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."

A Muni operator, asked about the changes, said F-line streetcars were unlikely to be heavily impacted, but the 5-Fulton and 6-Parnassus, which run on the curbside lanes, might experience some delay from long lines of right turners at 6th and 8th Streets. "I think it’s going to slow them up," he said, since cars turning right off of Market must wait for pedestrians.

MTA spokesperson Judson True said the project planners would respond dynamically to any issues caused by the changes. "I don’t think that’s likely, but that’s one of the things we’ll be monitoring," True said. "If that becomes a problem, there could be ways to mitigate it."

Market Street merchants expressed concern about the economy, but compared to an outright ban on cars, most seemed much more receptive to the idea.

"I don’t care, actually," said Chris Moon, who owns Moonstone Shirts on Market near Sixth Street. "A lot of people take public transportation" to his store already, said Moon, since parking is "very expensive or not safe." Bucking the tendency to believe most customers are drivers, Moon said that around mid-Market, "if they’re shopping, they take public transportation."

At another nearby Market Street business, a shopkeeper who preferred anonymity said he wasn’t sure how the trial programs would affect business, but he’d prefer the city wait until the economy improves and profit margins were less thin. Though he wasn’t sure how most people get to his business, he said he suspects some people who drive by and see what he’s selling decide to stop in. Theoretically, he said, those could be lost customers.

Bicyclist James Milliken was more unreservedly excited about the plan. "I don’t drive at all," said Milliken. "If it’s easier to bike, that’s cool with me." Milena Nikolova, who works at the Westfield Mall and crosses Market every day on her way to work, also welcomed the safety benefits of fewer cars. Removing cars "would be good," Nikolova said. "The traffic is bad."

On the whole, the proposals seemed surprisingly uncontroversial, given the long debate about cars on Market Street. Whitacre, the messenger, said the discussion has changed rapidly as of late. "It’s amazing how that went from ‘no way,’ to little by little, it’s growing into acceptance."

  • I’m worried if bicyclists (especially those daredevils who don’t wear helmets and/or use fixed gear bikes) will go even faster and be even more dangerous to pedestrians.

  • Akit, do you really think that the problem daredevil bicyclists are the ones who will be more encouraged to use Market St? Seems that just the opposite will be true. By making Market St safer for bicyclists then we should see an increase in bicyclists who were avoiding bicycling there because they felt unsafe, the polar opposite of daredevil cyclists. This is exactly who we should be helping. The daredevil cyclists can find some other crappy street to take risks on.

  • Jym

    =v= Akit has wandered over here from SFGate, where it is mandatory to respond to any mention of bicycles or transit by squawking about helmets and fixies.

  • SFResident

    @jym – As a pedestrian and non-bicyclist myself I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with obnoxious bicyclists who show patent disregard for the safety of others. What’s needed is to convince people like Akit that traffic calming and creating a car-free Market Street will actaully make bicycling in the city safer and, as a result, encourage a wider demographic to take-up bicycling. Like Michael Smith I firmly believe that it will – it’s much easier to ride civilly when you don’t have to dodge crazy drivers. Hell, I might even consider riding a bike myself if the city’s infrastructure improves significantly. . . .

    For every grumpy-jerky zealot like Rob Anderson there are a thousand people, bicyclists and non-bicyclists alike, who just want safe, clean, and orderly streets.

  • the greasybear

    Accepting the idea that remaining vehicle speeds will increase absent private motorists on lower Market Street, is it resonable for Akit to direct our worry over potential pedestrians safety explicitly on cyclists, and on cyclists alone?

    No. The MTA’s SF 2007 Collision Report shows cyclists were involved in only 3% of injury collisions with pedestrians (pp 14-15). None of those collisions were fatal. Why focus only on the supposed danger posed by the least dangerous vehicles on the road, then? Bias. Cyclists, we’re constantly told by non-cyclists, are uniquely naughty–let the facts be damned!

  • ZA

    Suggestion: shop for the 6 weeks of the pilot test in that area of Market St, and make sure you tell the merchants you are there to support these improvements to Market.

    You’ve got the following breakfast/lunch selections for you and your coworkers:
    – At least 3 donut place
    – At least 2 taquerias
    – At least 2 pizza joints
    – At least 3 sandwich shops
    – At least 1 juice place
    – At least 2 burger places
    – At least 2 Chinese food sites
    – At least 1 Brazilian meat place

    (burn the grease on a ride later)

    …and a handful of clothing stores. (too bad those pool halls are gone, I think)

    And that’s only along Market Street itself, when there isn’t the Farmers Market.

    If only 1% of bicycling commuters on Market St stopped over for a doughnut or a banana, it’ll make a good impression, and its something almost all of us can afford.


A County Transportation Authority rendering of what Market Street will look like in the future.

Open Thread on the Better Market Street Plan

The mainstream media was all over it: private cars to be banned from Market Street under the city’s “Better Market Street” plan. It will also have sidewalk-level protected bike lanes. For advocates in the safe streets community the design announced by the city this week is a major victory and a reason to celebrate. From […]