San Francisco Slow Streets: Benefits and Drawbacks

San Francisco Slow Streets

Slow streets. What are they? Why do locals love them?

Discover why slow streets which were once temporary have become a transformation that many San Franciscans can’t get enough of. See the benefits, the beauty, and the opportunity that slow streets have to offer.

Before I get started, I wanted to say that I’m going to start making video content a little bit different. I want to focus on what it’s like to live in San Francisco.

I moved to San Francisco over 20 years ago. I wanted to be part of a place where people valued fitness, movement, outdoor activity, a place of entrepreneurs, where people came from all over the world to live, had a mix of cultures, and people respected and valued others’ opinions. I have to say that San Francisco has not disappointed.

So what exactly is a slow street?

Slow streets are safe, comfortable, low-vehicle traffic roadways prioritizing active transportation and community building. These shared streets are thoughtfully designed and implemented on residential streets to eliminate cut-through traffic, and provide safe and comfortable alternatives to driving.

Slow streets are a way for residents to get out and enjoy something that a lot of people hugely value. Movement. It’s a way to walk, bike and run throughout the city and enjoy these activities in the city.

They were created at the beginning of the pandemic as a temporary solution to give San Francisco residents space to recreate while social distancing. This emphasized how critical the open space is to our health and happiness. It’s also a way to deter cars and traffic in some corridors.

Currently, there are 17 designated slow streets in San Francisco with about two more in the works. Additionally, JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park is car-free and there’s a stretch of Great Highway along Ocean Beach that’s only closed to cars on the weekends.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Most of our clients who live on slow streets really like it. On the upside, they cite closer relationships with neighbors and a higher quality of life. On the downside, they cite nearly hitting some bikers and runners as they are trying to pull out of their driveway.

In 2020, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) survey found that 70% of residents who live on slow streets support the slow streets program. The survey also found that residents who live on slow streets are more likely to walk, bike or take public transit than residents who live on streets with more traffic.

Despite 70% of people living on the slow streets really enjoying it obviously there’s still a large number of people who are not in favor of slow streets. Some of the local residents have increased commute times due to being rerouted from a more direct path and causing increased congestion on other streets. For these residents, the quality of life has diminished.

When my kids were young we spent many Sundays on JFK Drive in golden Gate Park. They learned to ride their bikes through the park, and I loved walking alongside of them listening to music it was a safe place for them to learn to ride while navigating sometimes a little bit busier streets and then jumping back on.

These are honestly some of my favorite memories with my kids. Later, as they grew up, the pandemic happened and they shut down the Great Highway for a while. We rode through the stretches along Ocean Beach which was absolutely beautiful.

Now I have to say, my kids play a lot of soccer in Golden Gate Park and the easiest way for me to get there is right along the Great Highway. Unfortunately on the weekends now, it’s closed. So I do understand the love-hate relationship that many San Francisco residents have with these slow streets.

Many of our residents advocated to keep them and they are here to stay. With proposed plans to expand the program and make it equitable to all residents.

Goals and Outcomes

Slow streets also help our city make progress towards its Vision Zero (roadway safety goal) and Climate Action Plan as well as live up to our transit first policy while decreasing noise and pollution on these residential streets. Currently, all but four of the existing slow streets on these corridors 20th Street, Minnesota Street, Noe Street, and Page Street are meeting or exceeding the goal of fewer than 1000 vehicles per day. That means most of our slow streets are working to keep cut-through traffic off of them.

Streets also became measurably safer after following the implementation of slow street designation. A 2023 slow streets evaluation report shows that slow streets have seen a 48% decrease in collisions following the designation compared with a 14% decrease in collisions citywide over the same time period.

Become the Mayor of Your Own Neighborhood Slow Street

Do you want to be the mayor of your very own neighborhood slow street? You can start your own. The San Francisco Parks Alliance has a playbook you can use to get started.

Whether you’re considering a move to San Francisco or already live in the city, navigating the real estate market can be complex. We’d love to be your go-to real estate resource. Contact us we’d love to help.

June 21, 2023
Living In San Francisco
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