New Renderings, Details on Car-Free Areas From “Better Market Street”

Market between First and Second Streets shown with raised bike lanes. Images: Better Market Street

The vision for Market Street (and potentially Mission) is becoming clearer with the release of new renderings of streets and plazas at public workshops for the “Better Market Street” project this week.

Planners presented renderings of specific stretches of Market, including redesigns for both UN and Hallidie Plaza (where the Powell Station entrance would be raised), as well as proposed changes to Muni stop spacing. Ellis Street would also be closed to car traffic to create a new plaza.

The presentation also shed more light on the three bikeway options — putting protected bike lanes on Market, on Mission, or neither. New street plans show how those ideas would pan out, including the spots where planners say there just isn’t enough width to maintain a continuous bikeway on Market.

For each of the three options [PDF], details on potential car-free areas have also been released.

  • Option 1, with protected bike lanes on neither Market nor Mission, would ban cars between Fremont and Eighth Streets.
  • Option 2, with protected bike lanes on Market, would prohibit cars only between Fremont and Fifth Streets. The idea is that where protected bike lanes exist, car bans aren’t as neceessary, planners said. But since there’s not enough width to provide a protected bike lane between Grant and Fifth Streets,  they say, that stretch will at least be car-free, to provide more comfort for bicyclists and keep transit moving.
  • Option 3, with protected bike lanes on Mission (but not Market), would include the longest car-free stretch on Market, from Van Ness Avenue to the Embarcadero. One reason for that is to help speed up buses that would be re-routed from Mission on to Market, according to the presentation materials.

All of the proposed car bans would apply only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Planners will present the proposals for feedback again on Saturday at the SF Main Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can also submit comments online.

Hallidie Plaza

See more images after the jump.

Mission, between Third and Fourth Streets, with protected bike lanes.
Market, between Third and Fourth Streets, without protected bike lanes (essentially the status quo for bicycling).
UN Plaza
Market at Grant. Planners say there's not enough width to provide protected bike lanes west of Grant to Fifth Street.
Market at Tenth Street.
  • Whoa whoa there, hold on. Is that a public BENCH in the first photo? Better not tell Willie Brown!

  • Richard Mlynarik

    It will be totally bitchin’ awesome when this is completed in 2068.

    Can’t wait!

  • gneiss

    What is this idiocy of having a car ban only from 7 am to 7 pm? How is that going to be enforced? What we need for the blocks proposed to be ‘car free’ is an engineered solution that actually makes them car free. Putting up signs telling motorists can’t drive there will fail to work – just look at how successful ‘transit lane only’ signs are in this city.

    The other thing – are they expecting that at 7 pm suddenly people aren’t going to be walking or riding their bikes on Market? That’s the period when it makes the most sense to be car free – after dark when visibility is lower and motorist behavior the most unpredictable.

    This is nothing more than a bone they’re throwing to merchants in an effort to avoid the kind of political push back they got during the Polk St. debacle.

  • Chris

    Is SFMTA that incompetent? Arent’ bike share stations going on Market St.? Now they are going to expose inexperienced riders in unprotected bike lanes on Market?

  • Anonymous

    Where are all the graffiti, homeless people and gangbangers? They seem to have been omitted from the renderings.

  • Anonymous

    at you mom’s. comment deleted in 3…2…1…

  • From the perspective of a few years back any one of these alternatives is pretty nice. Personally I’d like to see option 4: separated bike lanes on Mission and Market. The buses are going to have a hard time sharing the lanes on Market in the future as bike volumes continue to grow. And a cycle track on Mission would be a great asset for that neighborhood, much like the calming of Valencia totally changed it. The Mission cycle track could be installed in a much less expensive way initially, paint, similar to the Fell and Oak lanes. In NYC they would just go out and paint it in August and see if it worked. We have to do a couple of years of community outreach and then a couple of years of CEQUA review, so a quick 5 years from now we could have it built. Better late than never!

  • Anonymous

    The idiocy is banning cars. Pedestrian malls are failures. That’s why they were ripped out in Chicago, Tampa and Buffalo. Planners know this, so allowing car traffic from 7PM to 7 AM is their way of keeping Market Street after dark from turning into a scene from “Night of the Living Dead.”

  • BBne3000

    Does it have to be either or? Theres plenty of people using market street during the day, it IS night-time when it would be an issue, so we can have it both ways.

    There are also plenty of car-free success stories. Market Street could be one of them considering the huge amount of people who come to it by transit (hundreds of thousands a day).

  • J

    There is WAY more nuance to ped malls. Ped malls that were installed in areas already under decline tended to fail, which makes sense. Restricting access from an area with tanking popularity hurts businesses. HOWEVER, in areas that are on the upswing, with heavy pedestrian activity, and not enough space to accommodate them, ped malls can actually add a lot more customer traffic that they restrict, adding a real benefit for businesses.

    I’m not sure exactly how I think Market Street fits into this analysis, but I am sure that a thoughtful and nuanced perspective will always lead to a more successful project.

