Eyes on the Street: Sunshine for First Sunday Streets of 2017
Yesterday afternoon, thousands of people strolled, biked, skate boarded, and just generally had a good time on Valencia Street in the Mission, during the first Sunday Streets of 2017. After a long, wet winter, everyone seemed in especially good spirits on such a warm day. That said, there were serious overtones to the festivities and advocates of all stripes were out, pushing for some truly worthwhile causes. For example, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, its booth manned by volunteers Paul Valdez and Clay Woolam, was out building membership and making new connections.
Walk SF was also out, handing out flyers to educate people about Vision Zero, and pushing for safer streets. The SF Department of Public Works was out with a street sweeper on display. Jim and Shane (they declined to give last names) were hoping to educate a few people on the potential dangers of passing a street sweeper too closely. “We want the public to see what we can’t see,” Jim said, pointing at a wheel chair near the front of the truck.
Jim also invited Streetsblog into the cab, to see the blind spots first hand. In the pic below, he is pointing at the wheel chair, which is completely out of view.
The trucks have cameras and screens in the cab to help cover blind spots such as this, but as Jim and Shane explained, between monitoring all the sides of the truck and making sure to keep it driving against the curb and picking up garbage, it’s important for cyclists to pass while leaving as much space as possible. They also encouraged cyclists to wear reflective clothing. Streetsblog remarked that the truck may simply be too big for San Francisco’s streets. Shane said they have–and are getting more–smaller trucks to clean bike lanes and get into smaller alleys.
Meanwhile, the Areana Flores was there from the Bay Area Air Quality District. encouraging people to walk and bike more. “Do anything that’s not producing more emissions,” she said. Mo Turner was there as a volunteer for Sunday Streets, the organizer of the event. “I would like to see Sunday Streets expanded and more frequent,” she said.
Of course, this being San Francisco in the age of Trump, there was also a large political demonstration, re-affirming San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city. Advocates built a wall of cardboard boxes, symbolizing Trump’s planned border wall–which they pulled down and stomped as part of the demonstration.
Susan Cieutat, meanwhile, handed out flyers opposing the “Monster in the Mission,” a housing development planned for the Walgreen’s and parking lot adjacent to the 16th and Mission BART station. “We want housing, but housing that is affordable,” said Cieutat, who has lived in nearby Hayes Valley for 15 years. Even though the development would provide some 350 new apartments, one-third of them below market rate, she said the “below market rate” prices are still too high for most residents of the Mission. She said the new development would invite displacement. Streetsblog asked for clarification as to how housing–any housing–would displace more people than a Walgreen’s and a parking lot, at which point Cieutat said she was too busy to continue the interview.
Local and national politics aside, most people were just out to have fun, including some amazing skateboarders performing tricks in the street, kids doing yoga, and plenty of dogs (see pics below). And seeing Valencia Street like this, closed off to traffic, really makes one wonder if some day it wouldn’t make sense to close it to through traffic altogether–making it a permanent plaza for all people to enjoy, all year around. Maybe some day. For now, it would be nice just to see it done more often.
Did you attend yesterday’s Sunday Streets? Tell us what you enjoyed most about the event, or anything else that comes to mind about open street festivals. Comment below.