Marketbikelane.jpgChanges made to San Francisco’s Market Street that temporarily established mandatory right-hand turns for vehicles at select intersections could become permanent next month.

Since September 2009, private vehicles traveling east on Market Street have been forced to make right turns at several intersections between Van Ness Avenue and Sixth Street.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency engineers gave the green light to permanently enforcing the pilot program at a Feb. 4 hearing, and the issue could come up for a vote at the full SFMTA board on Tuesday.

The mandatory turns–part of a reconfiguration to encourage biking and walking along Market Street–have had the desired effect and more, an SFMTA spokesman said this week.

An agency report found Muni vehicles traveling along Market Street have been moving slightly faster since the mandatory turns were implemented.

Initially, drivers had to turn right at Sixth Street and Eighth Street, but that was changed to Sixth Street and 10th Street in January 2010.

Average travel time decreased on Muni by more than 3 percent when those changes were made in January 2010.

“Minor modifications have produced real results and have contributed to making Market Street more inviting, safer and efficient,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Rose said the community encouraged the city to make the changes permanent at a public hearing earlier this month.

“We received overwhelming support from advocates, the community and cyclists, who agreed with our findings,” Rose said.

More people are biking and walking along Market Street, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coaltion.

In independent traffic counts conducted last July, the bicycle coalition found a 53 percent increase in the weekday average number of eastbound bicyclists traveling on Market Street between Ninth Street and Spear Street, compared to the same time a year earlier.

Pedestrian travel in the region also increased, with a weekday average of 24 percent more people ambling along Market Street, according to those traffic counts.

The coalition’s executive director, Leah Shahum, said the boon is good not just for cyclists and pedestrians but also for transit riders and the city.

“Muni vehicles are moving faster, so the city can better serve riders. It’s a win-win-win situation,” Shahum said.

The bicycle coalition has also been working to extend the separated green bikeways striped along Market Street, and Shahum said the response from the business community is encouraging.

From law firms to coffee shops, “More than 50 businesses downtown have said they want the bike lanes extended,” Shahum said. “They see the value in bike lanes and the traffic they bring to the area.”

Rose said that the project and related policies are part of a long-term vision for transforming Market Street.

They “ensure that all modes of transportation can coexist on the same streets,” he said.

The SFMTA board meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday in room 400 at San Francisco City Hall.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!