Eyes on the Street: ‘Car Free’ in Hayes Valley

Octavia, between Linden and Hayes, is now officially the realm of people instead of cars

It's official: Hayes Valley now has its car free space where once a freeway reigned. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
It's official: Hayes Valley now has its car free space where once a freeway reigned. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The city permanently closured Octavia Street to cars today between Linden and Hayes.

This marks the completion of a years-long “Open Street Project” pilot designed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to dedicate a portion of Octavia Street to public space.

“Our neighborhoods deserve to have public spaces that benefit our residents, visitors and local businesses,” said Mayor Breed in a statement “Before Octavia Street, this was the Central Freeway, a space dedicated to moving cars… Today, we are creating a space for friends and family to play, shop, and enjoy Hayes Valley. This is one example of our larger efforts to create more open space in San Francisco to benefit the community.”

People enjoying a car-free realm at Patricia's Green
People enjoying a car-free realm at Patricia’s Green

That last sentence is key, and speaks towards the approval of ‘Better Market Street’ and the anticipation of even more spaces being wrestled back from auto-dominance. “San Francisco is joining cities from around the world that are creating car-free people-first places,” said Walk San Francisco’s Jodie Medeiros. “This supports climate goals, boost local economies and helps reduce severe and fatal traffic crashes. This small but significant stretch of Octavia Street is just the beginning of a long list of streets where we can establish more car-free streets that prioritize people.”

Bicycles are encouraged to cut through here to continue down Hayes or Octavia
Bicycles are encouraged to cut through here to continue down Hayes or Octavia

Residents seemed to be enjoying the area, which is noticeably more relaxed and, well, visibly inhabited than many other parts of the city. Zach Smith, a medic with a private ambulance service, however, was a concerned that they weren’t given the combinations to the locks that release the bollards in case first responders need to access buildings on this short stretch of car-free Octavia (see pics below).

Private medic services might benefit from having a way in
Private medic services might benefit from having a way in

Still, he said they can get around the closed section of street and it’s not as if they need to get right up to a building to put out a fire.

These combo locks allow fire access in the unlikely event a fire truck needs to back right up to one of the buildings on the short stretch that’s now permanently closed to cars.

“We are very excited to see this pilot project made permanent,” said Tom Maguire, SFMTA Interim Director of Transportation, also in the mayor’s announcement. He is referring to the pilot closure which first started planning in 2015. “Anytime we can add more public space for our city and improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists is a win for everyone. The successful short term closures of Octavia around Patricia’s Green showed us that this truly is an improvement to the area and the added space is a huge upgrade for the neighborhood.”

And would be for almost any neighborhood that got chopped apart during the freeway-building era, we might add.

Where do you see opportunities for streets to be either closed to cars, or made into “woonervens”–streets where motorists have access but where they are treated as guests in a pedestrian realm. And be sure to suggest other freeways that can be removed to make more livable spaces.

Post your thoughts below.


SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes. SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic […]

Two-Way Hayes Street Proposal Wins Approval at SFMTA Hearing

A plan to restore two-way traffic on several blocks of Hayes and Fell Streets in Hayes Valley that were converted to one-way streets in the 1950s was approved at an SFMTA hearing today following a strong show of support from residents, merchants and neighborhood associations. It now goes to the SFMTA Board for approval. The […]

Closed Crosswalks Remain Even in Today’s Walkable Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley may be one of the country’s densest and most walkable urban neighborhoods, but believe it or not, it still has three closed crosswalks — vestiges of the mid-20th century’s cars-first planning. “For many years, traffic engineers devised ways to pen people in, so that cars weren’t inconvenienced,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “Nowadays, […]
Josie Ahrens, Neighborhood Organizer for Walk SF, stops to admire some tactical urbanism on Page Street. All photos Roger Rudick/Streetsblog SF

A Hopeful but Somber Walk to Work Day

Walk to Work day started badly this morning–very badly. A volunteer–the name withheld for privacy–was hit by a car somewhere on the way to the event, which started at Market and Duboce. “This is insane,” said Cathy Deluca, incoming acting director of Walk San Francisco. “People should be able to walk the streets of San […]