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Tomorrow: Support a Safer Upper Market With Protected Bike Lanes

A view from the bike lane at Market at 16th Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick
A view from the bike lane at Market at 16th Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA will hold an open house tomorrow on bike and pedestrian safety upgrades along upper Market Street, which could include bulb-outs to calm the street's wide, dangerous intersections and protected bike lanes on some segments.

The SFMTA's proposal hasn't been presented yet, but safe streets advocates say they worry the bike improvements may not be as ambitious as they should be. Early proposals have met with opposition from a contingent of merchants who want to preserve -- you guessed it -- car parking.

Street Fight author Jason Henderson, a member of the Market-Octavia Community Advisory Committee, said the committee is "really excited to see a fully separated" protected bike lane, particularly on the uphill block of Market between Octavia Boulevard and Buchanan Street, which funnels bike commuters to the entrance of the Wiggle.

That bike lane segment was recently painted green and widened, and a handful of parking spots were removed near corners at Upper Market intersections in 2011 to provide more room at some points where the bike lanes were squeezed. But drivers regularly block the bike lanes on Upper Market, and riding on its rough pavement without protection from traffic can still feel harrowing.

"It needs to be wider than I think they're considering," said Henderson. "We need to need to be building for future capacity -- not [the current] 3.5 percent bicycle mode share -- but 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent."

According to the SFMTA's website, the project will be split into near-term and long-term upgrades. The quick improvements include painted bulb-outs (the SFMTA calls them "safety zones"), adjustments to signal timing, more visible crosswalk striping, and right-on-red restrictions.

The long-term upgrades would include concrete bulb-outs and "enhanced bicycle lanes" with "increased separation." No timeline has been proposed for either phase, but the initial improvements are expected to remove only a handful of parking spots, while safer bike lanes could replace a couple dozen.

Danny Yagedar, a member of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, said residents are eager for improvements to make Upper Market's very wide intersections "feel like a more cohesive, pedestrian-friendly environment."

"You have to cross six-way intersections to walk around," he said. Neighbors are excited about "any effort to make that a safer, less car-heavy atmosphere."

The SFMTA's proposed pedestrian safety improvements are expected to draw from the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District's 2008 community vision plan, which inspired the recently-completed Castro Street redesign.

Like on other neighborhood commercial streets, most people don't get to Upper Market and Castro by driving. As Hoodline reported, a survey Yagedar recently conducted found that along the Upper Market/Castro business corridor, 59 percent of people arrive by foot, 15 percent by transit, 17 percent by car, and 4 percent by bike.

"That would suggest we need to focus our energy on making it a better environment for people who walk here from their house or come here by transit," said Yadegar. Still, "the loss of any parking spot is going to be met with opposition, most notably from a handful of merchants that feel very strongly about parking."

Henderson said support from Supervisor Scott Wiener will be key to getting ambitious improvements that dramatically change the car-centric status quo.

Wiener said that the proposals he's seen so far, "I like, and I think will improve Upper Market for all users."

"We'll work through the parking issues," he said. "The parking loss would be pretty spread out along Upper Market, and I imagine we'll be able to find replacement spots."

Andrea Aiello, president of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, said providing safer bike lanes would invite more people to get to the neighborhood by bike.

"If you make it easier, safer, and more enjoyable to ride their bikes, people do it," she said. "Even in hilly San Francisco."

Tomorrow's open house will be held at the IBEW Local 6 Meeting Hall at 55 Fillmore Street (at Hermann Street) from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

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