letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: From Open the Great Highway Alliance


From Open the Great Highway Alliance:

Thank you for shining a light on so many of our neighborhood issues, especially those pertaining to the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. Open the Great Highway Alliance, a nonprofit benefit corporation, hopes you will publish the following statement concerning upcoming legislation that will affect the future of the Great Highway.


Legislation is being drafted to keep the two-mile stretch of the Great Highway between Lincoln and Sloat permanently in the same condition that it has been in since Aug. 16, 2021. On behalf of its nearly 16,000 supporters and many families needing to drive on and living near the highway, Open The Great Highway Alliance advocates reopening it to its pre-pandemic condition. If not fully reopened 24/7, at least make an adjustment to keep it open through 6 a.m. Saturday. In consideration for the safety and preservation of the nearby streets and environment, it should also be open to vehicles Saturday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday morning, and again opened at 9 p.m. Sunday night. The reasons are as follows:

1. GH closure overwhelms residential streets with heavy freeway traffic in the dead of night

The trucks, big rigs and other vehicles that are prevented from using the Highway at night drive past homes and apartments on the parallel streets a few feet from front doors all night long causing noise, air pollution and danger to families trying to experience peace in their homes during the weekends. 

2. Pedestrians and bicyclists do not use the GH at night or in bad weather, but vehicles do

The Great Highway is completely empty of pedestrians and bicyclists once night falls, during thick fog, high winds or rain, when thousands of vehicles are able to travel on it using the safest route north and south across the peninsula. 

3. Diverting traffic away from the shortest nonstop route is environmentally harmful

The vehicles diverted off the nonstop two-mile stretch of Highway with timed lights and no intersections are forced to drive out of their way through residential streets, stop and restart their engines and spend double or triple the amount of time driving. This increases air and noise pollution throughout the City causing environmental harm. An Environmental Impact Report needs to be done before any more time is added to this dangerous closure, a position supported by environmental groups such as The Sierra Club and San Franciscans for Urban Nature.

4. A closed GH delays first responders to beach and neighborhood rescues

Emergency vehicles forced to negotiate the GH with pedestrians and bicyclists in the middle of the lanes, and with increased traffic congestion on residential streets, are causing delays that could be life-threatening.

5. GH is a model Vision Zero example of a safe road with a record of no deaths or injuries from collisions for many, many years

The Great Highway is not a high injury network. There is no cross traffic, there are no vehicles pulling out from parking spaces, and there is no history of injury or death to bicyclists from sharing the space with cars. Not one death since 2006, not one reason for the SFFD to come to help with a vehicular incident since 2017. Since the GH was closed in 2020, there has been an increase in the number of collisions and injuries on residential roads. Families and residents are safer when the Great Highway is open to vehicles.

6. GH has room for all without banning vehicles 

Despite the information from SFMTA and the SF Recreation and Park Department, which has been proven to be flawed and inaccurate, as to the use of the Great Highway by pedestrians, in fact, without the heavily advertised special events that bring people to the Highway for only a few hours, there are never so many people walking and rolling on it that they could not instead comfortably use the 16-feet-wide multi-use path on the east side of the highway. Closure for recreational purposes is no longer reasonable without the shelter-in-place emergency as justification; instead, it is harmful.

7. Vehicles help keep some sand off the GH 

The trucks, big rigs, cars and all other vehicles that use the Highway day and night, by centrifugal force keep some of the sand from accumulating on the Highway, sand that leads to its complete closure until the SF Department of Public Works (DPW) can clear it.  

The Recent 39-Day Closure: 4/1-5/9/22

Although sand had accumulated to the extent that the City closed the Great Highway to vehicles on April 1, 2022, affecting thousands of people unable to use it, it was not until April 25 that they first started to remove some sand from the southbound lanes. DPW worked half days sporadically with a minimal amount of equipment resulting in a 39-day closure between April 1 and May 9, 2022. It is a job that could have been completed within one week or less by consistently working full days immediately after the Highway closed on April 1.* Furthermorethere would be no need ever for full closure if regularly scheduled sand removal took place more often. How is a compromise possible for the tens of thousands of families per week who need the Great Highway to commute and relieve our streets from congestion when, under the care and instruction of the City departments, it is not objectionable for it to be closed down for maintenance for 39 days in a row?

Compassion and common sense dictate restoring the Great Highway to its pre-pandemic condition and stepping up its maintenance so it can be shared and enjoyed by everyone. Falling short of that, at least reopen it to vehicles at night when no one else is using it. 

Open the Great Highway Alliance is a nonprofit benefit corporation with nearly 16,000 signed supporters in favor of returning the Great Highway to pre-pandemic conditions. For more information, please visit www.openthegreathighway.com. If you have any questions, please reach out to us: info@openthegreathighway.com.

* UPDATE:  During the 53 days between April 1 to May 23, the GH was fully open to vehicles a total of 7 days. 

16 replies »

  1. Thank you Great Highway Alliance! Not all of us I guess like the supervisors and mayor have playtime all day and need more than 200 parks and playgrounds to play in, while the others need to get to work and school.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you to the OTGHA for your continued efforts. It’s time to open the road to vehicles, and stop this nonsensical closure. Mar needs to go NOW. He’s made a mess of the Sunset and Richmond. Despite what “polls” will tell you, the majority of people do NOT want this closure to continue. Unsafe streets, increased emissions, more traffic… all so some people can have a promenade, when we have parks literally all over the city. Local politics are leading the way with this closure, and it needs to stop. City money to SFBC, WalkSF, and more. Our city is a laughingstock and the butt of jokes, and this is just one more reason. We aren’t “leading the way” by closing down a major thoroughfare. I will continue to support your efforts to get this vital roadway open.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Out of the 7 days that the Highway was open in May, during at least 2 or 3 days the signs were advising drivers that the Highway was closed.


