Proposal would turn streets into recreational spaces

An idea to shut down portions of major city streets on Sunday mornings and open them for pedestrian, bicyclists and other exercisers has drawn the interest of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Such a street closure program would provide cheap, healthy and safe recreation opportunities for residents in urban areas, according to Wade Crowfoot, the mayor’s director of climate protection initiatives.

Newsom, in an e-mail to The Examiner, said he was committed to getting more San Franciscans out of their cars and into the streets, including “investigating innovative ideas, such as scheduled road closures for bicyclists, in-line skaters and other cycling enthusiasts.”

The program, tentatively titled Sunday Healthways, would include other activities. Pedestrians could also enroll in tai chi or yoga lessons, as part of planned activity stations that would line the street closures, Crowfoot said.

Potential neighborhoods targeted by for street closures include Bayview, Tenderloin and Chinatown — areas that are relatively flat and don’t have easy access to open spaces and parks, Crowfoot said. The program would entail “soft closures,” allowing for reduced automobile traffic along the route, he said.

One route mentioned in the early planning processes would be connecting the Bayview to Chinatown along The Embarcadero, with aquatic activities incorporated along the way. Another idea would be toinclude the San Francisco Zoo, Crowfoot said.

Crowfoot stressed that no street closures would be implemented without lengthy planning processes with neighborhood groups and elected officials. Because of the necessary planning stages, he said he was unsure when the program would be implemented.

Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a citizens advisory group that has championed the idea, said the beauty of the Sunday Healthways is its accessibility.

“You don’t have to go build something, you don’t need to pay an entrance fee,” Shahum said. “It’s affordable recreation for people right outside their door.”

Crowfoot said the idea of closing roads for pedestrian and bike activities originated in the 1980s in Bogota, Colombia, where it’s called “ciclovia,” the Spanish term for “bike path.”

The City already closes parts of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park on Sundays, as well as Saturdays during some spring and summer months.

wreisman@examiner.com

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