SF to close 13 miles of city streets to allow cyclists, people on foot more room to socially distance

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Our main mission at ABC7 News has been to bring you stories to help build a better Bay Area. With the coronavirus pandemic, that challenge is even more significant.

Right now, governments, businesses and people are looking to the future. That includes the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

On Tuesday, it announced plans to change some city streets into "Slow Streets".

With just 20% of Muni lines operating, San Francisco plans to close 13 miles of residential city streets to most traffic, in order to give people on bicycle and foot more room to social distance in the street.

The head of SFMTA spoke to ABC7 News reporter, Kate Larsen, and said there is an even bigger opportunity afoot to reshape the city.

RELATED: Oakland closing several streets to allow proper social distancing for joggers, cyclists

"This is very much a new way for government to be operating, speeding things up 100 fold," said SFMTA Director, Jeffrey Tumlin, who explained thatn"typically a process like this in San Francisco would require two years of planning and three years to get funded and implemented. Five years worth of work, we've done in two weeks"

There are 12 locations that MTA plans to close to through traffic in the next six weeks, highlighted on their map:

The Slow Streets are in areas most heavily impacted by the Muni cuts.

On Friday, MTA hopes to role out the first closures on Page Street between Stanyan and Divisadero Streets in Haight-Ashbury and 41st Avenue between Lincoln Way and Noriega Street in the Sunset.

Cones and signage will indicate the Slow Street blocks. Tumlin says he expects communities to self-enforce, though if too many people start to gather on Slow Streets, MTA will actively enforce.

Residential parking, cross traffic, and delivery vehicles will still be permitted.

"It allows people to spread out," said Mary Dusenbury, who lives near Page Street and supports the partial traffic closure.

"We're usually dodging, moving around people, trying to stay safe."

RELATED: San Francisco requiring people to wear face coverings in public

Her sons were trying to ride their bike and scooter on the sidewalk on Page Street Tuesday afternoon.

"I think it's good because then I can ride my bike all over the streets," said an enthusiastic Jasper Dusenbury.

Tumlin says it's possible the Slow Streets program will expand and even continue after the shelter in place. He says the pandemic has made a lot of things possible.

"As a result of the emergency order, not only are we having to respond rapidly to the emergency, but it's also forced an unprecedented level of collaboration."

"It's an opportunity to rethink our streets for the next generation of the Bay Area, to rethink things in a better way. We're starting to think about bringing Muni services back, do we bring things back exactly as they were before or can we bring them back better?"

Tumlin says on Wednesday he's meeting with Bay Area transportation officials to discuss how to spend federal stimulus dollars... not just to rebuild, but to re-imagine.

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