Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who's Walking NOPA?

Jake and Yazee on Central Avenue

Do more NOPA residents bicycle and take transit than walk? Whatever neighbors do once they're outside the neighborhood, they don't seem to walk a lot around here. This might be a biased perception coming from a bicyclist, but, on the other hand, bikers often cover more territory and see more of what's happening on the streets. NOPA residents who live in the "heights" (north of McAllister) might also miss out on all the Fulton, Grove and Hayes pedestrian action. Live with cats who don't demand twice-daily walks? One more blinder. But take a look around, how many walkers do you see?

NOPA helps the Western Addition and the Haight Ashbury claim scores of 95 out of 100 among the most walkable neighborhoods in the 40 largest cities in the U.S. according to The primary criteria for such a "Walkers Paradise": "Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car."
If you really want to play with this walkability measuring, enter your own address here and see what walkability score pops up for you. A few results here: Golden Gate & Central ranks 92% while 4o1 Divisadero claims 88% and 801 Baker drops to a respectable 83%. Is this difference noticeable on the street?

What makes the North Panhandle so walkable? Based on criteria modified for this neighborhood:
  • NOPA has several centers -- the Panhandle, Divisadero and Fulton Corridors, the Baker Street buzz spots, neighborhood grocers, the Sunday Farmers' Market, churches, several schools, and definitely the restos and cafes
  • NOPA has a high population density
  • NOPA features diversity in incomes and housing -- renters & homeowners, long-time residents & newcomers, all ages, singles and couples and families
  • Parks and public spaces -- not only the Panhandle but regularly scheduled uses like the annual block parties and farmers market
  • A limited number of parking lots, mostly out of view (someday the DMV property will catch up)
  • Bike lanes (and lots of cyclists), several Muni lines, and accessible sidewalks for the most part
How could NOPA become more walkable?
  • obtain safer passage crossing streets especially the traffic corridors
  • encourage or enforce a ban on motorists and bicyclists intruding on pedestrian space in crosswalks
  • lobby SFMTA to implement improvements already studied, for example, the Fell/ARCO pedestrian hazard, the speeding on Fell and Oak, and installation of the red light camera promised for Fell and Masonic
  • complete the Masonic Avenue community outreach study and implement design changes
  • install bike lanes on Fell along the Panhandle to free the mixed-use Panhandle Path for safer walking
  • schedule more activities on neighborhood blocks for car-free uses
  • install more more benches for pedestrians
Perhaps 2010 will become the Year of the Pedestrian in NOPA and beyond. Who's ready to WALK NOPA (as well as biking it)?

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