The project is being led by San Francisco Public Works in collaboration with various other city and county departments including the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Public Utilities Commission, the Transportation Authority and the San Francisco Planning Department.
Some aesthetic changes are also included in the plan, such as new trees and benches. New bike racks are also being added to accommodate the surge in cyclists on Market Street since cars were banned.
The plan currently being put into action is a scaled-back version of what city officials approved in 2019. After the onset of the pandemic, as tourism and other industries ground to a halt, the city was facing a significant budget shortfall and was elected to redesign the plan’s first phase.
The most significant change for cyclists was the removal of the planned sidewalk-level bike lane. Instead, the current plan keeps bikes on the road, sharing the lane with taxis, paratransit and commercial vehicles.
When Olea presented these changes to the Transportation Authority Board in October of 2020, she cited a significant increase in the number of bikes on Market Street as one of the reasons for the change, saying the planned 8-foot-wide bike lane would be too narrow to accommodate the amount of expected traffic.
“Yes, it gives people more space for people on bikes, but it also gives them more space to potentially be hit by cars,” countered Assembly member Matt Haney, then a city supervisor.
The original plan also called for replacing the sidewalk’s aging red bricks with concrete, rather than only repairing damaged sections. That change was meant as a cost-saving measure but was also influenced by a motivation to avoid long street closures and the negative impact that could have on nearby businesses. The mid-Market corridor has struggled to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in layoffs in the tech industry this year.
Olea says they want to minimize impacts to the community as much as possible, but that there will be at least four two-week closures of the section of Market Street under construction in the second half of 2023, affecting all surface traffic and transit, although not BART or Muni Metro.
“It’s one street for the city where all of our parades are, all of our important events and marches, [but] the street is looking worn and it’s on our high-injury network,” said Olea. “Now is the perfect time to make these critical improvements. It really is like a once-in-a-generation project to make Market Street the beautiful corridor that it deserves to be.”