Supes, Mayor, to End Great Walkway

Motoring Uber Alles wins again in San Francisco

San Francisco's Great Highway after it was given the "freeways to boulevard" treatment in April, 2020. Photo: Matt Brezina's twitter
San Francisco's Great Highway after it was given the "freeways to boulevard" treatment in April, 2020. Photo: Matt Brezina's twitter

The Great Highway will be re-opened to motorists on August 16th, dashing the hopes of safe-streets advocates to keep San Francisco’s iconic beachfront street safe and available for cyclists, pedestrians, and children.

From a release from the mayor’s office, issued Thursday afternoon:

Today Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar with support from Supervisors Connie Chan and Myrna Melgar, announced that starting Monday, August 16th, the Great Highway will have an adjusted operational plan tied to the pandemic emergency closure. The Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Blvd will be open for weekends and holidays for pedestrian and bicycle use only, and open to car traffic on weekdays. The timing of this new operational plan is to combine with the first day of school to support students and families getting to and from school, as well as people returning to getting to and from work during the week.

Starting Monday, August 16th, the Great Highway will be closed to car traffic and open to pedestrians and bicycles only from Fridays at 12:00 pm until Monday at 6:00 am, and will be open to vehicular traffic from Mondays at 6:00 am to Fridays at 12:00 pm. On holidays, the Great Highway will also be closed to vehicular traffic. This modification phase to the emergency response will be in place until the Board of Supervisors considers legislation to establish a one- or two-year pilot in this or in another configuration that would extend beyond the pandemic emergency closure.

“The creation of an oceanfront promenade on the Great Highway during the pandemic has been transformational, with incredible benefits and real challenges,” said Supervisor Mar, as quoted in the mayoral statement. “It’ll take new and robust investments in westside transit and transportation to truly address the traffic impacts, and it’s unreasonable to continue a 24/7 closure without them.”

Advocates were outraged:

Meanwhile, rumors of a backroom deal to blow up the Great Walkway were already circulating and advocates had already planned an emergency press conference via Zoom for Thursday at 3 p.m.

The press conference agenda was as follows:

  • Introduction by Matt Brezina (father of 2) of KidSafeSF
  • Statement by Heidi Moseson (mother of 2) of Great Highway Park Initiative, district 4 resident
  • Statement by Brian Reyes (father of 1) of Great Highway Park Initiative, district 4 resident

More details, provided by the Great Highway Park Initiative and KidsSafe:

  • The Great Walkway is 17 acres of Oceanfront SF Rec Park Land.
  • The Great Walkway is now the 2nd most popular open space in all of San Francisco (behind Golden Gate Park)
  • Since becoming the Great Walkway, the promenade is used by 20,000 people over the week and 12,000 on weekends.
  • Since the dangerous highway was removed and became a park, District 4 has seen dramatic traffic safety improvements (collisions are down 30 percent across the district) while other SF districts have seen increased traffic collisions
  • The Rec Park, SFMTA commissions and the SFCTA have approved staff recommendations to do a two-year pilot of the Great Walkway. Planning for this pilot is in process now.
  • Supervisor Gordon Mar has secretly struck a backroom deal with city hall to put cars back on the Great Walkway during weekdays as part of the mayor’s school re-opening plans. This will take away one of the few safe spaces for kids to travel and play in District 4, removing district 4’s most safe route to school, and furthering the climate crisis that will  be disproportionately borne by our children.
  • Putting cars on the Great Walkway, any day of the week, will destroy the potential of this public open space. Mar’s backroom deal, subverting the community process, would see cars using the walkway five days of the week, and kids only having access on weekends.
  • This plan would preclude and end community efforts to add public artwork along the promenade.  To add benches and picnic tables. To add kids play structures. Add public Beach Wheelchair rentals. And crush the roller skate and skateboard community’s desire for an oceanfront skate park.
  • And children will no longer have a safe place to travel to school, learn to ride a bike and scooter, and safely play with their friends near the beach after school.

As previously reported, the “Great Highway” was opened to cyclists, pedestrians, and children during the COVID pandemic. Since then, motoring interests, not satisfied with having access to every other street in San Francisco, have fought to return one of San Francisco’s most beautiful areas to the realm of noise, pollution, and danger from speeding cars.

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