Sunday StreetsFor Sunday Streets, people come out for dog walking, cycling and socializing at impromptu sidewalk cafes on a car-free Valencia street.
By Laura McCamy
Ciclovia-style events, where streets are closed to cars and opened to walkers, cyclists and skaters, offer an opportunity to experience city streets at a human pace. This year, they have proliferated in the Bay Area and across North America.
When San Francisco held its first Sunday Streets in 2008, merchants were furious that the streets would be closed to cars. Then 10,000 people showed up and the merchants became fans. “One of the biggest surprises is how quickly people who wouldn’t identify themselves as bicycling or livable city activists” have become supporters, according to Susan King, Sunday Streets director for San Francisco’s Livable City.
In 2010, Sunday Streets expanded to include nine event dates on six different routes, with attendance as high as 25,000 people at each event and new neighborhoods eager to be the next host. “One of the biggest complaints we get now,” King said, “is that it ends too early.”
This June, Oaklavia drew 4,000 people to the first car-free streets event in downtown Oakland. Kassie Rohrbach, executive director of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), which organized the event, said the number one thing WOBO has been asked is when the next one is happening. “Overwhelmingly, it is clear that this is something the community wants.”
During June’s Sunday Streets in San Francisco’s Mission District, Ted Tilles tended a sidewalk barbecue. Friends and neighbors sat at tables that spilled into the street while children circled the center line on bikes. “We go to Sunday Streets all over the city so we’re glad when it’s here.”
At Oaklavia, parking spaces were transformed into parklets: places to sit in the shade and listen to music or chat with friends. “I thought it was a great thing just to go out and walk around,” said Grace Chiu, who lives nearby, “to have it be more of a destination rather than someplace people pass through.”
Although both Oaklavia and Sunday Streets offer activities and entertainment, the day is about being rather than doing. There is no commerce, no hurry. Friends stop in the middle of the street to greet each other. People stroll for the sake of strolling. Children wiggle ahead on trikes, scooters and bicycles while parents nonchalantly chat, free from safety worries.
Rohrbach feels Oaklavia showed the positive changes the people of Oakland want for their city, adding, “I can’t wait for the next one.”
For Sunday Streets, people come out for dog walking, cycling and socializing at impromptu sidewalk cafes on a car-free Valencia Street. photo by carrie cizauskas
Two more bay area Sunday Streets for 2010
* September 19, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Western Addition
* October 24, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Civic Center and Tenderloin