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Turns Onto Market Street in Downtown San Francisco to be Restricted Starting Tuesday

 In Enforcement, Engineering, Media, Public Policy, Vision Zero

Monday, August 10 – KQED News, Rebecca Bowe

The experience of being on Market Street in San Francisco is about to change, whether you’re a motorist navigating the downtown area, a cyclist sharing the road with cars, or a passenger getting from point A to B on transit.

Beginning Tuesday, private vehicles will be restricted from turning onto Market between Third and Eighth streets, a change that’s intended to make the busy corridor safer to cyclists and pedestrians while facilitating smoother sailing for transit vehicles. It’s part of the Safer Market Street Project, a safety upgrade that’s included in a roster of street safety improvements under Vision Zero.

Between 2012 and 2013, there were 162 collisions resulting in injuries along Market Street, said Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The ban on private vehicle turns is accompanied with other changes that include extending transit-only lanes and installing new loading and painted safety zones to boost visibility.

“This project is driven by the sobering collision data on Market Street and our Vision Zero goal of ending traffic fatalities in San Francisco,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin. “Traffic collisions are preventable, and these focused turn restrictions will create a safer, better Market Street.”

Motorists will still be able to cross Market Street, and the turn restriction won’t apply to Muni buses, taxis, emergency vehicles or commercial vehicles. But drivers working for Lyft, Uber and other ride-share companies will have to obey the new rule, since they are considered to be private cars.

Pedestrian safety advocates say this new traffic pattern, combined with other upgrades, is a much-needed improvement.

Market Street can be especially dangerous because “it’s a very confusing street with awkward intersections,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk San Francisco, an organization that advocates for pedestrian safety. Cars make up only 10 to 30 percent of Market Street traffic but account for 80 percent of traffic injuries on that stretch, Ferrara added. The new restrictions are expected to cut traffic volumes along that stretch by as much as 50 percent, according to the SFMTA.

Vision Zero aims to improve pedestrian safety with upgrades to 24 intersections citywide. The whole package is expected to be completed by February of 2016, and the Market Street project is number 16 on the list.

SFMTA representatives appeared with Supervisors Jane Kim and Julie Christensen Monday to unveil the Safer Market Street Project.

“For many years, we’ve been hearing that people feel unsafe walking and biking there,” Kim said. “You’re getting a lot of drivers who aren’t yielding to bikes and pedestrians,” but the turn restrictions aim to address that.

She added, “Not every road should be prioritized for private vehicle traffic.”