A few months ago I ran down to San Francisco. On the quick adventure (I promise beers to all those I didn’t call! This was literally a crazy fast trip) down to the city I did manage to grab a number of pictures and ride a few modes of transit. I also made a few observations about San Francisco’s state of multi-modalism and livability.
First the Negative Dirty Bits
There are a few things that I observed, that were in evidence the last couple of trips I made too. San Francisco is a fairly dirty city. After walking around for a day, one often finds themselves with a film of dirt & dust. A shower becomes a requirement instead of a nice to have. This is prevalent in almost any major city, but for some reason San Francisco gives the perception that one wouldn’t feel this way, but it does indeed happen.
Automobile reliance is still out of control in this city, and too much preference is given in laying out the city infrastructure. This is done in spite of livability and existing neighborhoods. I’m sure however, that this will continue to decrease since it is not maintainable at current levels of dependence.
Now For the Awesome News
Even though San Francisco has a lot of automobile dependent people, the numbers that are not dependent or completely independent (i.e. car free) have definitely increased. In addition to that the options are steadily increasing in the city.
I finally got to see the distinctive dedicated bike lanes on Market Street, running parallel to auto and streetcar/trolley traffic. This type of multimodal setup is a prime option for city streets. In San Francisco, this change has shown with physical, visual, and statistical evidence that reduction of car trips by setting up roads for multi-model use does indeed improve the livability of an area. I’m sure there are a few curmudgeons here and there disagreeing, but for those that live in the neighborhoods and downtown of San Francisco, I’m betting they’re enjoying this change at this very moment!
Tree lined streets also seem to be popping up along Valencia and others. This is a major improvement for any city. Trees make a world of difference, pure concrete makes streets less appealing to pedestrians. Pure concrete encourages drivers to speed up and become less attentive, increasing fatalities – again, all in evidence by more than one measure.
Another thing besides the bike lanes and tree lined streets San Francisco is doing something else that’s a great idea! They have taken some street parking along the street and turned it into outside seating. This, like the trees, adds an appeal for people to get out of cars (or not arrive in cars in the first place) and be among their fellow citizenry. I got to experience people actually speaking to each other, getting to know their neighbors. Things one will never see in the fast food joints of the American suburbs. Suburbanites may think they hate their neighbors, but when people get together they realize there is a lot more in common than in separation.