San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are an awesome event where the City shuts down major roads to car traffic and invites thousands of people to come play in the street. From bikers to rollerskaters to strollers, rolling down the middle of the street is an experience because of how different it feels there with the cars gone. You begin to imagine what it would be like if your neighborhood was always like this, with old folks and young out playing, feeling good and safe, smiles on every face.
“Slowly it dawns on them that they can use the main drive and the roads. For once the world does not belong to the automobile. The bicycle is king again and the rider may go where fancy dictates without looking nervously over his shoulder. You are even allowed, for a few unrealistic minutes, to reflect on how pleasant life would be if the car were banned from San Francisco.” Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/73
All the local stores set up booths outside selling neighborhood delicacies. They say Sunday Streets is their best day of business. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets has an interesting history though, it came to be during a time of animosity towards biking in the city. In 2006, the SF Bike Coalition was trying to get riders some car free roads to play on in Golden Gate park on the weekends. There was opposition from the new de Young museum that didn’t want any shortage of parking. Mayor Gavin Newsom sided with the drivers and insistently blocked the car-free streets idea in the park. It took a lot of organizing and support from the Board of Supervisors to finally get the first Healthy Saturday approved, and even then it was only a very small stretch of closed streets in the park. Also, our city wide bicycle plan was bogged down in an expensive lawsuit. Every obstacle stood in the way of bringing clean and healthy transportation options to San Francisco. Then something interesting happened.
The story of Sunday Streets begins a long time ago, far far away. The idea of closing down streets for the primary purpose of bicycling begins in 1976 in Bogotá, Colombia with their now world famous Ciclovias, a weekly event where the City closes 70 miles of streets to cars and encourages everyone to come outside and play.
The amazing StreetsBlog and StreetsFilm crew went to visit Bogotá. The video above was made, along with a full length version, and it became viral in the advocate community. Eventually it was shown at the US Conference of Mayors, and they freaked out. Every city in the country began racing to be the first to host a Ciclovia. Mayor Newsom flipped his whole script and gave official City support to the crew who were starting up the Ciclovia here in SF. Where before we were fighting for every inch of bike lane, we now had national support for car free streets.
In 2010, San Francisco held nine Sunday Streets and all them are a blast. Most major cities around the world are now hosting Ciclovias as well. All it took was a well made video and and good idea to change the world. Hack Your City officially salutes the StreetsBlog crew and the visionaries in Bogotá. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are currently part of the DIY Urbanism exhibit on display at SPUR right now. If you are one of the four readers of Hack Your City, you need to go check it out.
He was a young Jamaican American and he just wanted to throw a party. His uncle had given him the best sound system in the neighborhood, yet he had no venue to play at and he was broke. What Kool Herc chose to do could have been done anywhere, but because it happened in New York, he forever changed the world.
Kool Herc brought the party to the people and set up his sound in the streets.
“To accommodate larger crowds, Herc moved his parties further up Sedgwick Avenue into Cedar Park. He had seen construction workers hooking up power by tapping the light posts, and so he started doing the same. “I had a big Macintosh amp. That thing cost a lot of money and pumped a lot of juice. It was 300 watts per channel. As the juice started coming, man, the lights start dimming … The results shocked the borough.” Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, pg 78, by Jeff Chang.
“At dusk a van rolled up with Kool Herc and his crew. His boys dragged a couple of portable tables into the schoolyard through a hole in the fence, while Herc unscrewed a plate in the base of a light pole and hooked a heavy industrial extension cord into an outlet inside. Soon crates of records, large speaker cabinets, and Dj equipment were set up and Herc started getting busy. ” – Hip Hop America, pg 26, by George Nelson.
He hacked the city and fathered the global movement of hip-hop.
Kool Herc had that hacker mind state though, he was the first DJ to buy two of the same record and play the break over and over, turning a five second snippet into a five minutes of something brand new. He also custom built his sound to be louder than any of the other local djs in the Bronx. Yet the act of hacking into the city’s hidden innards and demanding that it serve him, a young black man from the Bronx ghetto in the 70′s, is why Kool DJ Herc is the godfather of Hack Your City.