San Francisco approved the Better Streets Plan in 2010. Previously streets were the domain of Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT), which focussed primarily on private motor-vehicle use. The design of streets as public space comprising 20 percent of the City’s land area was left to, well, no one. But this critical gap was remedied in 1999, when San Francisco did its agency shakeup, merging DPT and the transit agency, MUNI, into the SFMTA, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. In creating the SFMTA, the city righted its transportation priorities, by charging the new agency with managing our streets as a multimodal asset with the goal of moving people first, not vehicles. The official priority order is now: pedestrians, transit, bicycles, trucks, and then necessary private automobiles. It makes sense when you consider how many people are served, not how much space they take up while moving. It's a new world in how we think about streets, administered by the SFMTA Livable Streets Program.
The SFMTA now has a clear vision of what a better city street should be: a critical public space asset as well as an essential conduit of mobility. The Better Streets Plan lays out a comprehensive tool kit for making our streets great, starting with a preferred sidewalk width of 15 feet. Second Street has 10 foot sidewalks for three of its seven blocks. Widening this stretch between Harrison and Townsend would have a huge beneficial effect, bringing it up to the Green Connector status of the rest of Second Street, which already enjoys the enhanced pedestrian environment made possible by 15-foot-wide sidewalks.
The intersections of Second and Harrison and Bryant are unpleasant and dangerous to cross (see injury and fatality information in a previous post pedestrian-down-second-bryant). Here sidewalk extensions would shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow motor-vehicles, making these intersections safer. The Better Streets Plan also calls for extensive greening using street trees and sustainable storm water planters that filter street runoff while making the street more pleasant to walk on. Safer, more beautiful streets, who wouldn’t want that?
The City has put up a great web site for the Better Streets Plan: http://www.sfbetterstreets.org/