Commentary: With ‘Bummer Market Street,’ City Abandons Vision Zero

SFMTA has made it clear it has given up on achieving the goal of zero traffic fatalities

The point of view of a cyclist squeezed between 20 ton vehicles from a bike cam during a recent trip down 'car free' Market Street. Image: captured from Luke Spray's twitter
The point of view of a cyclist squeezed between 20 ton vehicles from a bike cam during a recent trip down 'car free' Market Street. Image: captured from Luke Spray's twitter

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Advocates continue to push back against a redesigned “Better Market Street” without protected bike lanes. The new plan, proposed last month, would have cyclists continue to mix with 20-ton trucks and buses, as well as city cars, taxis, and errant motorists who turn down Market Street despite the signs.

First of all, anyone who still thinks ‘car-free’ Market Street is already ‘safe’ simply needs to look at the lead image and watch this video from Luke Spray, taken during a typical bike ride on Market Street:

Dale Munroe, the advocate who pushed for and helped get a solution to the problem of valets continually blocking a section of bike lane on the Embarcadero, took the city to task for the “new” Market Street design, which omits the single most important safety feature of the breakthrough plan that was approved last year. “Like many others who commute by bike, I was disappointed to hear that the Better Market Street plan no longer includes a raised separated bike lane,” he wrote to SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division and forwarded to Streetsblog. “I’ve personally had several close calls with vehicles while riding on Market Street, so I’m worried about safety with the updated plan.”

Munroe especially called out the absurdity of using sharrows to protect cyclists on such a busy street with so many large vehicles.

Britt Tanner, Senior Engineer with SFMTA’s Sustainable Street Division, sent the following reply:

The California MUTCD Section 9C.07.C states that sharrows may be used to “alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way.” Our conceptual drawings propose side-by-side sharrows to alert drivers that bikes are encouraged to ride side-by-side in the curb lane along Market Street. We’ve heard negative feedback regarding using two side-by-side sharrows, so we are also considering revising the design to use a single sharrow.

The placements of the sharrows was intended to be conceptual, and we welcome feedback.  The final striping for the roadway between 5th and 8th would not be installed until after construction is complete, in 2023. Given that, we have time to work through issues of MUTCD compliance if we go forward with the side-by-side sharrows.

Hint from Streetsblog for traffic engineers: if your safety questions come down to the MUTCD guide and whether to use double or single sharrows, you’ve already f*cked up.

As Streetsblog has previously reported, that guide and America’s disastrous transportation policies put 40,000 Americans in the morgue every year. Some transportation agencies have simply started ignoring MUTCD’s deadly, auto-uber-alles recommendations. And if SFMTA is depending on sharrows for safety on Market, what else is there to say except that the agency has abandoned Vision Zero altogether.

The "new" design, which is barely discernible from the current layout. Image: SFMTA
The “new” design, which, aside from a speed bump and more sharrows, is not discernible from the current layout. Image: SFMTA

As Streetsblog has reported many times, sharrows, on anything other than small, lightly used streets, are a waste (even double sharrows). Perhaps people-protected bike lane co-founder Matt Brezina summed it up best: “Sharrows. The ‘F*ck Safety’ of bicycle infrastructure. On our city’s #1 bike street. This is beyond disgusting.”

If the city doesn’t have the money to rebuild the street into something safe, then it doesn’t have the money to do Better Market Street at all. Leaving it as it is doesn’t cut it either: temporary Jersey barrier-based protected bike lanes should be added to the existing street until the money is found to do the project right.

That’s what a city does if it’s serious about safety and Vision Zero.

Readers can comment on Bummer Market Street HERE.

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