Open Thread on the Better Market Street Plan

A Major Victory for the Livable Streets Movement

A County Transportation Authority rendering of what Market Street will look like in the future.
A County Transportation Authority rendering of what Market Street will look like in the future.

The mainstream media was all over it: private cars to be banned from Market Street under the city’s “Better Market Street” plan. It will also have sidewalk-level protected bike lanes. For advocates in the safe streets community the design announced by the city this week is a major victory and a reason to celebrate.

From a blog post by Janice Li of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:

By the end of 2018, the City seeks to begin construction on a visionary new design for Market Street. No longer will Market Street feel like a race during commute hours, as people jockey for position at every intersection, squeezing between Muni and swarming vehicles left and right. A brand new design — proposed jointly by SF Public Works, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and SF Planning Department — offers a win-win situation for everyone. This design would elevate the bike lane to sidewalk level and fully separate people biking and walking from the bustling transit on Market Street, between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero.

Details are available on the Better Market Street website, about a plan that has been evolving for many years.

Streetsblog wants to hear from readers about the plan. But first, a few things to think about.


Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA's Livable Streets, giving the new treatment a whirl. Photo: Streetsblog
Mike Sallaberry. Project Manager at SFMTA’s Livable Streets, taking a whirl on SF’s first and still only protected intersection, at 9th and Division. Photo: Streetsblog

Protected bike lanes are great. But what will really make the street safe–as in safe enough for children and the elderly to bike on it–will be determined by the intersection treatments. If cyclists are simply spilled back down into cross traffic at every intersection it won’t be enough. The plan calls for bicycle signals for the length of it…but it’s unclear that there will be the kind of robust protection through the intersection that one would find in a Dutch city. Streetsblog hopes the city will phone up the Dutch consulate and copy proven, off-the-shelf designs for the intersections.

Why are we allowing cabs?

A taxi driver unloads a passenger into rush hour bike traffic at Market and Gough Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick
A taxi driver unloads a passenger into rush hour bike traffic at Market and Gough Streets. Photo: Streetsblog/Aaron Bialick

Far be it for this publication to defend ride shares…but if we’re going to ban cars, why not ban cars? Parsing traditional cabs from Uber and Lyft seems problematic. (Perhaps I’m biased, since the one time I had a collision with a car was with a New York City taxi–the traditional type). Perhaps a better solution would be to allow paratransit only?

Which leads to the Enforcement Question…

An SFMTA “enforcement” officer, blocking the Market Street bike lane with his own car. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Cars park on bike lanes. Cars park on sidewalks. The new bike lanes are going to need physical enforcement. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Cars park on bike lanes. Cars park on sidewalks. The new bike lanes are going to need physical enforcement. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

In Streetsblog’s view, the plan should include enforcement by design–meaning there must be permeable barriers keeping cars off the bike lanes. It’s not enough just to make it the rule–we need concrete blocks, fences, posts, planters and well-positioned trees. Even elevating the bike lanes to sidewalk level is no guarantee cars won’t park on it, leaving us with many of the same conflicts on Market Street that we have now.

Then Get Ready for the Watering Down

Another crash on Market Street. Photo: John Rogers
Another crash on Market Street. Photo: John Rogers

There are already turning restrictions at many of Market Street’s intersections. But there are exceptions for trucks and city vehicles. The result has, on occasion, been deadly. If this plan is allowed to be watered down in the name of political compromise, it’s not going to work. Advocates, no doubt, will have their hands full holding the line.

All of that said, the Market Street plan is pretty darned exciting and bold for the Bay Area–reminiscent of when New York closed Times Square to through traffic. It will be a huge turning point.

What do you think? Let us know below.

  • Hunter

    Honestly I’m shocked the city went as far as they did in the initial plan, and we’re gonna have to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way—and I’m betting mostly against Uber/Lyft. The taxi exemption mostly seems like a handout to a specific business interest and creates the randomized conflict we have now with cab riders getting out at odd spots / opening doors / walking in bike lane. The more we can restrict interactions to marked stops / crosswalks / intersections, the safer everyone will be.

  • Maurice

    Don’t let it be watered down. Don’t let it be delayed.

  • chris

    I hope they implement the restrictions on cars right away without waiting until they round up the funding and approvals for the construction components. It’d be a tragedy if the inevitable delays that go along with any construction project in this town hold up the traffic rules that can be implemented without any construction at all.

  • p_chazz

    If the plan allows taxis than it must allow rideshare, but only when picking up or dropping off from a Market Street address.

  • mx

    The taxi thing is a weird problem that comes from the city’s transit first policy. The taxi drivers somehow got the phrase “Public transit, including taxis and vanpools” into the charter, and as I understand it, they’ve used that to insist that they must be able to do anything a bus can do, including drive on bus-only lanes and make “bus and taxi only” left turns.

    This situation is absurd. We are selling express transportation down Market St to those who pay high taxi fares (and empty taxis), yet denying it to everyone else, even those in carpools, Uber Pool, and Lyft Line. If the Mayor announced tomorrow that the city would be selling express passes to allow the rich to violate traffic laws, everyone would be up in arms, yet that’s precisely what we do now.

    The taxi parenthetical in the charter is treated as gospel, yet the bit with Muni’s 85% on-time service commitment has been a laughable fantasy since 1999.

  • Will

    No cars, and taxis are cars. Paratransit? Definitely.

