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Posts from the "Car-Free Streets" Category

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Berkeley Embraces Its Inaugural Sunday Streets on Car-Free Shattuck Ave

Throngs of people filled Shattuck Avenue for Berkeley's first car-free Sunday Streets event. Photos: Judy Silber

Seventeen blocks of Shattuck Avenue, normally one of Berkeley’s most traffic-clogged streets, were filled with an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people walking, biking and skating for the debut of Sunday Streets Berkeley this weekend.

“It was a huge success,” said Erin Rhoades, executive director of Livable Berkeley, one of the event’s main organizers. “It’s evidence that the community was really ready for an event like that – to be in the right of way, in a way that was totally non-auto oriented.”

For five hours, more than a mile of Shattuck — from Haste to Rose Streets, through the downtown area and Gourmet Ghetto — was car-free, dedicated to human activity and non-motorized transportation. Walking and biking down Shattuck offered an opportunity to explore the neighborhood’s stores and restaurants in a new way, and many merchants took advantage by opening their doors wide and putting out tables on the sidewalk.

“It’s being able to take back a street and not having to worry about cars,” said Berkeley Council Member Laurie Capitelli. “People see their neighborhood in a whole new light. When you’re in a car, you miss a lot of it.”

Rhoades said she approached the mayor’s office with the idea to emulate the success of Sunday Streets in San Francisco, which will hold the last of this year’s ten events this weekend. With East Bay residents regularly traveling across the bay to attend SF’s events, Rhoades sought to bring Sunday Streets home.

“We wanted to see a huge [section] of the community come and experience Berkeley in a different way, to be able to imagine new possibilities for how Berkeley could become more bicycle- and transit-friendly, and become advocates,” Rhoades said.

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The Sky Didn’t Fall: Block of Mason Street Now Permanently Closed to Cars

Photo: Tony Wessling

Putting another nail in the coffin of falsely-predicted traffic jams, a block of Mason Street has been permanently closed to motorists for the construction of a plaza as part of the expansion of the North Beach Public Library.

North Beach resident Tony Wessling sent in the above photo, noting that “the predictions of Traffigeddon have not materialized, and the speed of traffic heading up and down Mason above Columbus has slowed considerably.”

That confirms the conclusions found in a trial plaza study three years ago aimed at assuaging fears voiced by an opposition group formed under the banner “Save Mason Street” (whose website no longer exists). When the Board of Supervisors approved the enrivonmental impact report for the library expansion project in June of last year, Ed Reiskin, head of the Department of Public Works at the time, said the trial “not only helped to validate the analysis of the traffic impact, but really supported the notion that there was significant positive impact for the public for the increased open space.”

The plaza is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014, said DPW spokesperson Mindy Linetzky, although she noted that “the Recreation and Parks Department may be making additional improvements to the Mason Street section as well as the surrounding Joe Di Maggio Playground that could run after this date.”

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In the Inner Sunset, a Push to Cut Sky-High Fees for Community Street Events

Last year's Inner Sunset Street Fair cost organizers $9,000 in fees. This year, it will expand as four separate one-block events called Inner Sunset Sundays, with fees totaling $25,000. Photo: Marty Chappell

San Franciscans have widely embraced events that close streets to cars and open them up to people, with Sunday Streets having expanded to 11 well-attended events per year, and possibly more to come. But for residents looking to hold car-free neighborhood events of their own, unaffordable city fees can present a major barrier.

Community organizers in the Inner Sunset, who are planning to hold four street fairs this year called Inner Sunset Sundays, have teamed up with Sunday Streets organizers to push city agencies to reduce costs and cut red tape to facilitate community street events.

Organizer Adam Greenfield said Inner Sunset Sundays is intended to build on the success of the Inner Sunset Street Fair, which was held each of the last two years. However, fees for this year’s four events, which will take place on one block of Irving Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, will saddle organizers with an estimated bill of $25,000. The fees, he said, are not only questionable, but prevent organizers from holding bigger, more frequent events and force them to commercialize much of the space.

“The current system in San Francisco is destroying community — it’s that simple,” said Greenfield. “It’s harming people psychologically and physically, it’s harming business, it’s harming everybody. And I think it should be one of the city’s core goals to help people who are building community.”

“You don’t have to pay a toll every time you get in your car and drive around,” he said, “but for some reason when it comes to building community, which I think is as important as moving around, the city lumps excessive fees on you.”

