Amid the pandemic, SF's Slow Streets have helped usher in a superb notion: less-congested roads given back to the people is a win-win situation for pedestrians and motorists. Valencia Street's closure this weekend between 16th and 17th, and between 18th and 19th streets is proof of that idea.
In 2019, the City of San Francisco declared a State of Emergency for traffic deaths. 29 people were killed in traffic-related violence in San Francisco that year — a substantial increase over 2018. Even while we're all sheltering in place, significant upticks in pedestrian and cyclist deaths have been seen in the past few weeks, most notably happening at high-injury passages. But SFMTA's Slow Street program's growing number of corridors — "designed to limit through traffic on certain residential streets and allow them to be used more as a shared space" — not only helps remove traffic from some of those congested slices of concrete but they, simultaneously, create safe spaces for bipedal merriment.
Moving SF - To expand public space for physically distanced outdoor dining, retail and mobility, the city’s Shared Spaces program will close parts of Valencia Street to traffic starting this week. https://t.co/jdEixF3Fpy— SFMTA (@sfmta_muni) July 23, 2020
This weekend's debut of the Slow Streets corridor along Valencia Street in the Mission District appears to be yet another resounding triumph for the program... one characterized by an almost "European feel."
“It almost feels like … a European feel, where everything is on the outside — dining and drinking and having a great time,” said SF local Philip Angulo to KPIX about the Slow Streets passage opening in the Mission District.
This exact corridor also overlaps with one of Vision Zero's high-injury streets, Valencia Street, per their 2017 network. “It includes families, kids, all those mothers and grandparents, and all that good stuff," Angulo went on to add.
Thronged by bicyclists and pedestrians, the usual thud of clunking car tires rolling over uneven pavement was, instead, traded with convivial walkers and passersby conversing on the open street come Friday night.
(I just so happen to reside a skipping stone’s throw away from the newly opened corridor; my late Saturday afternoon included nursing a concoction procured from nearby Project Juice. As I traversed up and down the now freed-up roadway, I found myself wishing and hoping and dreaming that such iterations like this will adhere around for some time — long after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes ubiquitous.)
Per ABC7, these two blocks on Valencia Street will be off-limits to motorists every Thursday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., at least until November 1.
Miguel Ramirez, a recently hired manager of the beloved Los Amigos Restaurant — which opened on June 24 — told the news outlet he's elated and grateful for the extra outdoor dining space.... and his position.
"I applied for the job and they give me the job and like oh god, thank god it's four days a week," Ramirez added. "At least it's something.”
Mirroring sentiments were shared by other business owners along the new corridor, with some noting to ABC7 that since the street closures on Valencia started on Thursday, they've already noticed a uptick in business.
Check out some of our favorite tweeted moments from this weekend's well-received opening of the Valencia Street Slow Streets corridor, below:
Two blocks on Valencia Street in SF will close to vehicles every Thursday-Sunday from 4-10pm and run until November to promote outdoor dining and physical distancing.— Lauren Martinez (@LMartinezNews) July 26, 2020
Five & Diamond formal wear opened on March 6th and now sells masks to help make rent.@abc7newsbayarea pic.twitter.com/qslTTFZcuq
First Valencia St “shared street” on a Saturday. pic.twitter.com/UzoK2sN5zV— Brian Stokle (@urbanlifesigns) July 26, 2020
Scenes from Valencia Street Shared Spaces pic.twitter.com/FCIgMYJMd1— Mike Chen 陳懋華 (@MikeChenSF) July 26, 2020
valencia street! you love to see it. pic.twitter.com/i6bkUzA3eV— jenny wen (@jenny_wen) July 26, 2020
Thank you for helping organize the street closure. It suited the street so well and was amazing to see Valencia alive again. It would be incredible to see these closures become permanent. With even some greenery in the median, but I don’t want to get too greedy... pic.twitter.com/cdvAmiy1xj— Tom Grey (@Tomrgrey) July 26, 2020
Image: Courtesy of Twitter via @MikeChenSF