On the first morning of this new era, Market street in San Fransisco is populated by cyclists, buses, and occasional trucks. Honking has been reduced, and everyone is moving through the important street smoothly. Private cars have been banned from most of Market Street, the major thoroughfare that slices southwest through the heart of the city. Only commercial vehicles and taxis remain welcome in part of the 2.2-mile no-car zone. This means that everyone else, Uber and Lyft drivers, included must find another way. A small army of transit workers are keeping the peace, with police officers on motorcycles swooping down on those who slip through the cracks, explaining the new rules, and giving out warnings.
Eventually, tickets will cost drivers up to $238. The car-free procedure seems to have soothed but not completely depopulated Market street. Every day, half a million pedestrians and 75,000 cyclists make their way down the street. At peak times, Market street hosts 200 buses and 650 cyclists an hour. The project’s point is to help those people not just move efficiently and safely but also enjoy the thoroughfare. Banning cars is less of an end goal than a prerequisite for other changes the agency plans, these cheap and easy changes include adding more than 100 loading zones on side streets for commercial vehicles and ride-hail.
A Worldwide Movement
The idea of getting rid of cars from Market Street has been around as long as private cars, but this movement only started in 2009 when the city first tested the idea. In October, the San Francisco transit agency board unanimously approved the new plan for Market Street. European cities have also pushed this idea even further. Oslo is gradually moving cars out of its city center by banning drivers from many streets, putting more funds into public transit, and replacing parking spots with bike lanes and mini-parks. Amsterdam is already a haven for cyclists and will ban gas and diesel cars within its borders starting 2030. During the summer, Paris turned its riverside roadways into public “beaches.” The city plans to get rid of all diesel cars by 2025, encouraging residents and tourists to stop driving altogether, partly by making every last street as bike-friendly as possible. Especially in Europe, where diesel cars are becoming more and more popular, curtailing driving is pitched as a way not just to pacify the streets but to limit air pollution and climate change.