Cities, Take Note! Bold Biking Decision by San Francisco

In October 2019, the city of San Francisco did something cool, something other cities would do well to imitate. They closed off portions of its iconic Market Street — one of their busiest streets — to private vehicles. This $604 million initiative follows the lead of other cities that have done something similar — New York City; Oslo, Norway; and Madrid, Spain — to name a few.

The aptly named Better Market Street Project creates a safer urban space for pedestrians and bikers. It’s San Francisco’s latest attempts to promote bike riding and how other cities are following suit.

What Is the Better Market Street Project?

The Better Market Street Project aims to transform the San Francisco cityscape, making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.  The plan calls for clear-cut spaces for walkers and riders. And because of their eBike regulations, that safety extends to electric bike riders. It includes the 2.2 miles of space between Market Street’s Octavia Boulevard and Steuart Street. Other strategies include extra benches for rest and more bike racks for parking. This is all to encourage less vehicular use for day-to-day activities, safely.

Split image showing the Market Street area (left) and a map of the San Fran indicating the BMSP traffic line.
The Better Market Street Project – a boon for cyclists and pedestrians.

How the Better Market Street Project Limits Traffic

The Better Market Street Project closes off the main thoroughfare to private vehicles. This includes ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. The project keeps the intersections in these areas in play so that private vehicles may cross. The design also improves access to the city’s public transit system. Safer wait areas. Specialized lanes for buses and streetcars. Despite these new designations, however, commercial and emergency vehicles can travel as usual.

A map of SF’s Batter Market Street Project.
A map of SF’s Batter Market Street Project. Source:

San Fran isn’t stopping there! The project eventually aims to close off more areas to private vehicles, creating a true biker’s haven.

Benefits for eBike Riders

It’s understandable how this project benefits traditional and e-bike riders. Riders now have wider bike lanes with clear-cut directional information to keep traffic flowing smoothly. There’s also improved intersections at key areas (Eighth, Battery, Page and Valencia streets) and a lot more bike racks in the area. Now, you can stop by your favorite eatery or grab take-out (we are in the time of COVID after all) during your ride. No more hunting for a place to put your bike! 

Differences Between the Better Market Street Project and Slow Streets Program

San Fran has another recent program decided to help control the flow of traffic — the Slow Streets Program.  The two programs might seem related, but they’re not. In fact, they’re quite different, altogether. The Slow Streets program came about when the new coronavirus made social distancing a must for San Francisco residents and the rest of the U.S.

Due to these requirements, the city decided to limit traffic in some spaces to give pedestrians, bikers and eBike riders more room to spread out. Areas that comprise the Slow Streets program include:

  • 20th Street, from Valencia to Potrero
  • 23rd Avenue, from Lake to Cabrillo
  • Chenery, from Elk to Brompton
  • Excelsior, from London to Prague
  • Golden Gate Avenue, from Masonic to Divisadero
  • Jarboe, from Moultrie to Peralta
  • Lane, from 3rd Street to Oakdale
  • Lombard, from Jones to Stockton
  • Mariposa, from Kansas to Texas
  • Sanchez, from 23rd to 30th 
  • Shotwell, from 14th Street to Cesar Chavez
  • Somerset, from Silver to Woolsey 
  • Stockton, from Bay to Lombard

For anyone unfamiliar with San Francisco, this might as well be gibberish. But trust us, these are significant areas. Even better, city administrators didn’t just throw darts at a city map or rely solely on data driven A.I. algorithms. Areas were chosen by asking San Fran residents, listening to their suggestions, and taking their recommendations to heart. Will this program stay in place once social distancing becomes less necessary?


But the city and program officials plan to continue working with locals to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how the city can balance the needs of everyone. The end goal is to create spaces everyone can enjoy safely. And while Slow Streets Program may come and go, the Better Market Street Program is here to stay. (With minor tweaks and enhancements in the future.)

Couple wearing helmets and riding on their EB7 eBike.
Ready to ride – the 7-Speed EB7 electric bike from SWAGTRON®.

San Francisco’s eBike Laws

Per the San Francisco eBike Coalition, eBike riders have the same rights as those who ride regular bicycles and must follow the same rules. That includes giving pedestrians the right of way in every instance. And stopping behind crosswalks so they stay clear for walkers. Bicyclists must mind all traffic lights and signs, stay off the sidewalks and go with the flow of traffic rather than move against it — this isn’t the time to be a rebel, after all.

Should you encounter parked cars along your eBike trek, you can take the lane to avoid potential contact with opening doors. In fact, you can ride your electric bicycle on the street itself so long as you’re prepared to signal lane changes to vehicles sharing those roadways. And no, shouting “left!” doesn’t count.

San Francisco’s laws for bike riders also state that you must have reflectors and a front white light on your eBike. You must also keep one ear headphone-free to stay alert on busy city streets. Additionally, always give paratransit services room out of respect for the disabled.

Split image, with a closeup of the EB7 Plus headlight (left) and the EB12 eBike rear rack with brake light (right).
SWAGTRON EB7 Plus with a headlight and the EB12 rear rack with brake light – all San Fran approved!

Bike-Friendly Cities

With all the attention San Fran puts on bicyclists, we couldn’t fault you if you thought they were the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. Heck, you might even thinking California is the most bike-friendly state. But the push to make cities more bike-friendly doesn’t begin or end with San Francisco or even the state of California.

The League of American Bicyclists ranks California #4 on their list of bicycle-friendly states. Ranked #1 on the same list, Washington. That state leads the way with 18 bike-friendly communities, including the gold standard city of Seattle. A bike rider’s dream!

In the Emerald City, concrete buffers around trails help protect cyclists from vehicular traffic with an eye to improving safety. At the same time, rails at the sides of intersections provide space to lean and rest while riders wait for lights to change.

Illustration showing the top 4 bike-friendly cities in the U.S., in order: Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis and San Fran.
Top 4 bike-friendly cities, as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists.

The state’s southern neighbor, Oregon, pulls in at #2 with its 12 bike-friendly communities. Portland and college town Eugene both have robust bike-sharing services in place. This allows residents and visitors alike to enjoy the beauty of the state and get some exercise.

Minnesota ranks #3 in the state listing and hosts one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation — Minneapolis. Its hundreds of miles of bike lanes let people reach downtown spaces with ease and makes daily commuting by eBike possible. The city’s bike-sharing services make the bike lanes accessible to everyone.

An Eye to the Future

As more and more people flock to cities for the economic and social benefits they bring, these areas are likely to become more congested and harder to navigate for walkers, bikers and electric biking enthusiasts.

Through initiatives like the Better Market Street Project and Slow Streets program, San Francisco has taken a bold approach to transit, encouraging healthy transportation for its residents. But one thing’s certain: electric bicycle riders can look forward to more U.S. cities following in its footsteps – especially as bike riding gains momentum in popularity.

Add A Knowledge Base Question !

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?