  • mx

    I’d really like to see more attention paid to loading/unloading. There are a number of establishments along Market St, including an increasing number of people’s homes, that need to load and unload items from time to time. Some of them do not have access to loading docks on cross streets. The mail has to get delivered. If taxis are allowed, people will be getting in and out of them. When the street design fails to provide space to do this, vehicles will stop in the middle of the street or in the middle of bike lanes. While this all sounds perfectly obvious, it never seems to work out very well when the streets are actually designed.

  • Do Something Nice

    Anyone can say they are a rideshare and I don’t agree that a plan that includes taxis – a regulated industry with accountability within government’s reach – “must” allow rideshares.

    But if it is either or, ban them all from Market Street.

  • I agree, this city doesn’t have nearly enough white zones. There should be white zones on every block and they should be reservable so that businesses can schedule delivery times.

    There’ve been many times when I worked as part of a loading crew off loading equipment at area clubs or theaters, and the vehicle ended up blocking the bike lane or bus stop because there were no other options available. This is stupid! No amount of enforcement can fix a stupid street design that doesn’t allow businesses to do their business. In all of these cases, there was plenty of street parking that was used for individual cars that should’ve been reserved for loading zones.

  • mx

    Especially as Uber and Lyft have become so popular, the need for loading zones has become more apparent. We’re building 30-story apartment buildings and are somehow still shocked to discover they need loading zones? I can only imagine what chaos will ensue with all the Uber/Lyft drivers trying to get to the One Van Ness tower when it’s complete.

    Sadly, space constraints tend to mean that the first thing to go when bike lanes are installed is anywhere to stop a vehicle, but the inevitable result of no loading zones isn’t that people abandon their desire to load/unload, but rather that they do it in unsafe places.

    There are plenty of jerks out there who stop beside or near a perfectly good place to pull over because they simply can’t be bothered. That’s an enforcement problem, and it’s sad how often SFPD drives by such situations without a care in the world. But if there’s no space available, people will still make one, and that’s on the city to design better solutions.

  • Gerry Hyde

    Taxis are used in paratransit.

  • Gerry Hyde

    If TNCs become accessible and offer paratransit service, like taxis do, sure.

  • Gerry Hyde

    Taxis are part of the paratransit program. Why does no one know that??

  • Bruce

    No cabs on Market Street!

  • Bruce

    It’s already been delayed numerous times.

  • Hunter

    Had no idea – only wheelchair accessible taxis or can any of them be used as paratransit?

  • Will

    And when used as paratransit, they should be allowed. What do you think?

  • gb52

    I would also add that some drivers have enough common sense to get to a white zone and some passengers that actually wait there, but the apps need to change and direct passenger and driver to these areas and not allow hailing from anywhere, especially on commercial streets. Like right now, UBER could simply ban pickups and dropoffs on Market street but they haven’t.

    But we cant always blame it on drivers. I’ve seen irate users that demand drivers come to find them on a street corner or really just wherever they are. They want TNC’s to be like taxi’s and just stop wherever, blocking cars and buses because their convenience overrides all common sense. So the problem is twofold and could be minimized with some common sense reminders from the apps that created these issues.

  • gb52

    It’s confusing when taxis join the fray because other private vehicles follow them onto market street.

  • gb52

    Definitely agree!!!! AND SFMTA should consider stop consolidation or elimination because buses are treacherously slow with the combination of long dwell times from signals and high stop frequency / short stop spacing.

  • Ben Eversole

    Kudos to the SFBC for never giving up hope on getting protected bike lanes along all of Market in downtown. They made clear this was their top priority and it paid off in a big way.

    I’m disappointed taxis will be allowed, but with the way things are going the number of taxis will continue to fall as Uber and Lyft eat up their market share. They may end up being rare enough by the time this is complete that they won’t make much of a difference.

  • mx

    I agree. Lyft does stop you right now from requesting a pickup on Market between 3rd and 8th, and I know they’ve done some experiments trying to direct people to particular pickup spots (especially around big events), but the point you make about users is a really important one. Drivers have to maintain their star ratings or they’ll get banned, so many won’t risk telling riders “you have to meet me somewhere else,” especially when that somewhere else could be a block away and there’s little to no enforcement on the streets.

    The city could work with the app developers to improve this situation for everyone, but legal threats make better headlines I guess.

  • HappyHighwayman

    This morning I was almost killed because of cars parked in bike lane and some asshole eating a sandwich deciding to drive at the same time and also enter the bike lane. Yet, the geniuses who designed said bike lanes have them CROSS THE CAR LANE WHEN THE CAR WANTS TO TURN RIGHT. Do you think cars are checking fir bikes? They are not. The bikes lanes that cross market are death traps.

  • Seeing the plan, I’m reminded of Potterstraat in Utrecht. If the plans as presented can be maintained, Market St. has the potential to be even better than the Dutch implementation.

    Also, it’s worth noting that Potterstraat allows taxis.

  • Cynara2

    Who died and made you Emperor?

  • Cynara2

    Hilarious. A bunch of people who do not even know the first thing about San Francisco, since they only recently moved here, are absolutely shocked at the taxis, Just shows you up for non-natives. Everybody in San Francisco has known about cabs forever. It has always been this way.
    This is a tourism city. The cabs are royalty.

  • Bruce


  • disqdude

    Taxis of any kind can be paratransit vehicles. In fact, they’re better for non-wheelchair users because they’re cheaper. Regular paratransit vans get the wheelchair traffic.

  • crazyvag

    I recall reading that lower Market (Van Ness –> Embarcadero) has no loading docks on Market street. Something city of SF forced on businesses a long time ago… maybe back when there were 4 tracks.


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