Skip to Content
Streetsblog California home
Streetsblog California home
Log In

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Look at the lead image. Who wouldn’t want something like that in their city? (See note at end.)

Privately owned automobiles will be banned on Market Street from 10th to Main later this month. Approving this plan, of course, will be remembered as a seminal moment. The city also removed cars from Octavia, between Hayes and Linden late last year. And it is on track to expand its miles of protected bike lanes.

But perhaps these developments, welcome as they are, miss a larger point–and a greater possibility for the spaces between buildings. Advocate Patrick Traughber brought this question to light as part of a twitter exchange:

Here’s another idea derived from the twitter exchange: what if the grass of Duboce Park extended across the N Judah tracks? Might that cut down the number of motorists who drive into the Sunset tunnel?

Imagine if the grass of Duboce Park extended across the N Judah tracks. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Imagine if the grass of Duboce Park extended across the N Judah tracks. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Jason Henderson, geography professor at San Francisco State, writer of the book Street Fight: The Struggle over Urban Mobility in San Francisco, and a Streetsblog contributor, brings up another possible use for the asphalt-coated land between buildings–in a city with big hills, why not modern funiculars?

The car drivers of the hill districts of San Francisco, through their selfish demand for parking and unfettered speed in the flats of the city, have contributed to blocking green & equitable mobility in SF. We should charge them a stiff fee and build funiculars like this.

— Jason Henderson (@StreetFightSF) January 3, 2020

And if that seems far-fetched, San Francisco used to have them. Although the image below looks like it features a cable-car line, it actually showcases a funicular:

Looking Down the Hill at FIllmore Street | Circa July 1903. Image: SFMTA
Looking down the hill at Fillmore Street | Circa July 1903. Image: SFMTA

Unfortunately, every conversation about safety on our streets typically starts from the paradigm that asphalt is the default material. Then it’s how do we protect bikes and pedestrians from motorists who drive on it? What about resistance to giving up free car storage (aka parking)? How do we carve out room for transit?

Maybe those are all the wrong questions. Placing huge swaths of asphalt between buildings is a practice to accommodate cars. Perhaps, as we enter a new decade, we should be taking asphalt itself out of the equation, transforming space between buildings into something else entirely?

In other words, maybe not every street–at least the way we currently think of them–has to be a ‘street’ in the first place.

Tell us what you think below.

Note: who would be against it? The pettifogger who brought you the 2010 bike plan injunction of course, now busy trying to jam up the Page Street project.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog California

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024

Friday Video: Paris Does it Again

Come for the bike-friendly streets, but stay for adopt-a-tree program and all the car-free school roadways.

July 19, 2024

Neighbors Want a BART Stop in San Antonio

It's one of the most densely populated parts of the Bay Area. BART goes right through it. So why not stop there?

July 19, 2024

Friday’s Headlines

Rep. Waters hates the people mover; SacRT's new transportation hub; Lessons learned from a long bike ride; More

July 19, 2024

The Active Transportation Program Has to Strategize About its Severely Reduced Funding

Funding for Cycle 7 of the Active Transportation Program is less than $200 million, and already there have been requests for fifteen times the amount of available funding

July 18, 2024
See all posts