Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NOPA Play Blocks

Not many kids ride bikes on NOPA streets.
Could they safely ride through the neighborhood if they wanted to? Are there any blocks that parents feel are safe for their kids to bike?
Last night I had the chance to talk about scheduled car-free days for neighborhood streets with Susan King, a Cole Valley resident who works for Walk SF, the pedestrian advocacy group. She also coordinates "Sunday Streets," the exuberant car-free days celebrated on selected streets throughout the city this summer. (This Sunday take a walk or bike through the Mission, and experience Dolores, Valencia, and 24th Streets in a completely different way!)

Fortified with a Green Chile Kitchen dinner special, Susan explained her vision for a series of summer afternoons that offered car-free blocks open for play with kids biking, everyone walking, maybe a garage sale, perhaps a barbecue, etc. Very much like NOPNA's annual block party and the Golden Gate Neighbors' July 4th celebration. But more often and in several neighborhoods. Susan imagines something like the Open Studios where San Franciscans get to see great art and visit with artists where they work in specific neighborhoods. In this case, people could bike or walk to different play blocks close-by.

What about traffic and parking? We seem to manage in NOPA with the street closures without great inconvenience now -- when Bay to Breakers removed parking from Fell, only a handful of motorists used the free and open DMV parking lot as an alternative. And let's consider the question, Do we want our kids to have safe streets for bicycling in NOPA, ever?

What NOPA blocks are best suited to be play blocks? Probably blocks without a MUNI line that aren't too steep and don't have too much traffic. That eliminates Fell, Hayes, Fulton, McAllister, Turk, Divisadero and Masonic and the upper blocks of our north/south streets. Grove and Golden Gate pop out as options along with parts of Broderick, Baker, Lyon and Central.

Perhaps NOPNA's parents group would be interested in securing more opportunities for their kids to literally play in the streets. Susan King has offered to help with the planning and getting city permits.


  1. Maybe our first Play Block could be an outgrowth of the Sunday Farmer's Market on Grove just west of Divisadero. Neighbors are getting used to the street closure there.

  2. "If we're going to talk about transport, I would say that the great city is not the one that has highways, but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go safely everywhere."

    Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogata, advocate for more livable, sustainable cities, speaking in San Francisco July 7, 09.