Before the new car-free Market Street rules had even kicked in, a high-ranking transit official set his Vision Zero sights on a Valencia Street car ban at Tuesday night's meeting.
Cyclists, Muni riders, scooter fanboys, and urbanist types are all atwitter on Twitter over the car-free Market Street that just went into effect this morning. (And I’ve packed this post with their many dazzling videos). But not even 24 hours into that grand experiment, we’re already talking about the next San Francisco street domino that may fall in the sudden car-free craze. The Chronicle reports that Valencia Street might be the next car-free corridor, if one transit official has his way.
During Tuesday night’s San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting, just hours before cars were to be banned from Market Street, chair Malcolm Heinicke singled out Valencia for such plans. “When you look at the maps and the presentations ... one street cries out to me,” Heinicke said. “And that’s Valencia Street.” (Heinicke is indeed the highest-ranking member of the board as chair, everyone else on the board is either a vice chair or director.) While a car-free Valencia Street was not on last night’s meeting agenda, it did come up as the board was mulling strategic plans for 2021, and Henicke told the Chron that he's "impatient" to move on to the next big car-free project.
a much calmer ride down Market St pic.twitter.com/ZR8h9rWQuA— Burrito Justice (@burritojustice) January 29, 2020
SFMTA analyses indicate that Muni buses and trains move 15-25 percent faster under car-free conditions, but that’s sort of a moot point on Valencia Street. There is no more Muni service on Valencia Street since the 2009 euthanizing of the 26 Valencia bus, though occasional circumstances will reroute a bus onto Valencia. But bike collisions are the big problem on Valencia, and SF Weekly reported this summer on two serious car-on-bike collisions within 24 hours on the popular thoroughfare.
Though much of the city is currently is the throes of car-free euphoria, some Valencia retailers don’t like the idea for their street. “I personally think it would be devastating to our business,” Fellow Barber co-owner said Jonah Buffa told the Chron, noting an overwhelming number of his customers using rideshares to visit the premises.
Market street isn’t closed for the first time today, it’s finally open! Today is the first day I felt comfortable riding market street with my daughter. It was so quiet, safe, and full of life. This opens entire new parts of the city to our family #carfreemarketstreet pic.twitter.com/ToFQsEVLfJ— Brezina 🚲 (@brezina) January 29, 2020
This being San Francisco, none of these changes would be coming anytime soon. (Do you know how long this Market Street project has been slowly coming into reality? Over a decade.) The SFMTA Sustainable Streets division has committed to creating a list of possible car-free streets within the next two months, though they maintain that extending the Valencia bike lane remains their top priority for that street. Meanwhile, the SF Bike Coalition continues to push for a permanent car-free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park, and Supervisor Matt Haney has mentioned sweeping automobiles from the Tenderloin.
Update: Market Street is officially a pedestrian & bicyclists infested hellhole. https://t.co/SwPVvzfqgd— Bob Gunderson (@Bob_Gunderson) January 29, 2020
Interestingly, SFMTA officials are squaring off over whether the Valencia Street car ban should be limited to just a few blocks. New director of transportation Jeffrey Tumlin, who is hate-tweeted by a satirical anti-bike account above, said Tuesday “We can think about it block by block.”
Heinicke disgreed, saying, “I’m not talking about two blocks. We’re thinking big here.”
The tenor of this conversation may change if car-free Market Street causes hassles, but for now, the permanent Sunday Street-ification of several local streets will be the fashionable topic. Which is great timing, as the 2020 Sunday Streets schedule will be announced tomorrow according to their website.