The fees for last year’s Inner Sunset Street Fair, which occupied just three blocks during a Sunday afternoon, were $9,000. “Everyone we talk to about this,” said Greenfield, “the universal reaction is shock. ‘How can it cost that much?’”

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Kick Back at Sunday Streets in Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill

July’s second Sunday Streets event returns to the Bayview, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill neighborhoods this weekend, running from Mission Bay to the Bayview Opera House.

For the third year in a row, the car-free event will connect with the Bayview Music Festival. Of course, there’s going to be a lot more happening all the way up the route as well.

The northern end of the route will be different this year — in Dogpatch, it will run on Mariposa Street to Terry Francois Boulevard, running along Mission Bay to Third and King Streets.

See you out there enjoying the sun.

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Learning From Other Cities, Planners Shop Early Visions for Market Street

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Image: Better Market Street

Planners presented early concepts for a new Market Street to the public yesterday, moving the discussion forward on revitalizing San Francisco’s grand boulevard with features like car-free zones, raised bike lanes, faster transit, and more inviting public spaces.

The ideas and visualizations, which are available on the Better Market Street website, were presented by planners as starting points to explore. Many of the concepts are hallmarks of the world’s greatest streets, and planners in the multi-agency effort are aiming to adapt them to Market using a swath of survey data about how the street is used.

The increasingly popular idea of removing private autos from lower Market could come in various forms, ranging from additional forced turns for cars in both directions, to a car-free zone near the Powell Street cable car turnaround, to a full ban on cars as far west as Octavia Boulevard.

Staff fielding public feedback said the proposals have met mostly with support, with concerns focused largely on how to best implement car prohibitions in ways that are enforceable and don’t shift traffic congestion problems to other streets.

Similar experiments have proven successful on New York City’s Broadway and Copenhagen’s Nørrebrogade, said Jeff Risom, a planner on the project with the Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects. Like Market’s forced turns at eastbound Sixth and Tenth Streets, officials in those two cities used pilot projects to find the best fit for car restrictions.

In the summer of 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation (with the help of Gehl Architects) removed cars from a section of Broadway in Times Square, turning it into a pedestrian plaza. As a result, Times Square became more of a public destination, increasing pedestrian usage and simplifying the flow of vehicle traffic in Midtown Manhattan. NYC now plans to construct a permanent redesign for the plaza.

A key similarity between Market and Broadway is that they both cut diagonally through a dense street grid.

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UCSF Campus Plan Orders Up an Extension of 4th Street — Hold the Cars

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A new public plaza and bikeway would extend the current terminus of Fourth Street to the Dogpatch neighborhood. Images: UCSF

Rarely does the opportunity to create a new street present itself in a densely built-out city like San Francisco. But neighbors and planners at the developing Mission Bay campus of the University of California, SF decided to make the best of such a chance by designing an extension of Fourth Street as a car-free plaza.

Fourth Street currently terminates at 16th Street just north of the Dogpatch neighborhood. The SF Board of Supervisors approved a plan [PDF] this week to extend it south to connect to Minnesota Street at Mariposa with a public plaza and bikeway. It will run between a parking lot and a building in a 289-bed hospital complex set to open in 2015.

“The plaza on Fourth Street will provide an opportunity to create a warm and welcoming civic space for all to enjoy,” said D10 Supervisor Malia Cohen at a June hearing of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

Residents in the Dogpatch neighborhood have been advocating for the creation of the plaza for years, said Susan Eslick, vice president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association. Aside from the benefits of creating a new public space, she said neighbors didn’t want to encourage motorists to use Fourth as a new through-way into the neighborhood. The plan “will keep Dogpatch the livable, small-scale neighborhood that it is,” said Eslick.

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On the Horizon: A Car-Free Market Street With Raised, Protected Bike Lanes

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A rendering of a possible future for Market Street. Image: Better Market Street

Note: The Better Market Street Project will hold two public workshops on July 17 and 21, where you can provide feedback on the proposed concepts.

The future of lower Market Street seems more likely than ever to be unencumbered by cars, freeing up space for effective transit and raised, protected bicycle lanes.

The latest update [PDF] on the Better Market Street Project includes three possible scenarios to lessen the impact of private automobiles on Market, Department of Public Works Project Manager Kris Opbroek told the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors this week. The proposals range from banning cars east of Franklin Street to using more forced turns to reduce through traffic. The scenarios that do allow cars could include car-free zones on pedestrian heavy blocks like the one between Fourth and Fifth Streets, Opbroek said.

