Great Highway to reopen to car traffic on weekdays

Starting Aug. 16, the Great Highway in San Francisco will welcome back car traffic between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard on weekdays, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced Thursday.

The stretch of the highway alongside Ocean Beach will still close for pedestrian and bicycle use on holidays and weekends, from Fridays at noon until Monday at 6 a.m. This change serves as a placeholder until city officials initiate a longer-term plan for the future of the Great Highway.

The roadway was used for pedestrian and bicycle use only during the pandemic in response to the need for more outdoor space amid a stay-at-home lockdown. But as the city reopens and the first day of school is around the corner, Breed said it's necessary to reopen the roadway to cars again. 

"Having the Great Highway closed on weekends and holidays will make sure that residents and visitors still can enjoy this incredible space, while recognizing the needs of our families and residents who need to get to school and work during the week as we reopen. There has been a lot of ongoing community discussions and meetings about the long-term future of the Great Highway, and I look forward to that continuing over the coming months to inform the next phase of the project."

Mar said that though the Great Highway use during the pandemic was "transformational," keeping it as a pedestrian-only promenade would require greater investments in public transportation. Until infrastructure plans are in place, Mar said it would be "unreasonable to continue a 24/7 closure without them." 

"We're balancing the benefits of this unique open space with the real need for safe and efficient traffic flow, and maintaining an oceanfront promenade when it's used the most while offering some relief during weekday commute times," Mar said in a news release.

Pedestrian and bicycle-focused community organizations are not pleased with the news, however. Organizers from Walk San Francisco, for example, urged supporters to voice their concerns to Mar. 

"I am shocked that Supervisor Mar plans to take away this incredible oceanside park and promenade practically overnight - especially when a public process has been outlined to determine the Great Highway's future," Jodie Medeiros wrote in an email.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said there needs to be a better outreach plan to decide the future of the space, especially considering how thousands have become accustomed to using the roadway for cycling, running and walking, and how abruptly these changes came about.

"The persistence of the pandemic and pressing reality of climate change on our coast means that the Great Highway needs to stay open to the people, and not to cars," the organization said on Twitter.