  4. “During the 53 days between April 1 to May 23, the GH was fully open to vehicles a total of 7 days.”

    Wow. So you’re saying we just had 53 days where drivers used other routes and everything was perfectly fine? No traffic chaos in the Sunset, no enormous delays to anyone’s commute? Surely if those 53 days led to some kind of hellscape, we would have all noticed it on a daily basis, and that obviously didn’t happen. I guess we’ve just demonstrated that cars on the GH are completely unnecessary. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have you talked with every household on 45th Avenue? Or any of those streets that absorb traffic from the road closures? Do you live in the western Sunset? Do your research and ask the neighbors on 48th, 47th, 46th, 45th, 44th, from Sloat to Lincoln and, generally, that entire westernmost end of the City. Ask them what they think.


      • I live on 48th and it was very noticeable. Cars racing to every stop sign, it was like a parade. So no, it didn’t work and it was bad.


  5. Let’s be honest. That would be a change of philosophy for the car addicted who have been whining for two years. Having had their clock cleaned with JFK Promenade, I suppose the car addicted are making that last stand at the Beach. Next year access to The Great Highway at Sloat and the Zoo will vanish. What will the car addicted do than???, eh. 1. “Overwhelms” is a stretch. Number 2. Really? Do you have a Minder out there at night? Number 3. Show me the Study. And more than just complaining from Steven Hill. Number 4 is a TOTAL LIE. There has never been a problem for “First Responders” to enter or exit The Great Walkway. In fact, absent cars, trucks et al it is EASIER for first responders. No 5. is a stretch. “NO DEATHS OR INJURIES”. That statement defies credulity. No. 6 is Beyond ridiculous in its assertion. 7. MAD Magazine was never so ludicrous.


  6. Here we go again with more profound thoughts from leeheidhues, who has clearly been the one who’s been doing the most whining about cars for two years. He’s addicted to his bike and can’t see anything beyond that, totally focused,on his own needs, and too intolerant to share space with others in order to co-exist here.. This is the rigid right-wing population in our city who disguise themselves by claiming to be “progressive.”


  7. Here we go again with more profound thoughts from leeheidhues, who has clearly been the one who’s been doing the most whining about cars for two years. He’s addicted to his bike and can’t see anything beyond that, totally focused,on his own needs, and too intolerant to share space with others in order to co-exist here.. This is the rigid right-wing population in our city who disguise themselves by claiming to be “progressive.”


  8. I get that it is better for the environment to have less vehicles. At the same time families need vehicles to get children around. Public transportation does not work for everyone. Yes… it is a privilege to have a vehicle. Without one I would be struggling to work and get 2 children back and forth to school. Open the Great Highway. There are so many slow streets in the 40+ Avenues it is ridiculous trying to navigate.


    • There are quite literally 3 slow streets in the 40+ Avenues of the Sunset: 41st, 20th (only 5 blocks of it), and 12th (only 7 blocks of it). Add Kirkham and Ortega if you’re counting the E/W Streets as well. That means 45/48 Avenues are entirely unchanged along with 14/16 Streets. How can you possibly say it’s “ridiculous trying to navigate” when the only thing that’s changed is that parts of 5 out of 64 possible streets to drive on have some signs asking drivers to not use them for through traffic?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Because the safest, most efficient one (the Great Highway) is closed periodically and has a hugely negative impact on the adjacent streets when 18,000 cars/day have to use an alternative route. Plus the erratic closures (whim, sand removal, negligence on the part of Park and Rec) make it infuriating when one drives to the GH expecting it to be open per the agreed upon schedule only to find that it’s closed. Not to mention the temper tantrum rides where a dozen petulant bicyclists hold hundreds of motorists trapped on the Great Highway with no way to get off on a regular basis. The lack of consequences for this illegal action has now led to slow downs along Fulton with people holding signs to “ban cars” jumping in front of cars and a single bicyclist riding slowly blocking dozens and dozens of motorists. Vote no on Prop A and don’t give the SFMTA more money until they clean up the mess they’ve created and focus on their job.


  9. The reprehensible verbal blast is a continuation of the two year non stop whining and complaining and condemnation of those who choose not to drive a car. Dr. Shih has reached a new depth in her campaign to promote climate killing cars by railing against angry and aggrieved people who take to the streets to protest the outrageous death of a senior citizen in front of the Senior Center at 37th and Fulton Streets.


    • Right, you want to protest over pedestrian fatalities by supporting individuals with their anti-car ideology jumping out in to traffic to confront cars. It does not occur to you that closing the safe GH has now diverted traffic on to roads like Fulton that are high risk roads making them more dangerous. You want a single individual to be able to block hundreds of motorists with impunity. You support illegal activities that further antagonizes the general population and has now resulted in Prop A failing. No more financial support for the SFMTA as long as they are in bed with bike zealots like you. The SFMTA needs to accept that bicyclists are a very very small segment of transportation. Despite all their money and efforts to promote slow streets, GH closure, JFK closure, etc their own data on modes of transit show only a two percent increase in bicycle use vs the recent 13 percent increase in personal car use as Muni use declines. Focusing on bikes, bikes, bikes is a failing strategy and has been for years.


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