How Would You Redesign Market Street at Van Ness?

How should this intersection be designed to better accomodate bicyclists?
How should this intersection be designed to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians? Photos by Bryan Goebel were taken from the offices of SFMTA Chief Nat Ford and former traffic engineer Jack Fleck.

With the SFMTA poised to install green bike boxes in both directions of Market Street at Van Ness Avenue, it got me thinking about how the agency could better design that intersection for the huge numbers of bicyclists who pass through it on a daily basis, particularly on eastbound Market where drivers and people on bikes have to crisscross to get in their respective lane. It could also be better designed for pedestrians, considering it’s so wide and that Van Ness, a state highway, is an ugly street to cross.

Since the SFMTA began forced right-turns on eastbound Market at 10th Street, a trial that has improved conditions for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit, they fixed the configuration of the eastbound bike lane and protected it with soft-hit posts and green paint. The eastbound green protected bike lane begins around 11th Street, leaving a gap between there and the Van Ness crosswalk. Why not extend the bike lane all the way to the crosswalk, and make it clear that drivers should stay right to get in the right turn lane or turn right onto 11th? But there are some complications with that.

See my idea (below the break) for a treatment across the intersection to get eastbound bicyclists in the bike lane if the SFMTA moved it back. I think this would work well for bicyclists queued up in the bike box, but then it doesn’t necessarily solve how to get bicyclists over there in moving traffic.

How would you redesign this intersection to address these issues, and the bike lane on Market between Van Ness and 10th Street?  We know a great many of you are talented designers, so why not take the photos and work up some photoshop magic? Send your finished ideas by next Wednesday, December 15th, to and we’ll put up the best designs, and throw in a Streetsblog SF hoodie to thank you.

I'm definitely not a photoshop pro, but how about something like this for the intersection heading eastbound on the south side?
I'm definitely not a photoshop pro or planner but how about something like this for the intersection heading eastbound on the south side? Notice how the westbound bike lane is green and protected, something the SFBC has been pestering the SFMTA to do.
Extending the green bike lane back to the crosswalk is completed by the fact that 11th Street is used by transit, and has tracks where the historic streetcars often pull off. The bike lane could probably not be protected for these reasons, or could it?
Extending the protected green bike lane back to the crosswalk is complicated by the fact that 11th Street is used by transit, and has tracks where the historic streetcars often pull off. The bike lane could probably not be protected for these reasons, or could it? What do you think about this issue?
Northbound cyclists pedaling up 11th Street, which has a bike lane, often cross over the tracks to turn left.
Another issue: Northbound cyclists pedaling up 11th Street, which has a bike lane, often cross over the tracks to turn left onto Market cause it's the shortest way to do so. I usually turn right and loop around.
Westbound Market St. bicyclists who need to head down 11th Street will sometimes turn left and head over the tracks across Market St. to get there.
Westbound bicyclists who need to head down 11th Street will sometimes turn left and head over the tracks across Market St. to get there.
The north side of the intersection at Market Street.
The north side of the intersection of Market Street at Van Ness.
Looking eastbound on Market Street between 11th and 10th.
Looking eastbound on Market Street between 11th and 10th.
  • sjbrown
    My redesign would be to cut a door or opening in the parking lot fence on the north side of Market so that when you’re walking to the Muni (usually getting soaked on a rainy day), you don’t have to walk all the way around the All Star Cafe and be frustrated that the Muni stairs are in sight, but yet so far out of reach.

  • I can’t wait for the green box on eastbound Market just before Van Ness.
    However, right after crossing Van Ness going east, the new alignment that moved bikes toward the center of the street put us at an awkward and potentially dangerous angle to the curved MUNI tracks there. The former sharrows next to the curb put my tires almost perpendicular to the tracks, which is awesome. Now, in the center lane, I find myself slowing up and turning into the tracks (toward the center of the street) to avoid my narrow wheels getting caught in the tracks and flipping me. I can’t imagine the current arrangement of lanes here (outside the B of A building) as a long-term solution as long as that issue with the tracks remains. But short of keeping the bike lane against the curb for this stretch, I don’t see other options for fixing it.

  • Can’t wait to see the submissions! Great idea!

  • EL

    I think the bike box in front of SF Honda is a good idea, but I’m not so sure about the dashed bike lane across Van Ness. What is the bicyclist supposed to do if they didn’t make it to the bike box before the light turned green?

    Regarding 11th Street, it is used by the 9, 9L, and streetcars that are changing directions so I don’t think the bike lane can be protected there. Is there really such a thing as a “protected” bike lane in an intersection?

  • The bike box at Market and Van Ness is certainly an improvement over the current sharrows, which suggest that bikes should change lanes in the intersection, which is both incredibly dangerous and illegal. Converting the section of the crosswalk between the sidewalk and the Muni boarding island would also be a great idea here, forcing drivers to navigate the intersection more carefully, improving accessibility, encouraging pedestrians to use the crosswalk rather than jump between the railings, and encouraging cyclists to use the proposed bike box rather than wait in the crosswalk.

