Safety changes eyed for upper Market Street

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday August 10, 2016
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As city officials push forward with their Vision Zero plan to end pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, a host of safety upgrades and traffic changes are being eyed for the upper Market Street corridor.

One of the main streets running through San Francisco's gay Castro district, upper Market Street is also one of the city's most dangerous in terms of collisions.

Between 2007 and 2012, there were 27 accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians, 32 vehicle-bicycle collisions and 102 vehicle-vehicle collisions on the heavily trafficked Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street, according to transit planners.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is working on a plan aimed at making the upper Market corridor's "complex six-legged intersections," as described by traffic engineers, easier to navigate for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle drivers.

"This comes out of a long held desire to improve the safety of upper Market Street," said District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, a gay man who lives just off the corridor in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood. "We have a lot of issues on this stretch of Market Street, particularly at these horrible six-way intersections."

Among the Upper Market Street Safety Project's components are making sidewalk extensions permanent and realigning crosswalks to shorten the distance for pedestrians crossing at key intersections, and upgrading bicycle access along Market Street with improved green bike lanes and painted buffer zones.

The intersection at Castro and Market streets could see a new, dedicated left turn lane for drivers headed north on Market wishing to turn left onto Castro. Currently, cars can only turn right onto Castro at the intersection.

At the Noe, 16th Street, and Market Street intersection, bulbouts would be constructed at three of the curbs and new thumbnail islands would be added to the Muni boarding platforms in the middle of the street.

Similar bulbouts and thumbnail islands are planned for the 15th, Sanchez, and Market streets intersection. The thumbnail islands would also be added to the Muni stops at the Church Street intersection and where Market and Buchannan streets intersect.

Where Market and Dolores streets meet, the crosswalk leading from Whole Foods over to Safeway would be rebuilt so it no longer zigzags across Market.

And on Duboce Street the right turn lane cutout for vehicles turning north onto Market Street would be eliminated and replaced with a larger bulbout for pedestrians. Vehicles could still turn right from the middle lane but would have to go around the newly configured curb extension.

Of the safety enhancements being studied along the corridor, the most controversial would see left turns onto Market Street be prohibited from several side streets that intersect the busy thoroughfare. The SFMTA continues to examine the idea and has yet to decide if it will pursue such a change for both sides of Noe and Sanchez streets.

It is also looking at a left turn restriction on the west side of 16th Street where vehicles turn north onto Market Street. For vehicles on 16th Street in the opposite direction turning south onto Market Street, the SFMTA may add a dedicated green arrow to the traffic light at the intersection there.

Currently, vehicles must yield to on-coming traffic when making a left turn on the green light. Dedicated left turn green arrows could also be added to the light at the Market and Castro streets intersection.

"Particularly with Noe Street, people for years have been wanting change at that intersection to reduce the chaos that goes on there," said Wiener. "Cars don't know how to turn left there. There is all sorts of confusion and conflict and it is dangerous."

While he has not heard much in terms of public feedback about the proposed safety enhancements for upper Market Street, Wiener said he has heard from some people unsure about restricting left hand turns.

"I understand why some people are concerned. But we have to do something at these intersections," he said. "And people should keep in mind if what the SFMTA proposes doesn't work, it can be changed."

Based on the feedback the SFMTA received from public meetings it has held, and at a town hall about the project this spring, the agency's engineers and planners continue to fine-tune the proposed changes to the streetscape and traffic flow along upper Market.

The agency plans to seek additional public input this fall before presenting a final plan at an upcoming SFMTA Engineering Public Hearing, usually held on a Friday morning at 10 a.m.

The goal of the project, according to the agency, "is to improve safety and comfort for all who travel on this section of Market Street, including pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and transit users, by reducing the potential for conflict and by making travel along the corridor more predictable and intuitive."

To learn more about the project, as well as review detailed drawings about the proposed changes for each intersection, visit