We demand a Better Market Street

What is Bummer Market Street?

The City and County of San Francisco took nearly a decade to create a plan for a Better Market Street. It was a transformative plan for the street at the heart of the city. Now they want to rescind on key elements of the plan – particularly impacting the safety of pedestrians and people on bikes. To make matters worse, the new plan does nothing to address the inequities experienced by those who live around Midmarket, nor the many small business owners.

It’s not enough. We call this updated plan Bummer Market Street.

What’s in the 2020 plan?

  • Muni will only use the red center lanes
  • Muni stops (aka Muni “islands”) will be made ADA compliant
  • There will be a barrier between the center lane and the curb lane
  • Taxi vehicles, paratransit, delivery trucks, cyclists, and people on scooters will share the curb lane
  • There will be paint and speed tables to calm motor vehicle traffic in the curb lane
  • There will be sewer, road surface, and Muni rail maintenance and upgrades
  • Private automobiles will still be banned from Market Street downtown, but commercial, taxi, and delivery vehicles will generally be allowed

We shouldn’t give up on Market Street

Why is the 2020 plan bad?

  • People on bikes, scooters, or other mobility devices in the curb lane had dedicated, protected space in the original design. Protected bike lanes are critical since Market Street is recognized to be a High Injury Corridor. Forcing vulnerable road users to share a lane with large delivery vehicles and taxis is cause for conflict and puts people in danger.
  • There is not enough in the new plan to protect pedestrians. Although private cars are currently banned from this portion of Market Street, many drivers are ignoring or unaware of the restrictions. There needs to be more done to discourage driving on Market Street.
  • Nothing is being done to improve inequalities along Market Street. In an area of San Francisco severely lacking quality public space, the Better Market Street plan was going to help address this concern with new sidewalk surfacing, seating, art, planters, and more. The new plan cuts all of these improvements.
  • Phase 1 (Market between 5th Street and 8th Street) is sill going to cost almost $120 million! To spend this much money on 3 blocks of street without a plan to address any of these concerns is unacceptable.

It’s not all bad! Muni, ADA upgrades, and maintenance are very important and need to happen. But our concerns are significant.

Debunking the myths

Myth: A separated, protected bike lane would be over capacity from day one.

Truth: While the previously proposed separated bike lane may be busy at peak rush times, people on bikes would have had a choice whether they wanted to use the bike lane or the general traffic lane. In the new “2020” design, cyclists do not have a choice, they must use the traffic lane shared with taxi and delivery trucks.

All people who choose to ride bikes on Market Street deserve to be safe – this includes people who work swing shifts, novice cyclists, and those who need to ride on Market during off hours.

Myth: COVID-19 has been difficult on merchants, therefore building a bike lane would put further stress on merchants along the corridor.

Truth: There is no doubt the last year has been catastrophic for small business and they need our help. However, this excuse for not building safe infrastructure is disingenuous. The sewer rehabilitation, utility work, road resurfacing, and transit construction is still going forward.

To be blunt, there is still going to be significant construction, even without the protected bike lanes. Furthermore, as SFMTA’s quick build projects have demonstrated, separating people on bikes from other vehicles can be accomplished in ways other than extensive construction projects.

Myth: Private cars won’t be on Market Street, so it’s safe for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Truth: The new proposed design has no plan for keeping private vehicle drivers off of Market Street. We’re deeply disappointed by this because even after Market Street was officially closed to private vehicles in January 2020, Market Street still sees a significant number of private vehicles violating the closure. Nothing in the newly proposed design stops this behavior.

To make a Better Market Street, we need obvious improvements (signage, forced turns, etc) that make it known to all road users that private vehicles do not belong on Market Street. Police enforcement is expensive, inequitable, has not been effective, and cannot be the main deterrent as it is today.

Myth: The City budget cannot afford the original plan.

Truth: Let’s face it – “Better” Market Street Phase 1 as proposed will still cost almost $104 million! That’s a huge amount to spend while not even doing what the original project set out to achieve. Part of the problem here is that there is essential maintenance that needs to happen regardless of whether or not the project moves forward, but it’s all being lumped into the Better Market Street project.

Even if the original project plan isn’t built, that does not mean SFMTA cannot take less expensive or interim steps to make crosswalks safer and protect people on bikes.

We need your voice

Sign our petition to tell the City of San Francisco that Bummer Market Street is not enough.

We cannot delay on a Better Market Street

What else can I do to help?

You can view renderings and more project details on the official Better Market Street website. They also have an option to sign up for official updates from SFMTA regarding the project.

Write your district supervisor and Mayor London Breed to let them know that Bummer Market Street is not an option.

Sign our petition and we’ll be sure to send you important updates.

The SF Bike Coalition and Walk SF both have campaigns to demand that Better Market Street lives up to the original project goals. Support them!

What people are saying

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Cover photo: Michael Shainblum Photography

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