Tomorrow: Support Car Restrictions for a Safer Market, Which Uber Opposes

Image: SFMTA
Image: SFMTA

You can email public comments on the “Safer Market Street” car restrictions to the SFMTA board at MTABoard@sfmta.com.

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to vote tomorrow on whether to ban private auto drivers from turning onto mid-Market Street, part of a package of safety improvements and transit upgrades.

Photo: Matthew Kenaston/Twitter
Photo: Matthew Kenaston/Twitter

While the improvements seem to be backed by a wide coalition, Uber doesn’t belong to it. At the eleventh hour, the ride-hail app company launched a petition to exempt Uber drivers from the restrictions. Though Hoodline reported that the petition had gained 15,000 signatures after Uber’s email blast, the petition webpage was hacked and subsequently taken down by Uber, according to Business Insider.

The “Safer Market Street” improvements are short-term measures aimed at reducing injuries, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told reporters last week. “Our most iconic street should be our safest street.”

On Market between Third and Eighth Streets, where the turn bans would go into effect, private auto drivers make up just 10-30 percent of roadway traffic but were involved in 82 percent of the 162 injury collisions in 2012 and 2013, according to Maguire. Most pedestrians were injured in crosswalks.

The mid-Market stretch contains four of the city’s top 20 intersections for pedestrian injuries, and the two intersections with the most bicycle injuries citywide.

“These types of crash patterns are just not acceptable to us,” said Maguire.

“The Safer Market Street Project is a strong example of a data-driven proposal that is purely focused on safety,” SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today. “It’s important that the project moves forward promptly in its strongest form to help protect the thousands of people who walk and bike on Market Street every day.”

Uber dismissed the data while demanding that its drivers be exempt from the turn bans, as taxis will. Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend told the SF Chronicle last week, “Market Street is a major artery of the city, and cutting off riders and driver-partners from accessing this thoroughfare will increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim stands by the car restrictions, her aide told Hoodline:

When she championed the legislation to establish the Vision Zero policy citywide two years ago, this is the type of engineering change that she had in mind. Engineering to create safer streets, with a priority focus on the corridors and intersections with the highest rates of collisions between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, is a critical component of the Vision Zero policy. This change will target four of the worst collision intersections where drivers fail to yield to pedestrians.

Andy Bosselman, a transit activist who uses Uber regularly, blasted Uber’s opposition in an open letter to the SFMTA board.

“It’s time that SFMTA requires these companies to update their pickup and drop off policies around Market Street,” he wrote. “These proposed changes will barely affect these companies.”

The proposed changes include new loading zones on cross streets for pick-ups and drop-offs near Market. Once the turn bans are in effect (scheduled for August), there would be one legal right turn available to private auto drivers to get onto mid-Market eastbound, from Ninth Street.

Market’s transit-only lanes would also be extended, enhancing the speed gains that Muni riders have benefitted from since 2009, when forced right turns diverted private autos off of eastbound Market at Tenth and Sixth Streets.

“Once turns are limited on Market Street,” wrote Bosselman, “all San Franciscans, including Uber customers like myself, will appreciate the improvements to Market Street — and the acceleration of our notoriously slow transit system.”

Getting cars off Market should also simplify navigation for drivers, since most already try to get off soon after they turn onto the street, traveling no more than two blocks on Market, according to the SFMTA.

At an SFMTA press briefing last week, a news cameraman asked Maguire if, in August, “It’s all over for driving between Eighth and Third.” Maguire countered: “In August, it gets a lot safer to walk between Eighth and Third.”

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