Sunday Streets are events that encourage recreation, community activities and fun in San Francisco. Sunday Streets closes stretches of city streets to automobile traffic, and opens them to people for several hours on a various Sundays throughout the year, so participants can enjoy a large, temporary, public space where they can bike, walk, run, dance, do yoga, or do any other physical activity. Non-profit and health organizations offer free activities and share information about their services during the event.
Where did the idea for Sunday Streets come from?
Sunday Streets originated in Bogotá, Colombia as “Ciclovía,” a day of free, healthy activities that promote community in public streets. Thirty years later, the concept has spread around the world from Tokyo, Japan to Kiev, Ukraine. And it has now been in San Francisco since 2008!
What is the history of Ciclovía?
Ciclovía, literally “bike path” in Spanish, is a ground-breaking weekly event that started in Bogotá, Colombia that draws more than 1.5 million people to walk, bike, skate and enjoy more than 70 miles of streets opened to people – and closed to automobile traffic.
Founded in 1976, Ciclovía started small and grew in the 90?s under Mayor Enrique Peñalosa and his brother, Gil Peñalosa, who was the Parks Director. The route was extended to 50 miles in 1997 and non-cycling programming was added. Now Ciclovía covers 70% of 20 different neighborhoods, with four loops through the city, enticing people to walk, skate, or cycle to other neighborhoods, visit friends and take their children to different parks to play.
This type of event, now adopted by a variety of cities worldwide, including San Francisco, are now called Open Streets.
What are the Health and Socioeconomic Benefits Provided by Sunday Streets?
In 2010 and 2011, San Francisco State University professor Susan Zieff, PhD, worked with a team of graduate students and surveyed 600 Sunday Streets participants. The results are below:
Sunday Streets participants:
- 73% live in San Francisco
- represent a wide age range
- represent the ethnic minority distribution of the city
- are highly educated (78% hold a bachelor’s degree)
- are physically active (79% engage in activity 3-7 days/week)
- travel an average of 3.25 miles round-trip to attend
- 46% are first-time attendees and 54 % are multiple-time attendees
- Multiple-event attendees are more physically active than first-time attendees, so increasing the likelihood of attendees returning to subsequent events increases physical activity levels.
- Biking (24%) and walking (21%) were the most popular activities at Sunday Streets.
- The greater distribution of ethnic minority participants at Sunday Streets shows that it attracts populations that are traditionally less physically active.
- Sunday Streets routes traverse neighborhoods with limited open space and physical activity resources, potentially equalizing the distribution of recreational infrastructure.
- A positive experience and safe environment were reasons to return to Sunday Streets. First time attendees also said the social environment was another reason to return.
- A focus group of residents of neighborhoods with lowest access to open space showed a link between physical activity and convenient access to recreational resources.
- Sunday Streets are an affordable way to support public health goals because they use existing infrastructure and street closures to provide physical activity opportunities in neighborhoods underserved for recreational resources.
- Sunday Streets creates routes to enhance community connection.
- Given the relatively high physical activity levels of participants (79%), Sunday Streets would more significantly serve public health goals by attracting participants who are currently inactive or minimally active.
According to a 2008 study, San Francisco residents with higher levels of education and income visit parks more frequently – and therefore, have more opportunities for physical activity. A focus group of residents of neighborhoods with lowest access to open space showed a link between physical activity and convenient access to recreational resources. Providing Sunday Streets events in lower income neighborhoods that have less access to open space increases the likelihood of increased physical activity, and equalizes the distribution of recreational opportunities. The 2010-2011 study from Dr. Zieff shows that Sunday Streets participants are diverse, attracting people who are less likely to visit recreational spaces and are traditionally less physically active.
Sunday Streets not only provides a safe environment for physical activity, but for building community bonds that occur thanks to positive experiences provided at each event. Sunday Streets participants have fun and enjoy spending time with family and friends in a safe environment. The study finds these are big reasons they keep coming back! Participants who come for the first time also cite these as the reasons why they want to return to Sunday Streets. This is why Sunday Streets places so much emphasis on providing a safe, fun and all-inclusive event – the rate of enjoyment makes participants want to come back again and again, increasing the amount of exercise they get. Repeat attendees say their experience is very positive and they feel energized and that made them want to return. These positive experiences have also shown to increase the likelihood of exercise.
Sunday Streets offers a unique strategy for increasing opportunities for physical activity within existing urban infrastructures, that helps address the decline in physical activity that leads to increased rates of chronic diseases and obesity.