| Sunday Streets Comes to the Mission
By Fran Taylor, Member Walk San Francisco Jun 13, 2009
Streets in the Mission will either open up or close down this summer, depending on your mode of travel. Walkers, skaters, and bicyclists will luxuriate in unfettered access to a route between Rolph Park and Dolores Park on two Sundays this summer. Drivers will have to find another way.
June 7 and July 19 are the two days that the roving celebration of self-propulsion known as Sunday Streets will come to the Mission. Earlier events have hugged the eastern waterfront, and the final two Sundays later this summer will hit the ocean side of the City. The Mission Sundays are the only ones to be located entirely in a dense residential neighborhood.
This factor is expected to boost the number of participants. Locals can jump into the stream of runners, dancers, and hula hoopers simply by walking out the front door or down a few blocks. It also creates logistical problems, however, as some residents must figure out what to do with cars along the network of streets where parking will be banned. Valencia, 24th, and portions of Harrison and smaller side streets will be reserved for nonmotorized travel between 10 am and 2 pm, but parking restrictions will begin late Saturday night.
Organizers told a community meeting held in May at the Brava Theater that local merchants would be a focus. “This isn’t a street fair,” said organizer Susan King. Outside vendors were not being invited to come into the featured streets to compete with the restaurants and shops already there. Merchants plan to move tables and chairs or their wares out onto the sidewalks, where passersby can enjoy them without the usual noise, fumes, and tension of traffic.
About 10,000 people turned out for the April Sunday Streets, with a slightly smaller crowd for the May event, which coincided with Mother’s Day. Organizers expect closer to 20,000 for each of the Mission events. Even though the Mission route is only about two miles long, much shorter than earlier Sunday Streets, it crosses over 40 intersections, making the logistics a challenge.
Cheryl Brinkman is president of the board of directors of Livable City, one of Sunday Streets’ sponsors, which is working with the City to pull events together.
“The amount of work involved in opening streets for people instead of cars is amazing. There are so many moving parts to work through,” she said. “Livable City is a small nonprofit; we couldn’t do this without City Hall’s help. People might think Sunday Streets is some sort of for-profit street fair, but what we want to do is show people what their neighborhood could look like with cars taking a respectful place instead of dominating the streets.”
While some neighbors have expressed concern about the parking limitations, others can’t wait to enjoy a day without traffic. Brinkman puts the two days of changed priorities in context:
“Does every street have to be dominated by cars every day of every week? Could we use these amazing ribbons of asphalt that criss-cross our city for different uses occasionally? The streets make up a huge percentage of our open space, and this event lets the streets become parks.
“Imagine a single mother in the Mission with two kids who like to ride their bikes. There is carfree space in Golden Gate Park every weekend, but how does she get herself and her two children and their bikes to the park? With this event, she and the kids can walk out their door and be at the park in a matter of blocks.”
The idea for Sunday Streets comes from Colombia, and that country still puts most of its imitators to shame. Capital city Bogota hosts a weekly event called Ciclovia. Over a million participants come out to celebrate the use of more than 70 miles of roads, where they can walk, cycle, and socialize free from traffic. The creators of Ciclovia intentionally linked poor neighborhoods with wealthy ones, and Colombians who may have had little social contact with one another have begun to mingle.
Following Bogota’s lead, cities around the world and in the U.S. began experimenting with, for example, Summer Streets in New York City and Paris Plage, which reclaims a busy throughway along the Seine River for Parisians each summer by covering it with sand and converting it to a beach. All of these events have followed a similar path, from skepticism to enthusiasm.
In San Francisco, that familiar trajectory was personified by merchants at Fisherman’s Wharf, who scotched plans last year to extend Sunday Streets north from the Ferry Building. After they saw how successful the two 2008 events were, however, they jumped on board and hosted the first event in 2009.
“We hope that people will enjoy these two Mission events and welcome Sunday Streets back and help us make it a permanent part of life in the City,” Brinkman said.
For more information, visit http://sundaystreetssf.com/.
Fran Taylor can be reached at email@example.com or 874-4570.
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