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Posts from the Market Street Category

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The Difference Some Sleek New Paint and Pavement Makes on Market Street

It’s remarkable how much more dignified bicycling on mid-Market Street feels with the fresh coat of smooth asphalt and green paint that crews put in over the weekend. The bike lane’s transformation from something like an abandoned trench to a green carpet is almost as refreshing as when it was first painted green (in fact, it’s brighter now than ever).

Crews made one neat change in the configuration at Market and 10th Street: Where there used to sit an empty traffic lane blocked by a sign since the forced right turn for cars was implemented in 2009, the bike lane was shifted to the left, which provides more of a straight shot for bicycle riders as they cross the intersection and makes the removal of that traffic lane finally feel official.

It also leaves a stretch of empty curb space to the right of the bike lane — no word yet on what that will be used for. Perhaps it’s time for Twitter to build the first parklet on Market Street?

Crews paint a fresh coat on the center bike lane on the eastbound approach to 10th Street, where cars must turn right. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Just past 10th Street, the bike lane has been shifted closer to the center of the street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Planning Commission Approves Ped-Friendly Plan for Market and Dolores

As part of a newly-approved agreement, developers will add a sidewalk extension at Market and Dolores to make room for a mini plaza. Image: Prado Group

A plan to add a mini plaza and pedestrian safety improvements at Market and Dolores streets was approved by the SF Planning Commission on Thursday. The project will include new pedestrian refuges and sidewalks as wide as 14 feet, as well as special pavement treatments to highlight crosswalks on the block of Dolores between Market and 14th Streets. The crosswalk on Dolores at Clinton Park, a side street, will also be raised.

Image via Curbed SF

The plan received unanimous approval from commissioners, who were not swayed by some neighbors who opposed the conversion of two traffic lanes to pedestrian space on a short, lightly-trafficked section of Dolores. The improvements were part of a city agreement with the developers of an 85-unit apartment building and Whole Foods Market under construction at the corner. The arrangement calls for the developer to install the street upgrades in lieu of $510,000 in impact fees.

“The current design allows cars to whip around the corner quickly onto Dolores, endangering people who are crossing,” Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission in support of the project. “Dolores itself is also a high-speed street, making conditions more dangerous for all users, since any collisions are made much more serious at higher vehicle speeds.”

D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener praised the plan because it “appropriately balances pedestrian safety with traffic flow in the area. It’s a unique opportunity that we’re not gonna have again to do this upgrade.”

“If you’ve ever walked that intersection or driven by it, it is an incredibly wide, long pedestrian crossing — one of the longest in the area,” he said.

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Supes Seek Answers on Bike/Ped Strategy, “Better Market Street” Delay

Supervisors Avalos, Kim, Mar, and Wiener.

Members of the SF Board of Supervisors are calling attention to the need to fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Strategies, as well as the delayed Better Market Street project, which suddenly looks like it might not include space for bicycling.

The Market Street situation concerned Supervisors Scott Wiener and John Avalos enough to call separate hearings and release statements on the issue. Both are troubled by the new completion date of 2019 — a four-year delay — and the idea of building protected bike lanes on downtown Mission instead of Market, which was recently added as a potential option to the surprise of advocates and supervisors.

Avalos called for a hearing at the next meeting of the SF County Transportation Authority Board on February 26. In a statement, he said, “Market Street is the most bicycled street West of the Mississippi, and I believe it deserves dedicated cycle tracks along its full length. The current state of Market Street with the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ zig-zagging bike lane is unbecoming for the premiere thoroughfare of one of America’s premier bicycling cities… We, as city officials, can’t squander this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Wiener’s hearing would take place at an upcoming meeting at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee. “The Better Market Street project should be the best example of improving our streets through creating safer pedestrian and bike access and making thoughtful transit decisions,” he said in a statement. “The plan should encourage people to make better use of public space and to advance our city’s Transit-First policy. We need to carefully scrutinize any changes to the plan that could impact that goal.”

On funding the Pedestrian Strategy, D6 Supervisor Jane Kim called a hearing with city staffers about how to fund the safety improvements needed to reach the plan’s goals, which include cutting pedestrian injuries in half by 2020. She didn’t say if Mayor Ed Lee was expected to attend.

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Eyes on the Street: Progress on Market/Valencia Turn, Green Paint on Fell

Green paint now highlights the Fell Street bike lane from Scott to Divisadero. Photos: Mark Dreger

Improvements on two of San Francisco’s most important bicycling links continue to take shape: Green paint now graces the first block of the Fell Street separated bike lane, and much of the visible construction has been completed on the left-turn bicycle lane and traffic signal going in at Market and Valencia Streets.

Streetsblog reader Mark Dreger sent in photos of the improvements today, noting that the green paint on Fell highlights the beginning of the bike lane west of Scott Street, and there is now a longer segment of dashed green markings extending from the area where bike riders merge with drivers queuing up at the Arco gas station. SFMTA crews laid down the basic stripes of the bike lane last week, including the outline of a bike box and an advanced stop line for cars at the Divisadero intersection.

