Sunday Streets: San Francisco's Own Official Block Party!

Sunday Streets: San Francisco's Own Official Block Party!
Laura Leone - Wed May 11, 2011 @ 02:18PM
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Similar to Jane’s Walk in providing opportunities for people to experience and explore what a real livable and walkable urban neighborhood can feel like, comes Sunday Streets San Francisco, a safe, fun, car-free open space created to allow people to get out and get active in the community!

On a selected Sunday of each month between March and October, the City of San Francisco closes off designated neighborhood streets to cars and opens them to pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and activities. Known as Sunday Streets, the event encourages health, community, and fun by creating a large and open public space in which one may safely enjoy the streets and explore new neighborhoods. Not only does Sunday Streets offer free and fun physical activity space, but it also provides open space in neighborhoods that lack such space currently. The safe and open public space made available to pedestrians and bicyclists also benefits local businesses and generates increased community awareness.

Introduced in 2008 by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the program began with two events that connected Chinatown to the Bayview with a 4.5 miles route from Portsmouth Square in Chinatown along the Embarcadero to the Bayview Opera House. Sunday Streets has since grown each year in popularity and even became an official City program in 2010. The 2011 Season has been extended into new neighborhoods and includes a more diverse program that emphasizes the unique character of each neighborhood and highlights overlooked community attractions and institutions. Returning popular activities include free bike rentals and bike safety courses offered by local bike rental companies and organizations, a mobile roller disco with free skate rentals, and activities coordinated by the YMCA of San Francisco for children and families. Participants can also enjoy group activities such as tai chi, yoga, aerobics, and much more along the route.

“A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle.”

       - Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá, Columbia from 1998 until 2001

The Sunday Streets San Francisco event serves to demonstrate how even big cities can provide healthy and environmentally friendly activities for their residents and was inspired by similar events in cities throughout the world from New York City to Tokyo to Kiev. The idea for Sunday Streets originated from a program known as Ciclovía in Bogota, Columbia (website is in Spanish). Ciclovía, a Spanish term meaning “bike path,” is a weekly event held every Sunday and holiday in Bogotá to promote free and healthy community oriented activities, including dance and yoga lessons in the local parks. Founded in 1976, the event has grown to cover an estimated 70 percent of the 20 neighborhoods - over 70 miles of specifically chosen routes to connect neighborhoods! Every week more than 1.5 million people - nearly 20 percent of the city’s population - walk, bike, or skate to other neighborhoods, visit friends, and take their children to experience different neighborhood parks and attractions.

Sunday Streets San Francisco is free and open to all! Upcoming 2011 event dates and neighborhood locations include: the Bayview (June 12), the Great Highway (July 10), the Civic Center/Tenderloin (August 14), the Western Addition (September 11), and the Mission (October 23). The events last from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For information on New York City’s initiatives to create sustainable streets please refer to Janette Sadik-Khan’s article entitled, “Think of a City and What Comes to Mind? Its Streets,” in What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs. As the Commissioner of the New York City Transportation Department, Sadik-Khan launched the Department of Transportation (DOT) report on “World Class Streets: Remaking New York City’s Public Realm” in 2008 and has sought to invest in New York City’s public transit, bicycling, and walking infrastructure, and bring a more pedestrian-focused agenda to the streets. New York City’s “Summer Streets,” New York’s own version of Sunday Streets San Francisco, began in 2008 and is a project of DOT under Commissioner Sadik-Khan. For further discussion and reflection on Janette Sadik-Khan’s plan to remake New York City streets to show more concern for people rather than cars please see Jan Gehl’s article entitled, “For You Jane,” also in What We See.



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