Fun, Bike-Share and Politics Mark Yesterday’s Sunday Streets in the Mission
Yesterday’s Sunday Streets on Valencia Street in the Mission was Victoria Ruddick’s first time on a Ford GoBike. “The handlebars and steering are a bit heavy,” she said. Ruddick said she normally drives to work and wouldn’t consider cycling on a normal day. “I’m scared of biking around cars.”
But that’s the point of an open-streets event–to get people trying things, doing things, and encountering people and ideas they wouldn’t otherwise come across.
Representatives from Ford GoBike and Jump Bikes took advantage of the opportunity to get people trying out their competing bike share systems in a traffic- and stress-free environment. “I’ve been on bike-shares all over the world,” said Bill McLeod, who was trying out an electric-assist Jump Bike during the event for the first time. “It’s great. It makes so much sense for San Francisco,” he added, referring to the advantage of having a motor to help on hills.
McLeod, who mentioned he was also a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and a regular cyclist, said he also tried the Bay Area’s official bike share, Ford GoBike. “I love its variable shifters,” he said, adding that they compare favorably to New York City’s Citi Bike bike share system.
That said, he said he was disappointed by limitations placed on bike-share by San Francisco politics. Specifically, he was upset that short-term rental options were eliminated to protect traditional bike-rentals from competition or the fact that “disruptive” bike share companies, such as Bluegogo, were driven from the market. “They found in Paris that the more people bike, the more it increase safety … having more bikes on the streets make drivers more careful.”
Of course, bike share wasn’t the only thing on display at the festival. Toni Mikulka has her kite puppets, as seen below. Children were quick to run around and play with the poles that hold up the wings. “Kids like to play with them,” said Mikulka, as she went around putting the poles back in their stands. “I do lots of open streets events so people can experience a scene of joy on streets for humans instead of cars.”
Olivia Van Damme was there promoting the City Surf Project, which aims to get inner city kids out to the beach and onto surfboards for physical education credits. “We’re trying to break down the stereotype that all surfers are white males … we want to diversify. Surfing started in Peru, even before the Incas.” She hopes it will help young people appreciate the ocean more.
There was also “Imperfect Produce” on hand–a company that tries to stop food waste. “Some is just slightly too big or too small [and some of it just misshapen, but perfectly fine]… 20 percent of it gets thrown out. So we reach out to people who want to help with the environment,” he said of his company.
There was also music and dance, and, of course, just a whole lot of people out having fun on a hot summer’s day. But, being a street event, there was no escaping the safe-streets advocacy and transportation planning and politics.
Aside from the bike share companies, San Mateo County Transit District, aka samTrans, was there too, getting feedback for a possible US-101 Express bus service, that might extend well into San Francisco, possible even with local stops in the Mission and other neighborhoods.
“We’re doing a scoping exercise to figure out where people want to go and what amenities are most important on the bus,” explained Millie Tolleson, a consultant with Nelson\Nygaard who is working on the study. She explained that the buses could act like “Tech Shuttles” for people who don’t work for tech companies. SamTrans would like to set it up so buses run express from San Jose to San Francisco, stopping only at major employment centers in between. The hope is the buses can be used by commuters moving in both directions.
SFMTA was out there too, promoting its “neighborway” concept–the idea is to bring bicycle-and-pedestrain priority streets, similar to what they have in Berkeley, to areas in San Francisco. These might employ traffic circles and diverters that prevent through car traffic but allow pedestrians and cyclists to pass through. Victoria Chong, a Transportation Planner with SFMTA, said they are studying doing that with Shotwell and Capp.
What about doing a neighborway on Valencia, where Sunday Streets was held? Or making Valencia into a full-time car-free street, such as the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica? “We hear it all the time … but it’s a different animal,” she said. That’s true, but as McLeod put it, Valencia has become “… more dangerous than ever” and something has to be done.
Yesterday, as with past Sunday Streets in the Mission, showed exactly how nice it can be to walk, bike, and just enjoy Valencia, once the ever present danger of speeding cars is controlled. It strongly suggests of an ultimate design goal for the street.
But yesterday at least, it returned right back to its madness of aggressive drivers, blocked bike lanes, and precarious intersections as soon as the event was over and the traffic barriers removed.
More photos of the event below.
The next Sunday Streets will return to the Tenderloin, August 20.