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San Francisco: Reclaiming Streets With Innovative Solutions

8:52 AM PDT on April 25, 2012

Tom Radulovich, the executive director of San Francisco's Livable City, sums up his city's recent livable streets achievements in describing the "tactical urbanism that we've really been quite good at": using street paint and bollards to reclaim street space. In other words, they ask: "What can we do at a low cost with stuff that's reversible?" he says.

San Francisco has been exploring fun and innovative ways to use experiments and trials to improve its streets in recent years. Perhaps the most exciting is the launch of the city's parklet program, which converts parking spaces into public space complete with tables, chairs, art, and greenery. These mini-parks are adopted and paid for by local businesses, but they remain public space. The concept has its roots in the PARK(ing) Day phenomenon started by Rebar Group in 2005.

San Francisco has also seen astronomical 71 percent increase in bicycling in the past five years, despite being under a court injunction that prohibited bicycle improvements for most of that time, and aims to reach 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020. Sunday Streets, San Francisco's version of Ciclovia, has also drawn huge numbers of participants and continues to expand.

The city has also taken the lead on innovative parking management with the SFParkprogram, which uses new technology to help manage public parking in several pilot neighborhoods. It aims to make it easier to find a parking spot by adjusting prices according to demand, helping to reduce pollution, traffic, and frustrations for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

San Francisco was awarded the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy's (ITDP) 2012 Sustainable Transport Award along with Medellín, Colombia. Streetfilms partnered with ITDP to document some of the recent changes in the two cities.

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