On Tuesday, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors made a historic decision to ban private vehicles on the most traffic-plagued part of Market Street, between Steuart and Gough, unanimously approving the Better Market Street Project.
The $604-million proposal will transform Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero into a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place by eliminating private cars. (Under the current plan, Muni buses, emergency vehicles, paratransit, bikes, and medallion taxis would still be allowed to ride this stretch of Market Street.)
Until the advent of the automobile, pedestrians and cyclists used the entirety of San Francisco’s Market Street.
Take, for example, A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire, a short film of downtown San Francisco from before the 1906 earthquake, showing people of all ages, sharing the roadway, moving at normal human speeds, and maneuvering around the paths of other vehicles. (One moment jarring by today’s standards: a man exits a cable car with a baby and confidently walks across several lanes of traffic filled with horse buggies and motor vehicles.)
This raises an important question: What other thoroughfares should be free of cars permanently?
Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the District Six in San Francisco, has proposed banning vehicles on some of the Tenderloin’s most dangerous streets, after a 12-year-old boy was struck and nearly killed by a driver at the intersection of Leavenworth Street and Golden Gate Avenue. That was one of several recent pedestrian deaths, at the hands of drivers, to hit the neighborhood.
Eliminating cars from even more parts on Octavia in Hayes Valley has also been suggested. And sections of Golden Gate Park already have car-free Saturdays.
But what other streets of San Francisco should be rid of personal vehicles? Let’s not limit the vehicular erasure to the city. Oakland, Berkeley, and—gasp—even parts of Marin and Silicon Valley could take a page from the Better Market Street Project.
What avenues and streets would you like to see stripped of cars?