When City staff first presented new preliminary designs for the Better Market Street project, I had to practice my poker face.
After years of outreach and planning, here was a design that featured protected, separated bike lanes in each direction for the entire length of Market Street, from the Embarcadero through Octavia Boulevard. Private automobiles, including Lyfts and Ubers, would be restricted east of 10th Street. It was almost too good to be true; were we looking at a vision for a street in San Francisco or Copenhagen?
There is something about Market Street that makes it special. Market is San Francisco’s widest street as well as one of its longest. It forms the transportation spine of our city, carrying hundreds of thousands of people every day on bicycles and on foot, rolling and scooting, and on BART and Muni. And yet Market Street is so much more than the sum of these trips.
Market Street is the place where San Franciscans come together to march for justice and meet for a night at the theater. It’s the street where some go to buy the latest fashions and where others go for farm-grown produce. It’s the place where thousands of us live and work. No one neighborhood or community lays claim to Market Street; rather, it forms the border and intersection among many geographic and cultural identities. From the Financial District to the Castro — and all points in between and beyond — Market Street is many different things to many different people.
That’s why it’s so important to see Market Street’s redesign done right. A street that puts the needs of people first will not only dramatically improve safety, but it will open up affordable and accessible transportation choices to everyone who lives, works and travels in San Francisco. I talk to people every day who tell me that they would try biking in San Francisco if only it felt safe. If designed and executed right, the plans for Better Market Street will address the number one barrier that prevents even more people from making a healthy, sustainable and affordable transportation choice: the perceived safety of biking in our city.
Better Market Street is still just a vision on City slide decks. To make it manifest in concrete will require a tremendous amount of organizing and work. With so many people who use Market Street, engaging and organizing all of those stakeholders to overcome the inevitable opposition to change is now a primary focus of our work. The City plans to start construction on the first segment of Better Market Street by the end of next year.
We need your help in making sure that that timeline does not slide. That is why I am asking you to consider making a personally significant, tax-deductible, year-end gift to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Education Fund at sfbike.org/donate. We have proven time and again that with the right resources and people power, we can make real change on our streets. Market Street represents the biggest test of that formula yet: we will not be successful without your support.
Better Market Street is the best opportunity we will have for a generation to demonstrate that San Francisco is a city that manifests values of justice, accessibility and sustainability in the way it designs and builds its public spaces. I look forward to riding alongside you in this fight.
The Tube Times is published quarterly as one of the many benefits to members of the SF Bicycle Coalition. For a complete list of membership benefits, or to join/renew today, click here.