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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kick Cars Out of Chinatown, Merchants Say

Posted By on Tue, May 4, 2010 at 5:10 PM

No longer welcome in Chinatown...
  • No longer welcome in Chinatown...
Grant Avenue, San Francisco's oldest thoroughfare, would be a lot more pleasant without cars, SFStreetsBlog quoted local merchants with a keen grasp of the obvious as saying.

Streetsblog reporter Michael Rhodes last weekend attended a Chinatown festival celebrating noodles. There, he found that the street had miraculously been made accessible to pedestrians, devoid of intermittently roaring and droning engine noise, free from smelly carcinogenic exhaust, and absent the constant fear of being maimed or killed at any moment by a 3,000-pound deadly weapon.

Festival organizers had accomplished this by temporarily blocking access to motor vehicles. Rhodes interviewed an event organizer who told him that eliminating fear, noise, and stench from the street attracted more humans, who spent money in the merchants' shops.

"I would venture to say that a permanent closure is now closer than ever before, since surrounding businesses themselves saw an increase in their revenue within [Sunday's] event," Rhodes quoted event co-organizer Vivian Chang, senior planner with the Chinatown Community Development Center.

This isn't the first time it has occurred to San Francisco community leaders that removing the fear of death might improve city streets. Market Street has for years been the subject of proposals to turn it into a pedestrian mall. In a compromise launched last September automobile traffic is thinned out somewhat between 10th Street and The Embarcadero.

If epiphanies such as the ones reported by StreetsBlog become contagious, however, San Franciscans everywhere might begin imagining their block criss-crossed with space where one could walk, play, and eat noodles without fear of imminent death.

To get just such a ball rolling, StreetsBlog seems to have sought out a noodle-eating ex-U.C. Berkeley urban economics lecturer Michael Reilly, who now does research for the Association of Bay Area Governments.

"Recently, I've actually been thinking a lot about Grant as the best street to close in San Francisco," said Reilly. "If you were going to pick one to close to traffic, this might be the very best one in a practical sense, because Market is not busy enough. There's really not enough pedestrian traffic, especially after 6 o'clock."

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