The plan is being developed by a team of city agencies and design consultants who are drawing inspiration from the world’s most celebrated streets. Among the design features under consideration, Opbroek said, are bike lanes separated from motor vehicles by a raised curb, which have been employed to great effect in the world’s most successful cycling cities. (SF’s first raised bike lanes are included in the plan for Masonic Avenue.)

The raised bike lanes were praised by board members, including Joél Ramos, who recently visited Copenhagen with SFMTA staff on a trip funded by the Bikes Belong Foundation. On Nørrebrogade, which Copenhagen claims as the busiest bicycling street in the Western world, Ramos said he saw how the lanes “work as a phenomenal placemaking opportunity” to help make the street “a thriving corridor.”

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Get Ready for Four Months of Sunday Streets in the Mission

This weekend kicks off the first of four Sunday Streets events in the Mission every month through August, and organizers will be watching its success to evaluate the feasibility of making Valencia and 24th Streets car-free as frequently as once a month.

The Mission has become by far the most popular route for Sunday Streets, bringing out an estimated 25,000 people last May.

“San Francisco residents, merchants and visitors have enthusiastically embraced Sunday Streets and are consistently asking us for more of these kinds of programs,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin in a statement. “We are proud to introduce a new element to Sunday Streets by testing a regular car-free route through one of San Francisco’s most populated and diverse neighborhoods. During this pilot, we will be looking closely at how we can help create open spaces in communities like the Mission where park space is limited and support the many small businesses along the way.”

Be sure to get out and enjoy a sunny day of music, art, live performances, and all-around car-free fun.

Organizers “plan to do additional outreach during this pilot period, and gather input from residents, business owners, local employees, religious institutions to gauge the impacts and support for the idea of having a regular Sunday Streets route in the Mission (or in another area of the city),” according to the Sunday Streets website.

Love the idea? Be sure to let the organizers know.

And don’t forget, July will have two Sunday Streets events: the Mission route will be held on July 1 and the Bayview/Dogpatch route on July 22.

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New Car-Free GG Park Sunday Streets Route Kicks Off This Weekend

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Head out to the Avenues for some car-free action this weekend at Sunday Streets in Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway. Don’t forget: the route through Golden Gate Park is slightly different this year. At Transverse Drive, the route switches over from John F. Kennedy Drive to Martin Luther King along the western section.

Activities in the park include the intriguingly named “Roller Soccer International,” Purusha Yoga, a YMCA program for kids, and of course, the regular swing classes and musical skating area on JFK Drive. At Lincoln Way and Great Highway, you’ll find free bike rentals and repairs, the SF Bike Coalition’s Freedom From Training Wheels classes, and booths representing other local organizations and businesses. Along the coast: more music, dance, and kids’ activities.

Here’s hoping the beautiful forecast holds out.

Check out a map and full list of activities after the break. See you out there!

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SF Continues to Explore More Permanent Sunday Streets in 2012

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Sunday Streets will come to Valencia and 24th Streets in the Mission each month from May to August this year. Photo: geekstinkbreath/Flickr

Sunday Streets keeps on growing, with 10 car-free events coming to neighborhoods around the city this year.

This year’s schedule includes four consecutive months of the ever-popular Mission route, a new route in the Excelsior, and a modified route through Golden Gate Park. The Civic Center/Tenderloin route was also taken off the table this year due to logistical challenges, but it is expected to return.

Why so many events in the Mission? Sunday Streets organizer Susan King said planners are using the route to evaluate the potential for a recurring event, with the goal of establishing weekly events like those in Bogotá, Colombia, which originally inspired Sunday Streets.

“Sunday Streets is turning the corner,” said King. “We’ve gone from being a pilot project that turned out to be more successful than any of us really had an idea that it would evolved into a moving event. We’re trying to get a pattern.”

In April, the Great Highway/Golden Gate Park route will be partly moved off of John F. Kennedy Drive onto Middle Drive and Martin Luther King Drive to create a more intuitive route that requires fewer staff to direct traffic, said King. In past events, the middle stretch of JFK west of Transverse Drive has seen few people stopping, she said, and Middle Drive is already off limits to through car traffic. The change would also remove a sharp turn on the western end of the route, making it easier to follow (see the map below).

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