Commentary: The Shame of “Better” Market Street
The city's half-assed plan starts construction this week
“Thirty-seven people were killed in all traffic crashes in 2022, which is the deadliest year since the City adopted Vision Zero in 2014,” wrote Walk San Francisco, in a statement following the death of a third pedestrian in San Francisco late last month. That pedestrian was killed at Franklin and Eddy Streets, the site of three motorist vs. pedestrian injury collisions since 2018.
Franklin is yet another street SFMTA knows is hazardous, a street for which it held multiple outreach meetings, and a street for which it rolled back the most significant safety measures called for under Vision Zero.
This seems especially pertinent as SFMTA starts construction this week on the poster child for watered-down safety projects, Better Market Street (or Bummer Market Street, as it’s come to be called). From a KQED report:
After more than a decade of planning, work crews will break ground Monday on the first phase of the Better Market Street project to redesign San Francisco’s busiest thoroughfare with a variety of safety and aesthetic upgrades. Phase one will focus on the area between 5th and 8th streets on the corridor, and include traffic signal upgrades, wider sidewalks at intersections to reduce crossing times for pedestrians, repaving to reduce tripping hazards, wider ADA-compliant curb ramps and streetscape improvements.
That’s great, but after years of outreach, public meetings, comments, and posts this publication and others produced, the promised sidewalk-level bike lanes that would truly make the street safe for all users won’t be built. Note the lead photo of scooterists trying to navigate between wheel-grabbing trolley tracks and a garbage truck. Amazingly, that won’t change even after the hundreds of millions the city is about to spend.
Streetsblog readers know what happened–the city decided the lives of people who bike and roll aren’t worth it and declared the planned bike lanes, rendered above, too expensive. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. They’re going to spend $600 million on these Market Street changes but they can’t find a way to build bike lanes?
Yes, SFMTA did ban private cars on much of Market. Except they didn’t ban cars.
There are still city vehicles, buses, trucks, taxis, cross-traffic, and plenty of opportunities for cyclists to get run down and killed. What good will it do a future Mark Heryer, who was riding his bike when he was run over and killed by a Muni bus operator on Market Street in 2015?
Besides, SFPD essentially stopped enforcing the private vehicle ban shortly after it was put in place.
San Francisco advocates, through all-consuming, Herculean efforts, managed to save the J.F.K. Promenade last year. But there are just too many dangerous streets to put in that kind of effort every time. And it doesn’t even work most of the time: how frustrating is it that SFMTA has still failed to make Valencia safe, which cost the life of Wan Mei Tan when she was killed last month by a motorist making an illegal turn?
Then there are all the other dangerous streets in San Francisco that go unfixed, or under-fixed, in the name of political “compromise.” There’s no mystery as to why the city is not on track to achieving Vision Zero.
When the city cut the protected bike lanes from Market Street, they signed a death warrant for some random person or persons. What could be better proof that city officials are paying lip service to Vision Zero?