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SF announces street closures to promote social distancing

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Through vehicular traffic will be banned but local access permitted

A long stretch of street with parked cars, colorful houses, and telephone pole wires.
Kirkham in the Sunset District will be one of a dozen streets closed to through traffic.
Photo by Brock Keeling

In an effort to give pedestrians a wider buffer of space while outside during shelter-in-place orders, San Francisco officials will close a dozen streets to through traffic and keep them open to pedestrians, cyclists, and local traffic.

The purpose of “Slow Streets,” according to SFMTA, is to manage traffic speeds while creating a safe network of roads “for essential walk and bike travel while transit service levels are reduced.”

Does this mean all cars will be banned from said streets? Not entirely. The new plan will not legally give pedestrians or joggers the right of way over motorists, but it will allow them to be in the streets. Local traffic (e.g., cars from area homes or businesses) will still be allowed to use said streets.

“The most important thing people can do is remain home, but when you must go out this will help allow for physical distancing,” says Mayor London Breed, who along with SFMTA, announced the plan today.

The slowed-down streets set for temporary closure are:

  • 17th Street (between Noe and Valencia)
  • 20th Avenue (between Lincoln and Ortega)
  • 22nd Street (between Valencia and Chattanooga)
  • 41st Avenue (between Lincoln and Vicente)
  • Ellis (between Polk and Leavenworth)
  • Holloway (between J Serra and Harold)
  • Kirkham (between Great Highway and Seventh Avenue)
  • Phelps (between Oakdale and Evans)
  • Ortega (between Great Highway and 14th Avenue0
  • Page (between Stanyan and Octavia)
  • Quesada (between Lane and Fitch)
  • Scott (between Eddy and Page)

Slow Streets implementation will start this week with two to three corridors per week. Be on the lookout for signs and traffic cones.

Slow Streets map.
Map courtesy of SFMTA

The streets selected for the program are billed as lower-traffic residential streets that connect residents to essential services in the absence of Muni service. Most of the streets run parallel to larger streets or major bus routes.

But not everyone is pleased. Shortly after it was announced, Supervisor Aaron Peskin tweeted, “I have no idea how SFMTA came up with this bc apparently they didn’t have time to reach out. At first glance, they seem more concerned w recreating in less dense areas than responding to requests to address social distancing needs of seniors and low income people of color in D3.”

As social buffering has become the norm, pedestrians often find themselves walking onto the street to avoid passersby on crowded sidewalks. Other efforts the city has used to free up space on sidewalks, which went into effect pre-pandemic, include removing car parking outside grocery stories and restaurants and widening sidewalks by removing vehicle parking.

San Francisco’s program is similar to the one Oakland revealed last week.