  • Neil

    There’s a serious point there, though. Making Market Street car-free would not, by itself, guarantee that that doesn’t turn Market Street even more into a recreational area for the homeless, the vagrants, the addicts, the petty criminals and the ner’er-do-well’s.

    If the ultimately goal is not just the banishment of cars per se, but actual livable enjoyable streets, then I’d tend to agree that we have more to do, and need to think more wholistically.

  • Anonymous

    I have no interest responding to a serious point wrapped into a giant vitriolic useless troll.

  • Anonymous

    There is a big challenge to the way that Market Street is used that the Better Market Street project is trying to find a suitable solution for: Market as a corridor and Market as a place/destination in and of itself. Market is the transit spine of both below and surface transit for SF, it has the most bikes per day, and the highest pedestrian volume (partly due to the high transit volume). So Market is an important corridor for moving people who aren’t in cars. The planners are trying to balance this efficient movement of people with inviting them to stay, shop, visit, etc. by creating a sense of “place” like perhaps one has at Union Square or Yerba Buena or a popular shopping street.

    From a transit/bike/pedestrian perspective, cars need to be off Market today. The 7:00am to 7:00pm on week days makes very little sense given the shifting schedules for workers and is also confusing because it relies too much on signs and police enforcement which we know we are unable to count on when it comes to enforcing rules for car drivers.

    With increased employment and (expensive) residential development along the entire length of Market, coupled with its importance as a transit/bike route, I think fears of the street being taken over by homeless are unfounded. If anything, I think we’ll be lamenting the fast gentrification in a decades. The current car volume on Market today is so little (though still a big nuisance when they block crosswalks/buses, etc) that car volume cannot possibly be helping businesses, safety, or sense of place. Especially given that there is no where to park or any garages on Market so a driver would have to leave market and come back as a pedestrian to buy anything or spend time.

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea of banning cars 24/7. But if they are only going to do it between 7-7, then they need to implement #2 in order to have as much protected bike travel in the 7p to 7a time as possible.

  • Anonymous

    Eliminating cars would hardly make Market Street a pedestrian mall. Few pedestrian malls have the bus, streetcar and bike traffic that Market Street does today. A better example would be the pleins (walking districts) in Amsterdam that have no private cars, but heavy streetcar and bike traffic.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Bike, transit, and pedestrian traffic on Market are all going to increase and the partial cycletracks on Market come at the expense of sidewalk space for pedestrians. Even without the cycletrack, car restrictions and other changes will make – at least, should make – cycling on Market better.

    But on the Mission Street cycletrack: simply painting bike lanes doesn’t provide the same protection we get from the physical barriers that would go in under Option 3. All of this is connected because there isn’t the space for bike lanes on Mission without also removing the 14/14L busses which demands wider lanes to pulling in and out (which would mean them constantly pulling in and out of stops across the bike lane.

    We’ve already done the outreach, studies, and the environmental review is about to start, making this our only foreseeable chance to claim Mission Street for a cycletrack.

  • Anonymous

    Light rail did nothing to help Sacramento’s failed K Street pedestrian mall–that’s why it was opened to car traffic.

  • Anonymous

    How much bus, streetcar, bike and foot traffic was there on K Street before they made it a pedestrian mall? I’m guessing very little.

  • Anonymous

    Murph’s definition of a troll = someone who disagrees with me.

  • Guest

    Or someone who uses “gangbangers” in a discussion that does not involve

  • Anonymous

    Now THAT is trolling.

  • Anonymous

    This is because Sacramento is a dump. Denver is not a dump, as such the 16th Street Mall, with a light rail line running right down the middle of it, is a monstrous success and has made a somewhat marginal area one of Denver’s highlights.

    You decide – is San Francisco a dump like Sacramento or a non-dump like Denver.

  • I met a homeless man. Perfectly nice chap.

  • Anonymous

    Market Street from Fifth to Eighth is assuredly a dump.

  • Anonymous

    So you propose we do nothing? The best way to keep something exactly the way it is, is to do nothing. Good to hear you prefer the dump.

  • vcs

    Protected bike lanes on Market means narrower sidewalks and longer crosswalks. Is SFMTA that incompetent? Lets hope not.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Because Market would have the only unprotected lanes in the city?

    Regardless of which street gets the cycletrack, cyclists will at some point share lanes with traffic. We’re not getting a uniform citywide cycletrack network. When can’t offer a perfectly uniform user experience, you look next to consistency. Will inexperienced riders be better off with an intermittent cylcetrack on Market – the design varies quite a bit between separated cycletracks and shared lanes – which makes inexperienced riders merge into traffic at some intersection, mid-block other places, even maneuvering behind Muni stops at some points over shared lanes which cause less merging?

    A guiding principal use in designing an experience is if you only get the user to do one new thing what would it be: get them to look for traffic in the same place at every crossing? If we are designing for the inexperienced rider that should be the priority. Experienced riders will know where to find the fastest route: I go for a 15MPH greenwave on Mission and turning onto Market only for the last block or so using north-south cycletracks connecting at every BART station.

