Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Support of the Versatility of Pedestrian Space

If I didn't read the Chronicle Comical I'd probably have a very poor understanding of how visiting suburbanites view San Francisco.

You may have noticed I like to walk around this city, and I consider myself to be very familiar with its pedestrian realm. The sidewalk is my primary point of view, almost all of my interactions with public space are on the sidewalk.

And I'm not afraid of people sitting or lying down on it.

Streetsblog posted a piece on the Newsom-Gascon sit-lie law, which generated some controversy. And I'm glad they did because this law will directly affect the public space that Streetsblog and all livability advocates fight for. The law as proposed would prohibit behavior that's beneficial for such spaces because, ostensibly, the SFPD currently lacks the tools to deal with the bad behavior of a tiny few.

The proximate motivation for this law is a group of street kids on Haight who are harassing passersby. Gascon has told the Bay Guardian that he knows these street kids wouldn't be harassing anyone if cops regularly walked up and down Haight Street. So he acknowledges that adequate tools already exist to keep the peace. This law is not necessary to protect the citizens of the Haigh-Ashbury neighborhood, nor is it likely to be effective without the same increased police presence that Gascon says would solve the problem on its own.

What this city-wide ban on using the sidewalk for anything other than walking could do, however, is stop people from leisurely enjoying the largest amount of public pedestrian space in the city.

The Guardian today reports that some folks are organizing a demonstration of how enjoyable that public space can be. On March 27th people all over the city will be enjoying the sidewalk in any way they like. Check out the interactive map for festivities near you. There's also a Facebook page for you to join if you're so inclined. Who knows, you might not get another chance to stop and smell the roses after this law passes.

1 comment:

fpteditors said...

Its hilarious the "solutions" they come up with. Just like charging fares "solves" homelessness on public transit. Why don't we just keep outlawing things and charging for things until poor people are no longer visible. Problem sovled!