Whatever the Poop Patrol will be wearing as they power-wash feces off San Francisco’s sidewalks, let’s hope they get a great embroidered patch.
Armed with steam cleaners, a crew from the city’s Department of Public Works will target downtown alleys and sidewalks for human and animal droppings starting next month, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They’ll start their vigil in the afternoon, aiming to clear deposits that appear after overnight crews have done their cleaning, but before any residents complain.
In the eyes of conservative media outlets, San Francisco’s ongoing shit saga is the latest expression of progressive urban politics gone haywire. That’s not true. That there are “more feces on sidewalks than I have ever seen,” as Mayor London Breed recently observed, doesn’t reflect faulty ideology. But it is, plainly, the result of bad policy. In fact, sidewalks have long been a dumping ground for all kinds of policy failures—not just in San Francisco, though it is particularly vivid there, and not just related to public health.
Where housing is unaffordable, public space is increasingly privatized, and streets prioritize personal vehicles, sidewalks are the Last Commons—a rare surviving patch of urban space where people are allowed to just exist. In the absence of shelter, toilets, and protected lanes for alternative transportation, those five to ten feet of pedestrian pathway are inevitably where squeezed-out people land. Whether others like it, or if it’s legal, is kind of a secondary matter.
“Sidewalks are the safest space,” said Cathy DeLuca, the policy and program director of Walk SF, a pedestrian advocacy group. “Of course this is where everything winds up.”
Indeed, the reasons people leave feces and urine in public rights-of-way aren’t unrelated to the reasons others leave shared bicycles and scooters there, an issue irking residents from San Diego to Washington, D.C. Nor are they so separate from the legal battles over sidewalk food vendors in Los Angeles, and around the world. Sidewalks are, not coincidentally, chronically neglected infrastructure in many cities—a phenomenon that reflects the primacy of the vehicles that use the roadways a few feet away, and the lack of power of those who rely on sidewalks for basic mobility.
From skateboarding teens to moms wrestling double-strollers over busted curbs, if you want to see what your city is failing to provide proper space for, look on the sidewalk. It’s probably there.
At present, the “sidewalk clutter” battlefront is eerily quiet in San Francisco—the thousands of startup-backed e-scooters that sprang up in April were temporarily banned in June and the city is now attempting to configure a permitting scheme. By many accounts, transportation officials are a bit in over their heads with that process now, sorting applications from 12 different startups, deflecting pressure from the more outspoken companies, and above all, weighing the safety risks of the new vehicles, which were mostly dumped, parked, and ridden—illegally—on sidewalks.
Click here to read the full article: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/08/what-ends-up-on-the-sidewalk/567529/