Classic Drive For Tourists Gets Reinvented For Pedestrians

Walk San Francisco is recreating a classic 49-mile scenic drive around the city for tourists on foot.
Photo credit Jenna Lane/KCBS Radio

A classic sightseeing drive around San Francisco for tourists is being reinvented as a pedestrian activity. 

A series of walks through October will give amblers a chance to experience a new version of the 49-Mile Scenic Drive.

The jaunts, organized by Walk San Francisco, took inspiration from a guidebook that Kristine Poggioli coauthored. Her guidebook and the walks are consciously modernizing the approach to exploring the city. When the scenic drive was created in 1938, the automobile was in its ascendancy as a mode of transportation. 

"The car was just becoming the big thing in the world. Automobile traffic, that was what it was all about," said Poggioli. "What car are you going to get out and drive it in? It was absolutely meant to get in your car and drive around the city, that's the wave of the future."

It was a marketing tool leading tourists to what were then little-known spots like a certain wharf for fishermen. Eighty years later, Walk San Francisco Executive Director Jodie Medeiros likes seeing people slow down and enjoy details they can't at 30 mph. 

"We are claiming, or reclaiming, the streets for people, doing the 49-mile scenic walk," she said. "We're going to be taking pretty much the same route as a car would take. It's a way for people to reclaim the streets for people and enjoyability."

Jeremy Apthorp joined the walk to see San Francisco in a new way, and found it a little hostile.

"We're constantly getting honked at, cars are beeping, making it hard to be on the street and walk," he said. 

Walk San Francisco would like to see the streets where the most injuries occur redesigned. 

"We're trying to slow down traffic, shorten the space to cross, fix the timing of lights, and really improve the streets so that people can enjoy the historic splendor of this neighborhood," said Medeiros .