Celebrating Market Street for People
After decades of campaigns, advocacy and hard work, the dream of a car-free Market Street is here
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A 38 Geary bus operator stopped his bus on Market Street this morning to help a visually impaired person cross to a bus stop going the opposite direction, SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin told Streetsblog just before today’s ribbon cutting and press event to mark the start of a ban on private cars on San Francisco’s iconic thoroughfare. “I think the person got on the bus going the wrong way.”
And stopping in the middle of Market to help someone, to do something so fundamentally humane, would have been dangerous and basically impossible just yesterday, with private cars speeding, turning, and swerving past.
And that illustrates what the private car ban is all about, confirmed Tumlin. This is a first part of the overall ‘Better Market Street’ plan, to “design a Market Street for people, not vehicles,” he added at this morning’s celebration.
“Over two miles of Market Street are car-free, a historic milestone in the history of San Francisco,” said Mayor London Breed. Saying it’s “‘Better’ is the wrong adjective,” said SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke at Embarcadero Plaza. “This is a magnificent Market Street.”
Heinicke remarked that buses and streetcars were running considerably faster. And bus and streetcar operators certainly seemed to confirm that. An operator of an F-Market streetcar who spoke with Streetsblog said he thought things were generally “60 to 70 percent better.” The driver of a 5 Fulton bus smiled, gave a thumbs up, and told Streetsblog “it’s great!”
As to bikes, Chris Sanders, a cyclist who commutes on Market Street, remarked that while things were much calmer and improved, he is looking forward to the addition of protected bike lanes, to avoid conflicts between buses, bikes, commercial vehicles, and scofflaw private motorists (a handful of whom were seen driving down Market Street shortly after the ribbon cutting).
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier said that thanks to the accompanying traffic signal re-timing and the lack of private cars, he was able to bike all the way from Valencia to the Embarcadero, stopping only three times for lights. “It’s a beautiful day to ride a bike on Market Street,” he added at the event.
Walk San Francisco’s Jodie Medeiros gave thanks that San Francisco is now on the list of cities with significant car-free spaces. “Thanks for putting people first,” she told the crowd. She urged people to look to Oslo, Norway, a city roughly the size of San Francisco, which achieved Vision Zero and had no pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities in 2019. “It’s because they took bold action.”
Market St this morning pic.twitter.com/5z2GZI6P35
— Jeffrey Tumlin (@jeffreytumlin) January 29, 2020
Several lawmakers at the ribbon cutting vowed that there would be more bold action. “Let’s not wait another 10 or 15 years to add more car-free streets,” said Heinicke, mentioning Valencia as one of the next candidates for a street free of private cars. “Let this pave the way for future car-free spaces,” said Supervisor Matt Haney.
Breed, Haney, Heinicke and others also thanked the past work of lawmakers David Chiu, Scott Wiener, and many of the advocate groups at this morning’s event, for their years of work lobbying for a car-free Market Street.
— Parker Day (@desertflyer) January 29, 2020
And now on to Valencia.
Be sure to post your reflections on this turning point for Market Street.
More pictures below:
And last but not least…