Major Car Restrictions, Large “Safety Zones” Come to Lower Market Street

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announcing private auto restrictions on Market yesterday. Photo: SFMTA
SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announcing private auto restrictions on Market yesterday. Photo: SFMTA

At long last, private automobiles are prohibited from turning on to most of lower Market Street downtown. City officials implemented the change yesterday with a press conference in front of one of two large “safety zones” — painted bulb-outs — that were also completed as part of the “Safer Market Street” project.

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said broad support for getting cars off Market “shows how far we’ve come in San Francisco.” Even the SF Chronicle called it “a sensible shift” in an editorial today. “San Francisco’s downtown needs to be a safe place that accommodates more than just cars zipping through intersections.”

“I think there’s been an incredible amount of consensus in City Hall and around Vision Zero and Safer Market Street,” said Judson True, chief of staff for Assemblyman David Chiu, who pushed for a car-free Market on the Board of Supervisors. “We have to take more and more steps in this direction.”

Parking control officers were out enforcing the turn bans today, as ABC 7 reported.

The city’s largest “safety zones,” as the SFMTA calls them, were installed on corners at Grant and Mason streets.

See more coverage of the turn restrictions from ABC, the SF Examiner, the Chronicle, NBC, and Hoodline.

A "safety zone" at Market and Grant Streets. Photo: SFMTA
A “safety zone” at Market and Grant Streets. Photo: SFMTA
Another at Market and Mason Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Another at Market and Mason Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick
  • NoeValleyJim

    I walked down to check it out over lunch hour and saw a PCO directing traffic at O’Farrell and Market. This might work for today, but what are they doing for the longer turn?

    Also, it was nice to see so much less traffic on Market and it was nice to eat in the sunshine next to a new and better Market street, but I couldn’t help but notice that nothing was stopping cars from coming up Market from Embarcadero. I also checked at 5th and Market and there was no signage telling drivers that turns onto Market were prohibited, so of course cars were still turning onto Market there. The PCO stationed there was just watching traffic, not trying to direct it.

    It looks like it has a few kinks that still need to be worked out.

  • shotwellian

    I went and checked it out today. Noticeably fewer private cars on the street, but still nowhere near “car-free.” Does anyone know why westbound cars are still being allowed to go through from 3rd & Market? It would be simple to have a required right turn onto Geary.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    It’s a good start, but Market street really needs a complete redesign.

  • This piecemeal approach to street safety is too little, too late. How many more people have to die before we completely ban private automobiles?

  • Mario Tanev

    Apparently 5th still allows turns due to the closure of Ellis due to the central subway construction.

  • murphstahoe

    Dunno. The kicker is that now there will be a huge percentage of people afraid of “hacked” self-driving cars without really contemplating that our cars are already “hacked”

  • Huge difference riding up Market today. This is a brilliant strategy: kudos to the SFMTA.

  • alberto rossi

    The piecemeal approach is designed to put off the spending money part as long as possible. Much cheaper to keep repainting lanes and “safety zones” then start all over again before we get to the expensive stuff like pouring concrete. Meanwhile, the consultants get to run up the billable hours, the one thing it *is* OK to spend tons of money on. (I’m starting to sound like Richard M.)

  • Justin

    It’s about time this was implemented, hopefully this will be extended all the way down to the Embarcadero. It’s been too funny yet absurd to see so many myopic yet obtuse people/snobby motorists cry foul about these changes on social media without FULLY understanding the purpose, reason and benefits of this. It’s like they believe this is the apocalypse or carmageddon even though this has been happening partially at 10th St for the last six years and it hasn’t been that bad since. Though I am curious long term how will the city enforce this?

  • hp2ena

    Boo because of this. That’s probably the busiest ped intersection on Market. All the right-turning cars are causing congestion on 5th northbound, which in effect slows the 27 down.

  • hp2ena

    Was on Market adjacent UN Plaza around 2pm today to observe the spectacle. Market is much calmer than normal. Everything went well on 8th Street. On 7th, I noticed the only ones breaking the rules were:
    -Uber drivers (I swore I didn’t see any Lyfts around)
    -People driving high-class or new cars (i.e. Mercedes, BMW).

    They did not receive tickets.

    Then again, I guess another aspect (aside from that they’re doing it just to be cocky) is some may not actually genuinely get that they’re not supposed to drive there. To that end, the SFMTA should consider painting all lanes that feed directly into Market alternating red and yellow (to symbolize delivery trucks) bands overlaid with greenbacked sharrows.

    Also, could we get some furniture on these very big safety zones? Reinforce the restrictions while providing ad-hoc open space!

  • Mario Tanev

    Reading more about this I think I understand the issue better.

    4th St (one block over) is one-way. Because Ellis and Stockton are both closed, vehicles have no other way to get to 4th, except by turning from Market onto it. That’s why they allow turning right on Market from 5th, then turning right onto 4th. However, there are several problems with that. 5th St and Market St between 4th and 5th are extremely busy streets and are heavily pedestrian. That’s precisely where you don’t want a lot of vehicles.

    If any right turns should be banned they should be banned here. The SFMTA could mitigate the situation in several ways:
    1. It can force right turns from Market onto 4th (i.e. so people don’t use the 5th to Market turn to drive all the way to the Embarcadero. That will reduce turns only to people who legitimately need to get to 4th.
    2. Dead-end 4th St at Market and make it two-way between Mission and Market. This will be great for pedestrians as they don’t have to worry about crossing this busy intersection, and drivers can reach the hotel from Mission.
    3. Since taxi drivers and delivery trucks are still allowed to turn, only allow them to do so. Most traffic there is of that nature due to the hotel. Sorry, no Ubering at the hotel. Drivers could still get to the Cole Hardware by turning right from Jesse.

    I like #2 best. It allows full access to 4th St and it makes it a more pedestrian environment.

  • Xavier Harmony

    You should check out this then:

  • mx

    A lot of people don’t actually get it (and some do understand but just don’t care). But painting lanes alternating red and yellow isn’t the answer either. The last thing we need is even more non-standardized color-coded pavement treatments. SF cannot make up its own suite of traffic control devices and expect the world, including tourists renting a car and driving in the city for the first time, to understand them.

  • mx

    Geary is already a disaster zone through Union Square due to subway construction and general chaos through Mason or so. Plus it’s home to one of the most significant bus lines Muni operates. Shifting more private autos into that mess right now would not be helpful.

  • shotwellian

    That’s a good point about Geary, although then perhaps the solution is to move the start of the private car ban farther east, perhaps by forcing a right turn onto Front / Bush instead. Allowing westbound cars to stay on Market, especially when there are no almost no opportunities for them to turn *off* Market as they head west, seems like the wrong approach.

  • ARRO

    To be honest, these turn restrictions have just made the whole downtown area more of a circus then it already was simply pushing “some” traffic off Market and slowing other streets and Muni lines. Market is still the same old same old with zombie pedestrians crossing willy-nilly in front of traffic and taxis/ride shares double parking wherever they please. The bike infrastructure is also lacking and inconsistent creating a conflict with motorists. There should be a complete re-design that incorparates dedicated transit lanes,a lane for private autos, and protected bike lanes. I’m pretty amazed at the lack of innovation and poor planning…

  • Easy

    Market doesn’t connect directly to Embarcadero, so I don’t think a lot of drivers find their way in anyhow.

  • Susan

    Are they only banned from making turns onto Market, or driving on this stretch at all? Can I enter Market at 10th, then just happily drive up to 1st in my car because I didn’t turn onto Market from 8th???


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