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.
COMPASSIONATE COMMON-SENSE REASONS TO KEEP THE GREAT HIGHWAY OPEN AND SHARED
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.* Furthermore, there 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* UPDATE: During the 53 days between April 1 to May 23, the GH was fully open to vehicles a total of 7 days.
Categories: letter to the editor