Anyone who walks on San Francisco's sidewalks quickly becomes aware that the pedestrian in this city
is often relegated to the lowest face on the totem pole.
By pedestrians we include anyone who walks, uses a wheelchair, a walker, or pushes a stroller.
To illustrate, first examine the below photograph of a typical street.
This street happened to be an alley photographed back in 1976:
Notice that nothing occupied the street itself,
other than parked cars and one wandering drunk that morning. There are no
trees planted in the road.
Next examine a typical sidewalk. This shot was taken just a few day's ago:
This is an extreme case, but serves well to illustrate the point.
Note that parking meters, street light polls, and trees are all placed on the sidewalk.
The effect is to reduce the useful width of this sidewalk down from five feet to three feet.
Why are parking meters, trees and light posts not placed in the street? There is certainly room
for them between parking spaces. In the below figure, trees are indicated in green, and parking
meters in blue:
Yet, the accepted standard it to place all that junk on the
sidewalk, never on the street.
Consider also the use of sidewalks by private business. Many restaurants place outdoor seating
on the sidewalk:
Notice that seating always reduces the the useful width of a sidewalk. It
never reduces the size of the street.
Now you might argue that seating should never reduce the street width. If that is the case,
then why should parking reduce the size of the sidewalk?
Not only do parked cars here reduce the size of the sidewalk, but the sign that tells the cars to park
at 90 degrees also reduces the width of the sidewalk.
Another particularly nasty attack against pedestrians is the elimination of crosswalks
so that traffic may flow faster.
Now some might argue that pedestrians may cross most anywhere. But if that is the case,
why do closed crosswalks create a longer route for the slower pedestrian than for the faster car?
For this example, imagine the day is pouring a cold rain.
Car X (green) needs to pull in front of business B. Car X will
probably double park to pick up a pizza. Notice that pedestrian Y (red)
needs to walk in the rain three times further than the car to pick up the
In summary then.
Why are parking meters placed on sidewalks and not between parked cars?
Why are trees planted in sidewalks and never between parking spaces?
Why are drivers (warm and dry) enabled to drive a shorter distance
than the pedestrian (cold and wet) must walk?
Why are tables and chairs placed on the sidewalk? Why aren't restaurants
required to pay for parking spaces and to place their table in parking
on the street?
Why can private businesses place lighting and other hardware on
the sidewalk reducing its width?
Why does San Francisco have no minimum sidewalk usable width law?
Why downtown do two hundred pedestrians have vastly less area to walk
than the twenty-five cars occupying the same one block of street/sidewalks?
In closing, notice the area used and given to four cars versus the area used and given
to four pedestrians:
Why aren't cars measured by occupants? Why does one person in one car deserve more space
than one pedestrian?