Beginning Tuesday, private vehicles that turn onto San Francisco’s Market Street between Third and Eighth streets, will risk receiving a $238 fine, even if their wayfinding technology instructs them to make an illegal turn.
Ed Reiskin, the director of transportation at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, reminded drivers today to be mindful of the new turn restrictions that are part of the SFMTA’s Safer Market Street Project, which is part of the city’s Vision Zero plan, a commitment to end traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024.
San Francisco police Sgt. Kevin Knoble said drivers should not mindlessly follow their navigation system’s directions, as not all are likely to be updated with the new turn restrictions by Tuesday.
Knoble said he notices many drivers following their navigation systems despite the posted rules of the road.
“They don’t read the signs,” Knoble said.
Kate Elliott, a public information officer at the SFMTA said she has been reaching out to the main navigation system providers since February to let them know about the route changes.
Elliott said companies that manage navigation systems, such as Google, Apple, Garmin, TomTom, OnStar and Inrix, have been notified of the changes and it’s up to them to update their algorithms to reflect the new restrictions.
Reiskin, along with San Francisco supervisors Jane Kim and Julie Christensen, said these changes to Market Street would not only make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians, but will also make Muni buses more reliable.
He said he anticipated it would also ease north-south congestion caused by turning motorists waiting for pedestrians to cross the busy Market Street intersections.
Kim, who represents the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, said that she anticipates traffic in her district to be reduced by the changes and stressed the importance of the corridor for cyclists and pedestrians. She said as more and more people travel on Market Street by bike and by foot, their safety must be prioritized.
“That is the future of San Francisco,” Kim said.
According to the SFMTA, from 2012 to 2014, 162 people were injured or killed on these five blocks of Market Street.
Reiskin said these new traffic changes would improve four of the city’s 20 worst high-injury collision intersections and that the decision to divert private vehicles off of Market Street was up to the SFMTA’s board of directors.
SFMTA board member Malcolm Heinicke said he is thrilled to see the improvements.
Heinicke said these turn restrictions represent a huge safety upgrade for the city and said that those who use Market Street “deserve to use it in safety.”
Nicole Ferrara, the executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group WALK SF, said the traffic changes are “monumental for San Francisco” considering that seven times more people travel through the area on foot than by vehicle.
She said the reality is that all fatalities along the Market Street corridor have been a result of vehicle collisions, so removing most of the vehicle traffic will undoubtedly decrease the number of collisions.
Ferrara said that out of the 24 pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to be made by the SFMTA over a 24-month period ending in February 2016, the turn restrictions are the 16th completed improvement project.
She said the city is on track to complete all 24 projects in the 24-month period. Other completed improvements include zebra crossings, painted safety zones and red transit zones for buses.
Exemptions from the new turn restrictions include Muni buses, commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles, paratransit vehicles, cyclists and taxis.
Ride-service companies such as Uber and Lyft are not exempt from the turn restrictions. Customers of those services should not request to be dropped off or picked up on Market Street between Third and Eighth streets.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News