injuries at Market and Octavia have increased drastically since the Central Freeway opened in 2005. Drivers making illegal right turns from eastbound Market on to the freeway across a bike lane and crosswalk are the primary cause, according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s 2009-2011 Collision Report [PDF]. Thirty people were injured from 2009 to 2011, the report says, and violations continued even after a concrete barrier and extra signage were installed to deter violators.

“There have been some physical improvements to Market and Octavia, but this enforcement mechanism will really make people think twice about making that illegal turn,” Shahum told the SF Examiner yesterday.

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The Left-Turn Bike Signal at Market and Valencia Is Open for Business

It’s officially rideable: The left-turn pocket and traffic signal connecting Market and Valencia Streets is finished as of today, the SFMTA announced on its Livable Streets Facebook page. Finally, the bicycling gates from Market to the Mission have been opened to people who don’t feel comfortable merging across three traffic lanes and a set of streetcar tracks to turn left with car traffic. A simple but incredibly useful upgrade.

The green-backed sharrow (not pictured) in the center of the street seems like a nice touch, but the concrete divider in the bike lane has drawn some skepticism from observers during construction. If you pass by it on your commute today, let us know in the comments how it works for you.

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[Updated] Driver Injures Cyclist in Midnight Crash at Market and Octavia

A man riding a bicycle was seriously injured by a driver at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard at about midnight last night, according to police and two witnesses.

Market and Octavia. Photo: sftrajan/Flickr

The bicyclist was sent to the hospital after the crash at 12:05 a.m., said SFPD spokesperson Michael Andraychak. He said more details won’t be available until the police report enters the department’s system.

[Update:] Christopher Schroeder said he witnessed the crash, and that the man on the bike ran a red light:

I watched from my bike at my red light as the cyclist ran his red light at the freeway entrance of Octavia and Market and was hit by the car. After his body hit the car grate it rolled up onto the hood, over the roof and flew 4+ lanes approx. 20 feet before it hit the ground and rolled three times to stop just steps for me. As I pulled out my phone I had seconds to decide whether I run into the intersection to stop his body from being ran over by another car or whether that put myself at too much risk. Luckily the car behind stopped which gave me a chance to run to him, protected from traffic. He was not conscious. He did not move. 911 immediately responded. While the ambulance was in route the cyclist started to sputter and spit. An off duty nurse came to hold his neck and suddenly he started talking. Not in a normal voice but in a high pitched daze. “I’m fine. I need to get up. Please let go of me. Please. I’m fine. Please.” The paramedics say his neck is not broken and he should recover. The police have my number. I gave my statement assuring them the [driver] was not at fault. It never could have seen him. He ran the light to a freeway entrance.

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DPW Begins Work on Market/Valencia Left-Turn Bike Signal

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Market and Valencia. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Construction has begun on a left-turn bicycle traffic signal and queuing lane that will help bicycle riders turn on to Valencia Street from westbound Market Street, according to the SF Department of Public Works.

Originally expected to begin last month, work on the project started yesterday, said DPW spokesperson Rachel Gordon, and it should be completed by November 30, depending on weather.

The project, which is being implemented by both DPW and the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, will create a left-turn “pocket” for bicycle commuters to queue up by the curb along Market, where an exclusive bicycle signal will indicate when to cross onto southbound Valencia. To make that possible, DPW crews will also remove a piece of the center median on Market.

When completed, it should bring some major relief for commuters connecting between two of the city’s busiest bicycling routes, who must currently merge over three lanes of traffic, one of which has streetcar tracks on it.

For a visual of what the treatment could look like, check out a similar example used at the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts after the break.

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Supes Grill Planners for Repeated Delays on Better Market Street Project

The Better Market Street project, a multi-agency effort to overhaul San Francisco’s main thoroughfare for walking, bicycling and transit, may have trouble staying on schedule, to the frustration of some city supervisors.

At a recent hearing of the SF County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors, staff from the SFCTA and the Department of Public Works said the project is currently “on hold” while planners re-assess the timeline and coordinate efforts between the various agencies before moving full speed ahead. It’s unclear if the city will meet its target to begin construction in 2015, and it’s not the first time project managers have told the board they need more time to organize the effort.

Supervisor David Chiu grilled DPW Project Manager Kris Opbroek about the project’s repeated rollbacks. ”Given how many issues have come up, I don’t have much faith that this project is going to see any real progress in the near-term future,” said Chiu. “This is Groundhog Day, I don’t really know what more we can say other than that the process has been very disappointing thus far.”

In regular updates to the board, planners on the project said they underestimated the complexity of coordinating efforts between DPW, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, the SFCTA, the Planning Department, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and a number of consulting firms. In March, the SFCTA Board granted $170,000 in additional consultant funds for the project, though board members worried that might set project costs on a rising trajectory.

Opbroek noted that the Planning Department hired a Better Market Street project manager, who began last month. ”Yes, we are not on the schedule that we had committed to earlier this year, but we think that some time spent now will result in savings later,” said Opbroek.

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Left-Turn Bicycle Lane and Signal Coming to Market and Valencia Next Month

A bicycle left-turn queue will be created in part of the sidewalk on westbound Market Street to the right of the bike lane (where the curb cut is), along with a left-turn bicycle traffic signal. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Construction will begin in October on a fix for the dangerous turn for bicyclists from Market onto Valencia Streets, according to city planners.

