Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Streets, April 2009

After walking over seven highly enjoyable miles along a street crowded with pedestrians, joggers, bi-, tri- and multi-cyclists (where my unicyclists at?), skateboarders and scooter-ers, parents and children, I'd be shocked if anyone tried to describe Sunday Streets as anything but a huge success.

Running this year's first installment of SF's version of the ciclovia down the Embarcadero from the ballpark to Fisherman's Wharf was a smart move. I heard many people, particularly along the more crowded stretch North of the Ferry Building, remark with pleasant surprise on the event, which they clearly hadn't yet heard of. These folks are in luck - there are five more Sunday Streets events left, one per month until September.

Before leaving my house I was worried that the chilly air would dampen turnout for the event. When I arrived at 3rd and King there was a fairly small crowd entering the closed Northbound lanes from this endpoint. But as I walked along the sun-soaked boulevard toward the Ferry building the crowd grew denser.

It was a bit of a trip to walk lazily in the center of San Francisco's breathtaking waterfront boulevard. One certainly doesn't get many chances to pass under those Canary Island Date Palms, right up against the demonstration runs of the proposed E-Embarcadero line.

By the time I passed under the Bay Bridge (an amazing public space in its own outsized way) the street was full of everything-but-cars. And once I passed the Ferry Building the crowd was noticeably thick with BART riders, tourists and farmers market-goers.

It was remarkable how many kids were out with their parents. Most of these kids were on big wheels, trikes, and tiny bikes with training wheels. These kids were using this new civic resource to learn how to ride their bikes, a rite of passage that cul-de-sac dwellers take for granted.

Once I got to the wharf the crowd of San Franciscans speaking at least three different languages was impressive. I'll let the wharf businesses' receipts speak for themselves, but if I was a business owner I would be thrilled to have such a parade of recreators at my doorstep.

There was the Dolores Park boombox-bike guy (who I learned today through Streetsblog SF is SF Bicycle Coalition Board Member Amandeep Jawa). As he progressed through the route this betricycled pied piper attracted quite a crowd of cyclists behnd him.

There was also the FunCycle, a ring of pedalers who also had a speaker setup complete with disco ball. When I passed them at the Ferry Building on my return trip, they were stopped, singing karaoke-style along with the song that was playing - they tweaked the words to match a Sunday Streets theme (see photo in the slideshow above).

The only downside to the morning came after leaving the closed-off route. As I walked through South Beach/SoMa I encountered three bicyclists on the sidewalk (one per block). I happen to work in the area and I can attest that this is a fairly common occurrence along SoMa's narrow sidewalks. As a pedestrian I recognize the natural alliance between bicyclists and pedestrians, but it's unfortunate that so many (any is too many, IMHO) cyclists choose to alienate the most vulnerable road users by speeding through the only protected pedestrian space.

It was a regrettable ending to an incredibly encouraging day.

The next Sunday Streets event will be through the Bayview neighborhood. The route has yet to be announced, but it will likely follow a similar path to last year's alignment.

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