Although it’s too soon to tell the long term effects of a car-free Market Street, opening day last week saw a 20 percent increase in bike ridership, according to early reports.
Bike counters located at Market and 10th streets showed 20 percent higher bike volumes on Wednesday, Jan. 29, than on any other weekday in January, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Wednesday was the first day Market Street went “car free,” banning most private vehicles.
Although the counters are known to significantly undercount, 3,000 bikes were counted in each direction on that day instead of the usual 2,500, according to SFMTA spokesperson Ericka Kato.
“We’re seeing measurable improvement in transit travel in speed and reliability,” SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said about the new data at an agency meeting.
The private car ban is part of a city effort called the Better Market Street project, intended to enhance biker and pedestrian safety. Although buses, taxis and commercial vehicles can still drive on Market Street, some cyclists say the car-free lanes have brought a feeling of safety.
“I’ve been biking on Market Street since 2013,” bike commuter Alfred Twu said. “The difference from then to now is incredible. Used to be somewhat dangerous, now it feels as safe as biking on a side street.”
Whether or not the changes have decreased travel time for cyclist or transit or increased safety for riders and pedestrians is still unclear, but no severe injuries to cyclists have been reported in the last week.
The City adopted the car ban as part of its Vision Zero program, an effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries by 2024. In 2019 there were 29 traffic related fatalities, one involving a cyclist, according to Vision Zero Task Force reports.
“Safety is the largest barrier to getting people to bike through San Francisco,” San Francisco Bike Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier said. “We know more people ride when they feel safe and it increases actual safety. So this is an encouraging step in the right direction.”