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San Francisco Celebrates Car-Free Market Street

Rick Laubscher, Jodie Medeiros, Jeffrey Tumlin, Malcolm Heinicke, Mayor London Breed, Matt Haney, and Brian Wiedenmeier. Photo: SFCTA

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

A 38 Geary bus operator stopped his bus on Market Street this morning to help a visually impaired person cross to a bus stop going the opposite direction, SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin told Streetsblog just before today's ribbon cutting and press event to mark the start of a ban on private cars on San Francisco's iconic thoroughfare. "I think the person got on the bus going the wrong way."

And stopping in the middle of Market to help someone, to do something so fundamentally humane, would have been dangerous and basically impossible just yesterday, with private cars speeding, turning, and swerving past.

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Cyclists riding past Powell Street BART on a quiet, calmer Market Street without private cars. Photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated
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And that illustrates what the private car ban is all about, confirmed Tumlin. This is a first part of the overall 'Better Market Street' plan, to "design a Market Street for people, not vehicles," he added at this morning's celebration.

"Over two miles of Market Street are car-free, a historic milestone in the history of San Francisco," said Mayor London Breed. Saying it's "'Better' is the wrong adjective," said SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke at Embarcadero Plaza. "This is a magnificent Market Street."

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A cyclist and a band of scooterists heading towards the Embarcadero on a car-free Market Street
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Heinicke remarked that buses and streetcars were running considerably faster. And bus and streetcar operators certainly seemed to confirm that. An operator of an F-Market streetcar who spoke with Streetsblog said he thought things were generally "60 to 70 percent better." The driver of a 5 Fulton bus smiled, gave a thumbs up, and told Streetsblog "it's great!"

The driver of this F car told Streetsblog things were "60 to 70 percent" better
Clear tracks ahead. The driver of this F car told Streetsblog things were "60 to 70 percent" better
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As to bikes, Chris Sanders, a cyclist who commutes on Market Street, remarked that while things were much calmer and improved, he is looking forward to the addition of protected bike lanes, to avoid conflicts between buses, bikes, commercial vehicles, and scofflaw private motorists (a handful of whom were seen driving down Market Street shortly after the ribbon cutting).

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Chris Sanders commutes on Market Street by bike. He's pleased with the car ban and looks forward to protected bike lanes too.
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The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Brian Wiedenmeier said that thanks to the accompanying traffic signal re-timing and the lack of private cars, he was able to bike all the way from Valencia to the Embarcadero, stopping only three times for lights. "It's a beautiful day to ride a bike on Market Street," he added at the event.

Mayor London Breed in the foreground. Malcolm Heinicke and BRian Wiedenmeier behind her left shoulder
Mayor London Breed in the foreground. Malcolm Heinicke and Brian Wiedenmeier behind her left shoulder
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Walk San Francisco's Jodie Medeiros gave thanks that San Francisco is now on the list of cities with significant car-free spaces. "Thanks for putting people first," she told the crowd. She urged people to look to Oslo, Norway, a city roughly the size of San Francisco, which achieved Vision Zero and had no pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities in 2019. "It's because they took bold action."

Several lawmakers at the ribbon cutting vowed that there would be more bold action. "Let's not wait another 10 or 15 years to add more car-free streets," said Heinicke, mentioning Valencia as one of the next candidates for a street free of private cars. "Let this pave the way for future car-free spaces," said Supervisor Matt Haney.

The press event took up most of Embarcadero Plaza
The press event took up most of Embarcadero Plaza
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Breed, Haney, Heinicke and others also thanked the past work of lawmakers David Chiu, Scott Wiener, and many of the advocate groups at this morning's event, for their years of work lobbying for a car-free Market Street.

And now on to Valencia.

Be sure to post your reflections on this turning point for Market Street.

More pictures below:

SFMTA is still adding signs
SFMTA is still adding signs
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Champion cable-car bell ringer Byron Cobb with SFMTA's Tom Maguire and Jeffrey Tumlin at the ribbon cutting
Champion cable-car bell ringer Byron Cobb with SFMTA's Tom Maguire and Jeffrey Tumlin at the ribbon cutting
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Commander Daniel Perea checking in with an SFMTA enforcement officer
Commander Daniel Perea, right, checking in with an SFMTA enforcement officer
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The "boat train" carried VIPs on a car-free tour of Market Street
The "boat train" carried VIPs on a car-free tour of Market Street
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SFBC's Kristen Leckie at this morning's ribbon cutting
SFBC's Kristen Leckie at this morning's ribbon cutting. Horray indeed!
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And last but not least...

A suspicious looking fella on a JUMP bike. Photo: Paul Supawanich
A suspicious-looking fella (and the writer of this post) on a Jump bike, riding alongside a historic street car carrying the mayor and other city officials and advocates. Photo: Paul Supawanich
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