At Market and Valencia, Department of Public Works crews appear to have mostly completed the concrete work, which involved cutting out a section of the sidewalk (formerly an unused curb cut) and installing an island that sets off the area where left-turning cyclists queue up. Bike traffic continuing straight through the intersection will be routed around the left of the island, according to the project plans, meaning there will be a short stretch with no buffer zone. One of two bicycle traffic signal heads has also been installed. SFMTA crews still have to add markings for the left-turn lane and activate the new traffic signals.

Update: Mike Sallaberry of the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision said the traffic signals are expected to be activated this week.

See more photos after the break.

The left-turn queuing area at Market and Valencia.

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DPW Begins Pavement Fixes on Market Street

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One of the hairier spots on Market Street at Fremont. DPW plans show that this spot will be re-paved. Photo: Steven Vance/Flickr

The SF Department of Public Works began making major pavement improvements along lower Market Street this week.

The awful state of Market’s pavement has for years made the street a labyrinth for bike commuters, who must often swerve to avoid potholes while looking out for motor vehicles and trolley tracks. Nonetheless, Market has become San Francisco’s busiest bicycling street. Not content to wait for the scheduled street reconstruction in 2016, the SF Bicycle Coalition has pushed DPW “for quite a while” to smooth out some of the most dangerous stretches, said Executive Director Leah Shahum.

DPW crews at work on Market Street Monday night. Photo: SFBC

“The terrible pavement quality on Market Street is one of the things we hear the most,” she said. “It’s more than an inconvenience — it really is a safety issue, because so many times, you look down and realize you’re about to go into a pothole that is literally so dangerous that you are forced to swerve in an unpredictable way.”

DPW is re-paving large patches on Market, which “sticks much longer” than just filling potholes, said Shahum. Crews are working at night to avoid disrupting commuters. DPW spokesperson Greg Crump said work began Monday and is expected to be finished by September 20. The agency is targeting 25 trouble spots [PDF] spread out along Market from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero, with a total of 15,230 square feet to be paved. Ten spots have already been completed.

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C.W. Nevius’ Fact-Free “Concerns” About Bike Lanes

A green bike lane on Market Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius took another shot at stoking some bicycle controversy today with his latest fact-free piece sharing his “concerns” that bike lanes “may be on [a] crash course” with cars.

“Bikes and automobiles are still crashing into each other,” as Chuck breaks it to us. “Part of the problem is simply sharing the street. But there’s also a concern that the green bike lanes may actually be encouraging collisions,” he wrote.

Since Nevius doesn’t actually provide any evidence for this “concern,” we can’t really be sure why he’s publishing another article on the matter of bicycle safety. But taking even a surface-level look into his baseless claims only seems to reveal yet another attempt to ruffle some feathers around bike lanes.

While the bike lane examples Nevius chooses seem largely arbitrary, he does point to the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, which had the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries in 2011, with a total of ten (Nevius probably would’ve done well to actually cite the numbers). But the vast majority of bicycle crashes there are caused by drivers making illegal right turns onto the freeway.

State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has pushed for a change in state law to allow camera enforcement, and the SF Bicycle Coalition said violations have dropped since a concrete island and other improvements were installed there. Still, Nevius somehow names the bike lane as the problem. (Quick fact correction for his piece: The SFBC confirmed that Nevius misquoted Executive Director Leah Shahum as saying they were illegal left turns. Also, this section of bike lane isn’t painted green.)

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On the Horizon: A Car-Free Market Street With Raised, Protected Bike Lanes

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A rendering of a possible future for Market Street. Image: Better Market Street

Note: The Better Market Street Project will hold two public workshops on July 17 and 21, where you can provide feedback on the proposed concepts.

The future of lower Market Street seems more likely than ever to be unencumbered by cars, freeing up space for effective transit and raised, protected bicycle lanes.

The latest update [PDF] on the Better Market Street Project includes three possible scenarios to lessen the impact of private automobiles on Market, Department of Public Works Project Manager Kris Opbroek told the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors this week. The proposals range from banning cars east of Franklin Street to using more forced turns to reduce through traffic. The scenarios that do allow cars could include car-free zones on pedestrian heavy blocks like the one between Fourth and Fifth Streets, Opbroek said.

The plan is being developed by a team of city agencies and design consultants who are drawing inspiration from the world’s most celebrated streets. Among the design features under consideration, Opbroek said, are bike lanes separated from motor vehicles by a raised curb, which have been employed to great effect in the world’s most successful cycling cities. (SF’s first raised bike lanes are included in the plan for Masonic Avenue.)

The raised bike lanes were praised by board members, including Joél Ramos, who recently visited Copenhagen with SFMTA staff on a trip funded by the Bikes Belong Foundation. On Nørrebrogade, which Copenhagen claims as the busiest bicycling street in the Western world, Ramos said he saw how the lanes “work as a phenomenal placemaking opportunity” to help make the street “a thriving corridor.”

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Muni’s New “Twitter Bus” Opens While SFMTA Faces Yawning Budget Gap

Twitter user Joseph Cutrona posted this photo of a mostly empty "Twitter bus" on its first morning.