    The upcoming Second Street cycletracks are the best example and one of my comments at the last workshop was if Fourth Street is getting a road-diet anyway after the subway’s built, how about taking a lane to add both North and South running cycletracks? What that does for inexperienced riders is give them a nudge every few blocks onto a street with a dedicated cycletrack. While we’re at it, one-block cycletracks on 16th and 24th between Mission and Valencia wouldn’t be a bad idea either, would it?

  • Neil

    Oh for God’s sake murph, grow a pair rather than dismissing dissent as trollingband actually address the point here.

    Market Street is a major mess regardless of the traffic. What is your plan to fix that, or don’t you really care? The problem with mid-Market isn’t just vehicular traffic – it has some of the worst human traffic in the city, and that could get worse if we mindlessly turn it into a pedestrian oasis without thinking it through.

  • Gang-bangers?

  • Neil

    Denying the hot mess that is Mid-Market is not a viable strategy if persuasion is your goal.

  • Anonymous

    what’s “wholistic” thinking?

  • Anonymous

    “hot mess,” are you Lucille from Arrested Development? Or maybe more of a Buster…

    Anyway, I don’t think people are denying it so much as acknowledging that the area is rapidly gentrifying and trying to paint that in positive terms. The amount of new businesses and buildings being re-furbished in Mid-Market is huge and can’t be denied either.

    Also, hot mess is often considered a good thing.

  • Guest

    I have little faith in the car ban unless ticket cameras are installed every block that tickets cars a 100 dollar ‘convenience’ fee for every block they travel on market.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Given what we know today, we can only expect motorists to violate that law just like they violate all the others. Today we see motorists driving recklessly, blocking transit lanes, parking on sidewalks and in bike lanes and crosswalks, making illegal turns and lane changes, speeding, texting and making phone calls while driving, drinking and driving, etc. Why on Earth would anyone think a few signs and paint on the ground would magically deter San Francisco’s scofflaw motorists from doing whatever they please–and getting away with it scott-free?

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    That is preferable to turning it into a worse dump, which is what would happen if cars were removed.

  • Neil

    And we also see many cases of cyclists riding on the sidewalk and blowing thru stop signs and lights etc.

    How far do you want to go with your zero tolerance enforcement idea?

  • Neil

    Considering all aspects of a problem rather than focusing on one aspect.

    In this case, addressing vehicular access to and usage of Market Street without considering the implications of that for turning mid-Market into even more of a mecca for itinerants, ne’er-do-well’s and petty criminals seems one slice short of a loaf.

  • Anonymous

    Your comment reveals how little you’ve looked at the plans for Better Market Street. Please see my rather lengthy comment above, but if anything, this project is about approaching Market street “wholistically,” acknowledging that each neighborhood is different, trying to use successful strategies from other cities, and maintaining the street’s central role as a bike/transit corridor.

    Also, the idea that cars bring any level of safety to Market street is focusing too narrowly on a non truth. It seems like poor people make you uncomfortable, but as someone who lives in the “mid market” zone, I can assure you the neighborhood has been getting better for the last several years and most of the closed up store fronts are currently being renovated or have been already and several high profile residential projects (with little to no parking) are currently underway on the whole length of the street, but especially in mid-market.

  • Neil

    coolbaby, yes I did read your other posts but, again, they focus mainly only on transit (not unreasonable given this location, but then my entire point was that there is far more to making an area pleasant and livable than just a count of how many cars are present).

    And yes, the mid-Market tax breaks (which many liberals opposed, BTW) may well and in time eradicate the problem in mid-Market with petty crime and quality of life issues. But that is a speculation and, if we are going to perform urban planning at all (and some of the most interesting and delightful cities on the planet were not centrally planned at all) then at least let’s not rely on speculation about how the Twitter tax break will somehow eradicate the homeless problem.

    So I ask the question again. What in this idea will clearly and demonstrably reduce petty crime and quality of life issues in mid-Market?

  • Anonymous

    From my discussions with the planners at the various open houses, the idea is that this is public space so anyone can be there that isn’t committing a crime. The goal is to increase the amount of pedestrians and bikes as well as street performers, events, etc. to re-shape the experience and increase safety. An example from NYC is Times Square, there are still panhandlers, but they’re not the defining feature anymore. They’re open to creative suggestions, but one example is UN plaza during the tri-weekly center of the city farmer’s markets. It’s a very alive place with lots of people from the area, so how can that be more commonplace or more identifiable with the area. Essentially, what will it take to make 7th and market or 6th and market more like 4th and market in terms of the amount of people and the diversity of the people there.

    Petty crime and quality of life are separate issues. More pickpocketing probably happens in union square than UN square, because that’s where hapless tourists are. I think the crime issues that are most pressing are violent crime and the high pedestrian fatality rate near market in the mid-market area.

    But as for the area in general, I wouldn’t credit twitter and the tax-breaks so much as the 6th street police sub-station and small businesses that are quickly filling in the boarded store fronts as well as the bikes and pedestrians that make those small stores viable.

  • I think you’re confusing Market with Middle Point.

  • Anonymous

    Tell that to the girl who had her head kicked in when she was in front of the Mint on Market Street.

  • [citation needed]

  • Anonymous



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