As Streetsblog reported last June, a plan [PDF] to install a left-turn bicycle queue lane and traffic signal at the intersection was approved in the SF Bike Plan, but it was unknown when it could be implemented. Ben Stupka, a planner at the SF County Transportation Authority, told the agency’s board of directors yesterday that the SF Municipal Transportation Agency and Department of Public Works are expected to install it next month.

The SFMTA's plan for Market and Valencia. The turn pocket is at the top center of this illustration. "Bicycle signal heads" would be installed at points "C" and "E".

The intersection of Market and Valencia Streets, two of the most heavily-used bicycling streets in the city, saw the second-highest number of car-bike crashes from 2009 to 2011, with a total of 13, according to the SFMTA’s most recent collision report [PDF]. At the top of the list was Market and Octavia Boulevard, one short block to the west, with 21 crashes.

Currently, there are few safe and convenient ways for bicycle commuters to turn from westbound Market onto southbound Valencia. Many bolder riders merge into the vehicular left-turn lane across two traffic lanes, one of which has trolley tracks on it. Otherwise, the only other practical way to cross Market is to walk or ride in the crosswalk.

To provide a smoother link, the project would create a pocket in a piece of the sidewalk (currently an unused curb cut) to the right of Market’s westbound bicycle lane, for left-turners to queue up. Then, on a dedicated left-turn signal phase, bicyclists would cross through an opening that will be created in the existing median island. Similar solutions have been used for decades in cycling cities in countries including Denmark and the Netherlands.

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Eyes on the Street: Market Street Bikeway a Favorite SFPD Parking Spot

A police cruiser parked in the bike lane in May. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Just as one problem improves for bike commuters on Market Street, another arises. Some San Francisco police officers have apparently grown fond of parking their cruisers in the westbound protected bike lane on Market at Polk/Tenth Street, next to Fox Plaza.

Back in May I snapped the above photo of a cruiser forcing a platoon of bike commuters to stop and squeeze by. I peered into the adjacent Starbucks for any officers, but seeing none, I gave them the benefit of the doubt, presuming it may have been a fluke. I don’t regularly commute on Market, so it was hard for me to tell if this was a recurring problem.

But this morning, bike commuter Stephanie May sent in photos of a cruiser parked in the same spot, and she said she sees it all the time. In fact, she returned this afternoon and snapped more photos, saying the same police car seems to have been parked there all day.

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During Construction, the Safety of People on Bikes Is Dispensable

Photos: Aaron Bialick

We recently wrote about the benefits to bicycle riders that come from temporarily removing car parking at construction sites. But there are other times when construction can do just the opposite, throwing them into harm’s way.

At the very same construction site at 1844 Market Street, where we pointed out that parking removal had improved conditions for bicycle commuters climbing the hill to the Wiggle, crews last Friday set up a dangerous and perplexing labyrinth for evening rush hour bicycle traffic. To make room for what appeared to be a concrete pouring machine, the parking, bicycle, and right-most traffic lanes were closed, leaving no choice but to merge into a lane with car traffic and trolley tracks, or, as most bike commuters chose, to delicately negotiate the extremely narrow space between the trolley tracks and reflective road bumps.

Residents of any major city are used to putting up with inconveniences for construction. But in this all-too-common situation, people were thrown into dangerous conditions with virtually no guidance about how to pass safely aside from a sign reading, “Bikes allowed use of full lane” (even if the lane has tracks, that’s apparently all that’s required by law [PDF]). The sidewalk was also closed, with vague signage asking pedestrians to detour to the other side of the street, leading some to walk in the road.

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Learning From Other Cities, Planners Shop Early Visions for Market Street

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Image: Better Market Street

Planners presented early concepts for a new Market Street to the public yesterday, moving the discussion forward on revitalizing San Francisco’s grand boulevard with features like car-free zones, raised bike lanes, faster transit, and more inviting public spaces.

The ideas and visualizations, which are available on the Better Market Street website, were presented by planners as starting points to explore. Many of the concepts are hallmarks of the world’s greatest streets, and planners in the multi-agency effort are aiming to adapt them to Market using a swath of survey data about how the street is used.

The increasingly popular idea of removing private autos from lower Market could come in various forms, ranging from additional forced turns for cars in both directions, to a car-free zone near the Powell Street cable car turnaround, to a full ban on cars as far west as Octavia Boulevard.

Staff fielding public feedback said the proposals have met mostly with support, with concerns focused largely on how to best implement car prohibitions in ways that are enforceable and don’t shift traffic congestion problems to other streets.

Similar experiments have proven successful on New York City’s Broadway and Copenhagen’s Nørrebrogade, said Jeff Risom, a planner on the project with the Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects. Like Market’s forced turns at eastbound Sixth and Tenth Streets, officials in those two cities used pilot projects to find the best fit for car restrictions.

In the summer of 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation (with the help of Gehl Architects) removed cars from a section of Broadway in Times Square, turning it into a pedestrian plaza. As a result, Times Square became more of a public destination, increasing pedestrian usage and simplifying the flow of vehicle traffic in Midtown Manhattan. NYC now plans to construct a permanent redesign for the plaza.

A key similarity between Market and Broadway is that they both cut diagonally through a dense street grid.

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