    The bigger conflict usually occurs between 11th and 10th, when vehicles illegally move into the Muni lane to avoid having to turn right. The MTA should extend safe hit posts (and green paint) past the crosswalk all the way up to where they have to stop to allow traffic from 11th street to continue straight through the intersection.

  • Jon

    I’m one of the many who hit this intersection, NE bound only as I take a different route home, every workday. The crux of the problem is that the bus lane, the island, and the remaining lane is all that Market is wide enough for. If it weren’t for the F tracks I’d prefer the center lane starting at or before Page. The box will help but it doesn’t really give enough time to make the aforementioned illegal lane change within the intersection as opposed to crossing VN and then fighting cars to get into the bike lane. And you can’t forget about crossing over the F tracks at 11th which is a bit of a distraction. And that’s all before a car decides to veer left into the bus lane, which I witness at least once every two weeks. Bonus when they then want to turn right at 10th and are delayed by pedestrians crossing.

    My solution? No private vehicle traffic, NE bound, before Van Ness. That’ll be a fight – 12th is out (can’t turn left on Mission) Brady is one way in the opposite direction. You can’t turn left on Otis from Gough. That pushes the obvious forced right turn to Duboce (or left on Franklin). I don’t know if this was in the long term goal for a car-free Market street but I imagine it’ll come with a lot of push-back from drivers (though as someone who also operates a car, I don’t understand why anyone wants to drive down Market in the first place).

    I hope the submissions prove me wrong and offer an alternative.

  • Special traffic signal. Separate phases for Eastbound traffic: One for transit + automobiles, one for transit + bicycles.

    Bikes would stop while autos are passing & vice versa. It’s simply the safest way I can see.

    Alternatively, the interchange could take place up ahead at 11th St. with the bike lane kept to the right up till then. Bikes would stop at a bike-only signal that would remain red while the Eastbound Market & Van Ness light is still green. We could ban right turns from Van Ness onto Market to eliminate any auto traffic during the green bike light.

    Sure, some cyclists might go through the red bike light anyway, but it’d be the same as now except the less daring & hurried would have the option to cross safely without worrying about auto traffic.

    Otherwise… reduce travel lanes on Van Ness & increase pedestrian space to make this ridiculous intersection smaller.

  • EL

    SteveS – Can’t easily detour all prviate traffic to southbound South Van Ness, where you can’t turn left at Mission (except Muni) to continue east. In fact, there’s no place to turn left at all until past the Central Freeway.

    Aaron Bialick – How is an eastbound cyclist supposed to know that they’re not supposed to follow the green light for eastbound traffic (even though they’re in the bike lane) and instead follow a bicycle signal? The only reason why it “kinda” works at Masonic/Fell is because the bike signal is next to a left-turn signal that’s separate from the regular Fell signals.

  • EL

    If I sound negative, I don’t mean to be because these are clever suggestions. Just pointing out possible problems.

  • EL – that’s a further detail to work out in the design, but I’m proposing the concept. I imagine a bike light like at Fell/Masonic at the southeast corner smack in front of cyclists so it’s obvious. Drivers could follow the regular light as it is, and a white “T” signal for transit/taxis could be added on the leftmost side.

  • mcas

    As someone who was hit by a Taxi making a right turn heading N-bound onto Van Ness, I’d propose banning right turns onto Van Ness, since the intersection is skewed and the turn is less-than-90-degree, making drivers feel they need to turn from further out and sharply, which creates the situation for a straight-traveling bicyclist to get right hooked.

    There’s no need to have Market Street be a ‘feeder’ for Van Ness and it protects bike riders and pedestrians while improving car traffic flow.

  • If I were cleverer at photoshop, I would reconfigure Van Ness/Market to a Dutch-style intersection that has built-in protection and accommodation for both bicycles and pedestrians:

    An example of bicycle traffic lights that don’t seem to confuse bicyclists when combined with proper infrastructure:

  • James Figone

    I like Jon’s suggestion which is to have cars turn right on 12th instead of 10th. If cars need to get to the freeway, they can access South Van Ness from 12th. You would have to fix the left turn on Mission issue but that seems easy. Doing so would allow a full lane on Market from Van Ness to 8th without dangerous crossings, tracks, etc.

  • BT

    Looking forward to all the ideas from bikers for making driving a car even less convenient in the vicinity of this intersection than it already is (in spite of the fact that the car remains the overwhelmingly dominant means of private transportation in SF which will not change, given the large numbers of disabled and seniors for whom a bike is not even an option).

  • @BT Hahaha! Yes, the car is currently the “dominant means of private transportation” but the number of disabled and seniors in said cars, is nowhere near the “dominate” slice of that mode.

    Also, this “dominant mean of private transportation” wouldn’t exist without the PUBLIC roads.