A new Muni line went into service today: the 83x, which runs during peak hours between downtown Caltrain and mid-Market. It’s been dubbed the “Twitter Bus” and the “Hashtag Express” by those who see its launch as part of the city’s efforts to accommodate Twitter’s move to the resurgent area.

But after a new labor agreement signed by Mayor Ed Lee last week stuck the SFMTA with a $14.6 million deficit, the agency is once again looking to make ends meet. The agreement was made after the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee passed an SFMTA budget that banked on $7 million in reduced labor costs. The union deal includes a pay raise instead.

The 83x hasn’t been indicated as a target for cuts yet, nor is it clear how much it would save the SFMTA (an agency document [PDF] about the route only says its costs will be offset by “operations and maintenance efficiencies”). However, some transit advocates have questioned whether the resources devoted to the 83x could be used more effectively.

The cuts will have to come from somewhere, and the SF Transit Riders Union is launching a “rider revolt” to urge the SFMTA Board of Directors next week to steer clear of service and maintenance cuts for Muni riders.

A list of budget cut options will be presented at next week’s board meeting. Should the 83x be the first to go, or should it stay to make it easier for new mid-Market employees to commute on transit?

Regardless, people who already rely on Muni can’t afford to pay for this unexpected budget gap. After a round of service cuts in 2010 and rapid-fire fare hikes (adult monthly passes cost $45 in 2009 and $72 today), it’s imperative that the SFMTA avoid balancing its books on the backs of transit riders.

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Traffic Engineer Jack Fleck Looks Back at 25 Years of Shaping SF Streets

Jack_Fleck_1.jpgJack Fleck, who retired yesterday after 25 years with the SFMTA, has been pondering the city's streets from his 7th floor office above Van Ness and Market Streets. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series on the past, present and future of traffic engineering in San Francisco. 

Jack Lucero Fleck remembers his teenage years as a sputnik, the kind of kid who was as "nutty as a slide rule," loved math and science, and knew he was headed in that direction. It was the summer of 1965, and living in Peoria, Illinois, the same town where US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood grew up, Fleck couldn't quite peg what he wanted to do in life. And then there were the Watts riots.

"I got kind of interested in, 'well, what caused that? Why were people burning down their neighborhood?'," Fleck, 62, explained during a recent interview. "I decided I would go into civil engineering because I liked to do math and science and engineering and I would combine it with city planning to make cities better places to live, so people wouldn't want to burn them down."

For the last 25 years, Fleck, who retired yesterday from his job as San Francisco's top traffic engineer, has had a hand in almost every major transportation project in San Francisco, from the demolition and boulevard replacement of the Embarcadero and Central Freeways, to helping in the design of the T-Third line and Central Subway, to crafting a controversial proposal to remove the bike lane at Market and Octavia Streets.

He has sometimes been the bane of transit advocates for defending post-World War II traffic engineering orthodoxy favoring one-way street networks, such as those that roar through neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and SoMa. While some advocates have been working to dismantle some of the one-way arterials, Fleck, who became lead traffic engineer in 2004, is a firm believer in them. Still, those advocates and transportation professionals who have worked with Fleck (none we contacted would go on the record with their criticisms) say he has been a true professional and easy to work with.

"His views are very progressive and he's very environmentally conscious," said Bond Yee, the interim Director of Sustainable Streets at the SFMTA who has been at the agency four years longer than Fleck. "He epitomizes what the new generation of transportation professionals is becoming. He's a little bit ahead of his time."

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Reaction to Market Street Pilot Seems Overwhemingly Positive

IMG_5167.jpgAt Market and 7th Street, people already greatly outnumber cars. Photo: Michael Rhodes
The series of trials scheduled to begin September 29 on Market Street are still seeping into the public's awareness, but so far, pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders seem to share an excitement about the plan, which will reduce traffic by forcing eastbound private automobiles to turn right at 6th and 8th Streets, and enliven the city's main thoroughfare with art projects, mini-plazas and entertainment.

"I think overall it would be a good idea," said Jerry Chung, who rides Muni to work from his Richmond District home, and also takes the bus during lunch to go shopping. "Sometimes it takes several minutes just to move a few blocks" on Market Street because cars hold up buses, he said.

Nicholas Whitacre, who rides up and down Market constantly in his duties as a bike messenger, said the changes would be very welcome. "I think it's awesome. I hope that that happens," Whitacre said.

Fewer private vehicles would make Market much safer for him, he said, and cars have little use for Market anyway. "Unless you're a delivery truck or a taxi, you're wasting your time" on Market Street, Whitacre said. "It's also got to be safer for cabs, buses, and delivery trucks."

Kit Hodge, Director of the Great Streets Project for the SFBC, said the the vast majority of people surveyed about the project wanted to see a change on Market. "Overwhelmingly, people are responding to the idea of wanting to see a better place for Market Street overall," said Hodge. "What's really striking is that people are already talking about wanting the street to be a better place. It's all about placemaking for them, and they're open to the idea of trying things. They recognize it's not what it should be right now."

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