When tourists would come to Dylan’s Tours to explore San Francisco on ebikes, the rental agency used to guide them down Market Street, the city’s main thoroughfare running from the waterfront through the heart of downtown.
But a few years ago, that came to a stop.
“There was just too much traffic,” Tim Johnson, the fleet’s operations manager, explained. “With all of the cars on it, Market Street was a mess.”
These days, Dylan’s Tours, a Rad Power Bikes rental partner, is considering starting it up again — especially now that the city has made key portions of the 4.5-mile strip a lot easier to bike down.
San Francisco sealed off roughly half of the street from private cars in late January. It’s all part of the Better Market Street Project, a longterm initiative that the city says will “re-establish the street as the premier cultural, civic and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area.”
In short, that would mean a lot more people taking strolls, exploring the shopping scene, and, of course, enjoying a bike ride in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
For cycling advocates, the decision couldn’t have come at a better time. Market Street has been the site of about 100 injury collisions every year since 2014 — with 30 percent of those accidents between cyclists and cars.
“Allowing just a few people in cars to delay and endanger the vast majority who took the bus and rode their bikes was never an equitable way to manage that street,” Dave Snyder, the Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition, told us.
Snyder added that the initiative is part of a larger movement, one that stretches far beyond San Francisco.
“It’s what happens when you get cars out of the way. We hope that as bikes become more popular, thanks in part to ebikes, we’ll see a huge expansion of the number of streets where cars are out of the way of people who prefer to ride their bikes.”
While European cities have embraced car-free zones in major urban centers for years, the concept's finally been gaining traction in the U.S. New York recently banned private vehicles from the once packed 14th avenue in order to make mass transit more efficient and cities like Seattle are experimenting with car-free days.
So far, San Francisco's efforts have been successful, with local media reporting a 25 percent rise in cycling on Market Street since the closure went into effect. Inrix, a transportation analytics firm, has also released a study showing that the closure has hardly increased congestion on the surrounding streets.
And among San Francisco cyclists like Tim Johnson, there’s a sense of guarded optimism.
“It’s taken a while for the changes to really come into effect,” he said, noting that there’s still a big car presence on intersecting street and that the initiative still allows buses and taxis on Market.
Still, for him and other employees at Dylan's Tours who commute via bike, there’s a lot of promise.
Choosing to get around via ebike is a decision both individuals and businesses can feel good about! Check out these five ways ebikes are helping save the world.