    I’d say its safe to say more pedestrians and bikes cross this intersection than cars – for what its worth.

  • I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I’m not really that thrilled with saying we need to keep the cars going so the seniors can get around.

  • Sprague

    How about an exclusive transit and bike only Market Street as of Franklin (east of there)? Part of how European cities were successful in making their central cores more livable was by reducing car access to central streets and plazas. Initially, many of these plans were considered radical by some, but now nearly no one yearns for the street designs of yesteryear.

    Of course, North American cities are different, but bolder street redesign (along with improved transit and safer bikeways) is an important step forward to making San Francisco’s streets and urban environment more livable. I work a few blocks from Market and Van Ness and probably well more than half of my co-workers drive to work (despite the area’s great transit access). Market Street’s bikeability has certainly improved in recent years, but so much more can and should be done to make Market a street that works better for transit riders and bicyclists. The area is choked with cars and bicycling around there can still be pretty intimidating. For a “transit first” city that is striving to create a bicycle network for the 8 to 80 crowd, a Market Street just for transit, bikes and peds seems to make sense.

    Perhaps it’s worth a trial to close Market (as of Franklin) to cars on Saturdays or Sundays (or Wednesdays…)…

  • EH

    How about they dig under the entire intersection for pedestrians, bikes and MUNI? The intersection becomes an overpass on an otherwise open-air transit mall kind of like a flatter and exploded Powell station.

  • Sprague

    Keeping the eyes and ears and presence of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders and operators on the street level helps enhance a neighborhood’s impression of being safe enough. This is important for any neighborhood and city trying to become more livable. Not only would it be very expensive to build an underpass at Market and Van Ness, it may make the intersection feel less safe (at least at less travelled times of the day and night). Also, the existing Muni subway and station directly beneath Market may eliminate the feasibility of building an underpass there. Furthermore, most underpasses are rather on the ugly side. Often, pedestrians choose to avoid them and prefer to save time by staying on the street level.

  • Jon

    It’s fitting that after my comment yesterday that I when my tire hit the rail this morning, where the F line crosses onto 11th, that I went down.

    If Muni isn’t using it as a parking spot or a turn around for the F line, they need to come out. The proposed 2011 (or 2012?) repave of Market street would be a good time to accomplish this.

  • EH

    Sprague: My idea is not for an underpass, but for the road to become overpasses over a plaza. Think: more sunlight and no sidewalks at street level. Maybe Powell was a bad example…Shinjuku? LAX Theme Building?

  • Sprague

    EH: I am having trouble envisioning it, but it might be cool and it sounds innovative.

  • EL

    Jon – Sorry to hear about your spill, but Muni routinely uses that track on 11th to turn trains around.

  • Jon

    It happens. I just won the no-friction lottery. Been over it plenty of times previously, all of them actually and many in wet weather, with no issues. I hope then that the repave equalizes the elevation of road and rail.

  • If crossing the tracks seems to be such a hazard (particularly in the rain), perhaps the bike lane should be extended on the right up to 11th, with a bike light as I described earlier.

  • As other commenters have mentioned, it’s more than a bit daft to try to re-design infrastructure like this on its own without changing e.g. Market Straat. Neverthelesss, ladies and gents, I recommend highly a look at this all green for cyclist crossroads in Groningen (to supplement what Taomom already hooked us up with). I am sure you West Coast Cats can do a Texas-sized version for your thang named in part after a man of Dutch ancestry. Also. See. These.

  • Can something like this be used on the tracks near 11th Street?

    In Toronto, they fill the space around their streetcar tracks with rubber, which makes it nearly impossible for bike tires to get caught in it. However, when a streetcar goes over the rubber, it is heavy enough to compress it and keep the train on its track.

  • ZA

    Here’s a radical idea. Remove all the lights, turn that entire intersection into a Woonerf.

    Include a traffic circle/roundabout in the middle for crossing pedestrians, and cut through for the MUNI trains.

    Sounds crazy, I know. But think it through.

  • EH

    I did. Still crazy.

  • peter

    With help from some engineering and design intern skills from Paris, we mapped out a pretty dramatic vision for Van Ness and Market: with a slight rework of the Bus Rapid Transit and F-Market Stops, a direct link from Bus rapid transit to the Metro subway, a moving sidewalk connection (common in Paris) linking Civic Center BART, Van Ness Muni Metro and Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit, we sketched a wholly different hub. The intersection functions more as a traffic circle, anchored by a sculptural arch whose legs provide the vertical circulation linking bus stations on the surface to the subway, and whose turbines draw from the ever-present winds to feed signals and a jumbo-scale real-time transit monitor “art board.”

    As the City owns two of the four corner buildigns, and two more are far below their building envelope potential, this revised design for transportation is proposed to be matched by and framed with the redevelopment of all four corners, allowing more breathing space at teh street level to complement what should be the City’s other major crossroads (along with Market/Embarcadero).


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