An Open Letter to Mayor Lee about Market Street

Do you think bikes belong on Market Street?  And that the City should make biking safer on San Francisco’s premier biking corridor – now?

With the recent news of further delays to the Better Market Street project (they say improvements won’t start until 2017 at the earliest) and the news that the City is considering not making any further bike improvements to Market Street, we at the SF Bicycle Coalition have serious concerns.

The Better Market Street project has also introduced the idea of urging cyclists off of Market Street onto Mission Street and installing a separated bikeway and other improvements on Mission Street.  Improving Mission Street in addition to Market Street for bicycling is very appealing, just as we have long sought upgrades to the bike lanes on Folsom and Howard Streets. But the demand for safe and comfortable biking on Market Street for all kinds of people remains strong and will only grow stronger in the coming years; the City cannot throw its hands up and give up on finding the best possible solution for biking on Market Street.

We invite our members to share your thoughts on these latest, big developments. Please contact Neal Patel, Planning Director (, 415.431.2453 x312) if you have questions, comments or concerns about improving biking on Market Street.

We have sent the following letter to Mayor Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin and want to share it with you all below: If you are concerned about the City’s languishing efforts to improve bicycling on Market Street? If so, please copy and paste this letter and send it to Mayor Ed Lee ( and urge him to get this important project back on track.

February 5, 2013

Dear Mayor Lee:

On behalf of the 12,000 members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, I am writing to once again express our deep concern for the City’s faltering plans for improving transportation on Market Street, now delayed to 2017.

Market Street is our city’s premier street. You and your staff have put considerable energy into revitalizing mid-Market in particular, making promising steps toward improving this part of town for everyone. Biking has been a key part of the success of your work thus far; many of the companies that are now moving to mid-Market depend on great bicycling access to attract the talent they need. And Tenderloin businesses and residents depend on Market Street as a gateway to access the neighborhood.

In fact, bikes are a critical part of the current and future economy, social safety and transportation on Market Street and the surrounding neighborhoods. It would be counter-productive for the City to roll back its own mid-Market and central city revitalization efforts back by limiting biking on this street. And it’s not just mid-Market. The expected job and population growth in San Francisco, particularly downtown, will not be tenable without shifting many trips from our overcrowded MUNI lines to bicycling along the Market Street spine.

In 2009, the Transportation Authority (TA) recommended implementing pilots to test automobile restrictions, and improvements to transit, bicycling and walking on Market Street within three to six months, with enough time to adjust and make permanent these changes timed with the 2013 repaving of Market Street. The pilot automobile restrictions piloted in 2009 had huge impacts on Market Street – including speeding up MUNI and getting more people to bike and walk on Market Street.  City staff, however, have not expanded upon those pilots in the following years.

It is now 2013 and, despite a much-appreciated patch paving of truly egregious pavement on Market Street in 2012, Market Street overall continues to crumble, and the City is still far off from making the transportation improvements promised – now delayed to 2017 or beyond!

The safety improvements for people biking on Market Street cannot wait any longer. The number of people bicycling in San Francisco is skyrocketing and one only needs to look at the intersection of Market Street at Van Ness to witness this growth. Last year on Bike to Work Day, bicycles made up 73% of eastbound traffic on Market Street. Bike trips on Market Street have doubled in 5 years according to annual counts near 5th Street.  The rise of bicycling and ability to ease congestion on transit is most prominent on Market Street, and the City must capitalize on this growing trend by creating a safe, fully separated bikeway the full length of Market Street. Local businesses are requesting bike racks for their customers on Market Street faster than the city can install them.  Companies are moving to the mid-Market area are reliant upon a workforce that depends upon a safe experience bicycling on Market Street.

Our MUNI system needs attention. And one of the best — fastest, cheapest — ways to solve the key issues facing our transit system, including overcrowding and delays, is to invest in bicycling. Bicycling trips shift people from overcrowded buses, trains and streets, freeing up space for people who absolutely need them. For example, a Mineta Transportation Institute study of U.S. bike sharing systems — a good proxy for bicycling as a whole — found that people using bike share had a 43% decrease in train use, 38% decrease in bus use and 40% decrease in car use. Bicycling is a cheap, high-impact solution to creating and accommodating more jobs in San Francisco. So it is not surprising that there is already tremendous support for the transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements needed for Market Street. The City must commit to delivering these now.

Today, I ask you to show leadership by getting the Better Market Street project back on course. Specifically:

1. Coordinate agency efforts and ensure a 2016 construction date of a Better Market Street project that includes bike safety improvements on Market Street.

2. Make immediate, significant improvements to the bicycling experience on Market Street.

  • Repairing and upgrading the existing bikeway between 8th Street and Octavia.
  • Installing dense green sharrows on Market Street between 8th Street and the Embarcadero.
  • Retiming lights to better serve transit, bicycling and walking throughout the corridor.
  • Support the launch of a full-scale bike sharing system by the end of 2013.

3. Deliver a series of multi-modal transportation improvements in the summer of 2013 to make even deeper strides in significantly improved bicycling, walking and transit on Market Street while supporting job development.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.


Leah Shahum
Executive Director
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

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