The Great Highway Project
On August 16, 2021, the Great Highway reopened to vehicular traffic on weekdays, while remaining closed for recreation during extended weekend hours and holidays. Motorists may use the roadway from 6 a.m. Mondays until noon Fridays, when it closes to traffic. From noon on Fridays to 6 a.m. on Mondays, as well as holidays, the Great Highway transforms into a spectacular park along Ocean Beach that provides safe play space on wide roads for pedestrians, cyclists, and many forms of micromobility. This schedule will be in place until the Board of Supervisors considers legislation on the future of the Great Highway beyond the pandemic emergency closure. Additional information can be found on the Mayor's Press Release.
Since April 2020, the emergency closure of the Upper Great Highway to cars has provided a safe, car-free route prioritizing outdoor space for physically distanced activities for families, people on bicycles and in wheelchairs, people with walkers or other mobility assistance devices, and people with strollers, walking, jogging, skateboarding and more. The area provides a valuable scenic public promenade that can accommodate higher volumes of use than the adjacent pathways and offers recreational access to the beachfront to people who cannot easily use the beach itself.
Over the past six months, an average of 82,000 people roll and stroll along the corridor, enjoying expanded opportunities for physically distanced recreation and essential trips during the COVID-19 pandemic. This past January saw an even larger jump in popularity, breaking the record for daily visits three times and setting a record at 11,661 people accessing the road in a single day.
The city continues to prioritize public health and safety, balancing access to critical recreation and open spaces while addressing concerns regarding traffic and safety impacts of the closure on surrounding neighborhood streets. The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) is working with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) to mitigate those impacts, including the installation of signs to divert traffic, new stop signs, barricades and posts to restrict turns, and speed humps to reduce speed.
How did the closure of the Upper Great Highway start?
On April 4, 2020, San Francisco Public Works (DPW) closed the Upper Great Highway for standard sand removal maintenance. During that time, District 4 Supervisor Mar requested that the roadway remain closed to create the opportunity for safe, physically distant exercise during the remainder of the city emergency. Ultimately, the road was incorporated into part of the Slow Streets initiative, which continues as a temporary emergency response while San Francisco remains under a State-of-Emergency amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 16, 2021, the Great Highway reopened to vehicular traffic during weekdays and closed for non-vehicle recreation during extended weekend hours.
Any efforts to make permanent changes to the Great Highway will go through a thorough public process before they can be approved.
What does the public process look like?
The first steps of that process took place as part of the SFCTA’s District 4 Mobility Study, which studied several options for future use of Great Highway.
On March 27, 2021, SFCTA presented analysis and findings on the Great Highway, including evaluation of recreational usage, transit impacts, vehicle traffic impacts, costs and survey findings on the proposed concepts. SFRPD held a joint hearing of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission and the SFMTA Board on June 10, 2021. You can view the presentation from the hearing here. The SFCTA examined the long-term possibilities for the Great Highway’s configuration and presented at the June 22, 2021 board meeting. You can view the Great Highway Concepts Evaluation Report here.
The pilot project proposal process will continue to move forward. SFRPD is working with the SFMTA monitoring usage in order to recommend a two year pilot program to the Board of Supervisors. Our target for presenting the plan, originally set for fall, will now be postponed as we study the impact of the partial opening.
We are going to use this time to study the use of the Great Highway during its current configuration being used by cars on weekdays and by people walking and biking on weekends, holidays and Friday afternoons. Monitoring pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic while this new configuration is in place will enable SFRPD and SFMTA to better understand how the Great Highway.
We intend to engage in a public effort to recommend a pilot or long term configuration on a timeline aligned with our findings and other related changes, and anticipate initiating this work before the end of 2022. We will also consider the emergency order and response to COVID-19 as we move forward.
A proposed pilot will be reviewed by the SFMTA Board and San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission with the Board of Supervisors making the final decision and authorization of a pilot. Stay tuned for updates on outreach and hearings.
In addition, other changes to the Great Highway are on the horizon. The Great Highway Extension, which connects Skyline Boulevard and the Upper Great Highway, would close in the event of approval of the proposed South Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project, led by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The project will transform the public shoreline, improve coastal access north of Fort Funston with a new multi-use trail connecting Lake Merced and Fort Funston to Ocean Beach, the Zoo, and the Great Highway. The project will also protect vital municipal infrastructure from coastal erosion.
What about traffic?
In early March, the SFMTA implemented a traffic calming strategy throughout the Outer Sunset, which data shown a reduction in traffic volumes. The SFMTA continues to monitor and analyze the traffic calming strategy as part of the Great Highway and Outer Sunset Traffic Management Project. Additionally, city agencies have partnered with Supervisor Gordon Mar’s office on a D4 Traffic Mobility Study, led by the SFCTA, to explore the long-term future of the Great Highway.
With the Great Highway closed to automobile traffic on weekends and holidays, the best way to travel by car between Lake Merced and Golden Gate Park is to use Sunset Boulevard or 19th Avenue
How is data collected?
RPD uses a set of data sources to inform estimates of visitor counts. A pair of Eco-Counter sensors were installed along the roadway in September 2020, counting all visits on foot, bikes, scooters, skates, e-bikes, skateboards of all types and everything in between. It cannot count cars, buses, or trucks.
How many people have been using the Great Highway for biking and walking?
Nearly 2 million people have used the Great Highway as a place to walk and roll over the past 16 ½ months. In the past year, from July 2020 to June 2021, 1.6 million visits were made to the Great Highway. October 2020 was the most popular month with 228,000 visits
Where are people walking and biking the Great Highway coming from?
Share during Closure
(Dec '20 -
How do I get to the Upper Great Highway?
To visit the Great Highway by car there are parking lots with ADA accessible parking located at the north and south ends. The Great Highway is also accessible by public transit, bike and foot.
- The northern parking lot is located off the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and John F. Kennedy Drive across from the western end of Golden Gate Park.
- The southern parking lot is located at the Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard, with parking also available along Sloat Boulevard.
- Current bus and train lines to the Great Highway include:
- N Judah
- L Taraval
- 48-Quintara/24th St
- 18-46th Ave (with stops within 3 blocks of Great Highway)
- For more information visit SFMTA's trip planning page.
- To bike or walk, there is a virtually car-free route through Golden Gate Park that connects San Francisco with Ocean Beach and the Great Highway. View these routes and maps at the Golden Gate Park slow street page. In addition, Slow Streets and/or bikeways along Kirkham, Ortega and Vicente provide access to the Great Highway.
Where can I share feedback?
As always, you can send additional comments to firstname.lastname@example.org