Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday Streets 3: Changing Car Culture
San Francisco Mayor Newsom doesn't seem to have had an original idea in his life, but he's definitely a magpie when it comes to other people's initiatives, which is not necessarily a bad thing. On one of his globetrots, he encountered the idea started 30 years ago in Bogota, Columbia of shutting down a major car-strewn boulevard to vehicular traffic for a day of pedestrian activity.
He announced this "green" vision last year without consulting anyone, and there were jeers from supervisors whose neighborhoods were affected and howls from Fishermans' Wharf merchants who thought nobody would visit their tourist haunts if they couldn't drive right up to a parking lot.
This was nonsense, of course, because when streets are closed down to cars and given over to pedestrians, people congregate. They come from far and wide. It becomes an event.
It also allows for children to play safely in a city street, which is a particular thrill.
There are five more of these events planned for the spring and summer, one more along the Embarcadero to Hunters Point, two in the Mission District and two by the ocean between Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Zoo. (Click here for the website with their schedule.)
An immediate improvement would be to stop all traffic in both directions since the events are being heralded as health-conscious, "dedicated to bringing safe, fun, car-free places for people to get out and get active in San Francisco neighborhoods on Sunday mornings." Biking, skating and walking with exhaust fumes five feet away isn't exactly part of the mission statement.
The event should also last the entire day, not just a token 9AM to 1PM, which seems discriminatory to both Saturday night party people and Christian churchgoers alike.
We stopped and had lunch outdoors at the HiDive Bar on the Embarcadero, which has spruced up a little but thankfully not too much. It was sad watching the bicyclists being pushed off the street and being replaced by cars...
...led by a small army of motorcycle policemen who must have finished clearing the streets for the morning's mysterious dignitary.