Eyes on the Street: Sunday Streets in the Mission
Normally, Valencia Street in the Mission is dominated by traffic, double-parked cars blocking bike lanes, close calls, and the occasional injury. But not yesterday; yesterday, Valencia Street was all about games, fun and dancing–and a bit of politics and social advocacy–thanks to Sunday Streets.
Yesterday’s event, the second Mission District event this year, went from 26th St to McCoppin Hub Plaza and cars were banned from interfering with the fun from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to bikes, kids on scooters, dancing and all sorts of other fun, lots of people and organizations used the event to get their advocacy and health messages across.
Francisco Siguenza, a nursing student at the University of San Francisco, was volunteering with the American Heart and Stroke Association, taking blood pressure and teaching people the basics of CPR. He sees a natural connection between heart health and street fairs and events. “We can reach communities, but it [the event] is an incentive for people to learn reasons to be healthy, to eat healthy.”
Heart health was also the reason Jennifer Wade was out collecting signatures opposing the construction of the Warrior’s Arena in Mission Bay. “Mission Bay is surrounded by water on three sides, and I’m concerned about access to UCSF Medical Center,” she said. Her son has a congenital heart defect and, sadly, an emergency trip to the children’s center there is inevitable. “There will be 225 events a year there [at the planned arena] and traffic is going to be a problem…it’s the wrong fit for an area with a medical campus.”
Of course, wherever large groups of people gather, there’s going to be political activists. Along those lines, Supervisor Jane Kim was on her pink bicycle doing some old-fashioned, handshake-politics–gathering support for her bid for the District 11 State Senate seat. “Sunday Streets is such an important way to build community,” she said. “You can see how crowded it is! People love it.”
And she wasn’t the only familiar face. Tom Radulovich, President of the BART Board, representing District 7, Executive Director of Livable City, and occasional Streetsblog contributor, was out there with his bike as well.
“I live two blocks away. It’s nice to see streets full of people,” he said, although he admitted the event is so popular it’s a bit hard to actually ride a bike. But he didn’t seem to mind, and was instead conversing about Denmark’s bike lanes with Bobbi Lopez, one of Jane Kim’s volunteers. Lopez, who is part Danish, had recently returned from that Scandinavian mecca of bike infrastructure. “I was very inspired,” she said, motioning to the painted lanes on Valencia. “I want to see Copenhagen lanes here.”
It was the sheer fun and energy of this giant party that brought out visitors and volunteers alike. Rigel Apolinar was manning the Sunday Streets booth, handing out fliers and answering questions about the event. She has been a Sunday Streets volunteer for four years. “There’s more activities, more attendees, more families…I want people to come out and know the different neighborhoods of San Francisco,” she said, holding her dog Teyla. “The Mission is known for its diversity and change and I want people to be part of that.”
Sunday Streets shows how far San Francisco has come in rethinking its public spaces. But it also was a reminder of how far there is to go. There was Lopez’s wistfulness for protected bike lanes on Valencia. And there was another cyclist, known to Streetsblog, who happened to cruise by, just returning from a little guerrilla infrastructure action with the SFMTrA, an underground group that slaps down safety features on San Francisco’s most notoriously dangerous streets.
“We put some protective cones down on Market Street,” he explained on condition of anonymity. “The raised bike lane portion of Market Street is used for parking, SFMTA and SFPD isn’t doing anything about it, so we are,” he said before riding off.
Don’t miss the next Sunday Streets event this year, on Sept. 11, in the Western Addition. A few more photos of yesterday’s event below.