Protesters Demand an End to Private Cars Jamming Market

They want project for city's iconic street accelerated, by banning turns for cars now

Protesting private cars on Market Street back in May--a major goal of safety advocates that may soon be realized. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Protesting private cars on Market Street back in May--a major goal of safety advocates that may soon be realized. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Some 100 protesters showed up at the corner of Montgomery and Market Street Wednesday evening to demand a safer street. Many were affiliated with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco, the San Francisco Transit Riders, and the People Protected Bike Lane protest. Others were just passersby who joined because of an interest in the future of Market Street.

“I’m excited about the prospect of having more places for people, not cars,” said Courtney Brousseau, who commutes by bike through the area. “It’s a great time to get involved.”

This was his first protest, in this case to garner support for implementing and speeding up Public Works’ Better Market Street plan, which would eliminate private cars from Market Street and reserve it for transit, pedestrians, and bicycles. But so far the project has been progressing slowly, and even initial construction isn’t scheduled to begin for another three years.

Brousseau, right, at his first active protest.
Brousseau, right, at his first non-virtual protest

Protesters didn’t just stand on the corner holding up signs. They also walked back and forth across the crosswalk going north/south along Montgomery, crowding together to make sure cars didn’t illegally turn right onto Market.

“Turns on and off Market are where lots of the problems happen,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who participated in the action. “I want to encourage the Department of Public Works to move quickly on it.”

In addition to turn restrictions in the short term, and banning cars altogether on Market in the long term, Haney wants pedestrians prioritized, by installing “scrambles” at Market and Montgomery, and potentially in other locations. “There need to be changes.”

Supervisor Matt Haney and Paul Valdez, an advocate who volunteers with the "Ride of Silence," Bike to Work Day, and a whole lot of other things.
Supervisor Matt Haney and Paul Valdez, an advocate who volunteers with the “Ride of Silence,” Bike to Work Day, and a whole lot of other safe and livable streets stuff

Also in attendance–Cat Carter of the San Francisco Transit Riders. “Buses are continually stuck behind people double parking,” she said. The Better Market Street plan should speed that up, by dedicating most of the real-estate to transit, she added. But that’s years off, and for now “Cars and buses get stuck; we want turn reductions so that won’t happen.”

Advocate Tim Hanes, meanwhile, tweeted video of the protest from high on up:

Not far into the protest, SFMTA sent a traffic officer to help make sure motorists didn’t try to shove their way through the crosswalk. The protesters appreciated the additional help.

Thanks SFMTA, for sending some help
Thanks SFMTA, for sending some help

Music played and the protest was peaceful, social and upbeat, with lots of smiles, hugs and hellos. But there was also sadness, with the knowledge that a few miles away a 77-year-old woman was in intensive care. She was hit by a motorist driving a truck at Sutter and Divisadero (A representative from Walk San Francisco informed Streetsblog today that her name was Galina Alterman and she has succumbed to her injuries.)

Photo: John Entwistle
Photo: John Entwistle

“I don’t want to be the next person to die and then they build protected bike lanes,” said Theo Gordon, who also participated in yesterday’s action. “I want cars off Market before another person dies.”

“It’s a great time to get involved beyond tweeting,” added Brousseau. “I decided to be a part of pushing it forward.”

Bikes moving down market, no longer obstructed by gridlocked cars turning right from Montgomery.
Bikes and transit moving down market, no longer obstructed by gridlocked cars turning right from Montgomery.

Want a safer Market Street but couldn’t make the protest? Walk San Francisco has an online petition.

Walk San Francisco is also planning a vigil for Galina Alterman tomorrow/Friday, at Sutter and Divisadero, from 6-7 p.m.

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