San Francisco’s Grant Avenue, the city’s oldest street, was opened to pedestrians only yesterday in a milestone Sunday Streets event that drew thousands of people to the historic neighborhoods of Chinatown and North Beach on a sunny, 74-degree day. The city’s first walking Sunday Streets on a thoroughfare that seems like one of the most ideal streets to pedestrianize was clearly a hit.
“It’s a fantastic event. The weather is gorgeous and it’s nice to have Chinatown and North Beach connected in this way,” said Tom Radulovich of the non-profit Livable City, which sponsors Sunday Streets.
Unlike fairs in Chinatown and North Beach that typically line the street with outside vendors, the car-free event that spanned more than 20 blocks was organized to give neighborhood residents, locals and merchants a taste of what Grant Avenue can look and feel like without cars on a typical Sunday.
“I like having no cars,” said Lisa Mai, a North Beach resident who took a break from jump roping with other teens from the YMCA, a Chinatown fixture since 1911. “When you’re in a car it’s like you’re really rushing, but when you’re walking, when you walk along Grant, you see all these people coming out to enjoy it.”
From the Chinatown Gateway to Coit Tower, people filled the narrow street on foot, and shopped, sipped tea, snapped photos, hula-hooped, painted, enjoyed live music and other activities without the anxiety of automobiles.
The few people on bicycles were mostly children whose parents walked alongside. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition set up its Freedom from Training Wheels workshop on Grant near Vallejo Street.
“In Chinatown, there’s a lot of elderly people, and the street is so narrow. We just didn’t really feel like it was going to be safe to have bicyclists and walkers. So, it’s a walking street,” said Sunday Streets coordinator Susan King of Livable City. “It’s a first for Sunday Streets, and it’s fun to do something new.”
Many of the children spotted playing in the street live in North Beach, and Chinatown, the city’s densest neighborhood, where a majority of residents do not own cars, but are forced to contend with some of the city’s worst traffic. Along the route, there were plenty of children from other San Francisco and Bay Area neighborhoods, along with families of tourists.
And now, it’s time to overwhelm you with some adorable moments.