The Great Walkway - Miles of Car-Free Open Space on the California Coast
Welcome to the Great Walkway!
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.
Each month, an average of 144,000 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. To that end, Rec and Park is working with SFMTA and SF 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 we get here?
On April 4, 2020, the Department of 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.
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, 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. You can view the presentation from the open house here.
Currently, SFRPD and SFMTA are in the process of scheduling a joint hearing between RPD Commission and SFMTA Board to determine the next steps for the Upper Great Highway. The joint hearing is expected to take place this Summer 2021. Check back here for more details on the hearing, including ways to participate, in the coming weeks!
Where can I share feedback?
Currently, Rec and Park and the SFMTA are developing an outreach plan to engage residents, businesses, key stakeholders, and other members of the public in an inclusive way to address the impacts to the community and evaluate future uses of the Upper Great Highway. In the meantime, you can share feedback on the Great Highway to SF Rec and Park at firstname.lastname@example.org
What about traffic?
In early March, the SFMTA began constructing a suite of traffic calming measures and plans to collect additional data 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 Walkway.
With the Great Highway closed to automobile traffic, 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?
An automatic counter along the roadway, installed in September 2020, records foot and bicycle traffic moving north and south (it does not differentiate between modes of transport) and provides the primary data for daily usage of the Great Highway.
In order to help qualify data collected from the automatic counter, Rec and Park coordinated a group of ten volunteers, interns and RPD staff to observe and record visitors to the Great Walkway on the following dates: October 30, November 1, 5, 7, and 15 2020. During shifts of up to one hour at a time, volunteers observed and recorded various users walking, running, pushing a stroller, in a wheelchair or using a mobility aid device like a cane, biking, using a scooter or skateboard, walking a dog, and any vehicles on roadway at the intersections of Great Highway & Judah and Great Highway & Taraval streets.
In addition to the discrete qualitative data collected on these dates, Rec and Park is working on additional studies of the area, which are not yet complete.
How do I get there?
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.
- Current bus and train lines to the Great Walkway include the N Judah, N Owl, L Taraval. 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 Walkway. View these routes and maps at the Golden Gate Park slow street page.