Protected Bike Lane on Market Street Keeps Getting Better

wide angle small_1.jpgThe new pavement markings make it much clearer where cyclists and cars are supposed to switch lanes on Market Street near 11th Street. Photos: Matthew Roth

The gradually evolving traffic rearrangement on Market Street got a boost yesterday as the MTA re-striped the bicycle and motor vehicle crossing zone at Market and 11th, clarifying how the vehicles are supposed to negotiate the street with bold new markings. In addition to clearer turn and merge arrows for motorists, there are numerous sharrows starting as far back as Van Ness and Market and extending through the intersection of Market and 10th streets.

Though it’s not quite Copenhagen, where blue bike lanes run through intersections, Neal Patel of the SFBC noted that these are the first sharrows he is aware of painted in the middle of an intersection to give cyclists direction for how to navigate the lane shift.

"It’s great to see the MTA continue to observe how people are using the street and make quick design changes," said Patel, who noted that the agency moved the original trial traffic diversion from 8th Street back to 10th to measure the impacts.

Patel also commended the agency for moving quickly to address the confusion among the street’s users about how to negotiate the lane swap. "The new markings will hopefully solve that problem and get cyclists to the left of right-turning vehicles," he said. "I’m confident that if it doesn’t appear to be working, the MTA will look for more ways to improve the situation."

Market_VN_sharrows_small.jpgSharrows extend through the intersection of Market and Van Ness.

For cyclists riding the new configuration, the changes received rave reviews, though some were concerned that drivers were still splitting the soft-hit posts to access the bus-only lane, then being forced to turn right at 10th Street where the parking control officers are stationed.

"My big concern is drivers who don’t really get what’s going on there," said Ali Kirby, a recent transplant to San Francisco from Santa Cruz. Kirby said she made a point of riding on Market when she heard of the trial changes and said she felt most of the drivers who were confused by the change were not residents in the city. Despite the concern, she lauded the changes and the improvements for cyclists. "I love it so much. It’s really wonderful."

Another regular Market Street bicycle commuter who declined to give his name agreed with Kirby. "I just think you have a high percentage of people who aren’t from San Francisco who drive down Market Street, so it’s confusing to them," he said. As for the sense of safety downstream of the traffic restrictions, he was thrilled, "I love it."

At least one cyclist thought the changes were still awkward, citing the confusion when vehicles in the left lane are forced to make a right turn at 10th Street. "Generally the changes are good," he said, adding that he liked "the reduction of traffic through this portion. I have noticed it and it has been a huge god-send." One suggestion he had for the MTA was to better alert motorists that they would have to turn right on 10th so more might turn voluntarily at 11th, as some already appear to do.

For Brad Jones, a San Francisco cyclist who had been traveling and hadn’t ridden on Market Street in several months, the restrictions were a welcome surprise. Jones said any further improvements for cyclists and transit vehicles would do the city good. "The more the merrier."


car_fail_small.jpgOf course, some didn’t understand why the cabs could go through in the middle lane. After cutting between the soft-hit posts, this car had to turn back right at 10th Street when the PCO blocked the way.


This drawing from the Hub plan is part of SFMTA's proposal for 11th in SoMa. Image: SFMTA

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