Here's What SF Would Look Like Without Cars or People

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By Sierra Hartman

I was walking through a neighborhood years ago on a quiet afternoon when I noticed a stoplight changing at an intersection. There were no cars anywhere on either street but the lights were on a timer and just went about their business regardless. I found it strangely calming, watching the lights click back and forth every couple minutes, all by themselves, as if the last car in the city had passed through some time before. Since then, I've taken more specific notice of those random moments when, for just a few seconds, the traffic lulls and a pigeon walks out into the street, figuring that all the cars have just disappeared. I imagine what the city would look like completely devoid of people and the half a million or so cars that clog the streets every day.

Aside from those rare occasions like Christmas morning and Super Bowl Sunday, it's almost impossible to find more than a block of empty San Francisco blacktop at any one time. And that's not even accounting for on-street parking. According to David LaBua, author of Finding the Sweet Spot, there are about 320,000 parking spaces in the city and I'm pretty sure every one of them is taken, like 23 hours a day. So with some strategic timing and a little Photoshop kung fu, I brought this fantasy to life in a handful of otherwise busy locations.

In doing this, I've spent a fair amount of time picturing the city sans humans and I've found people are split about 50-50 in their reactions to the scenes. Some people find it soothing and peaceful while others find it unnerving. I think if any one of us were to wake up tomorrow and discover that our friends and coworkers have vacated the city, there's a good chance we would react in one of two ways: either we would dust off the zombie survival kit and lament the city's lack of gun stores or we would book it to the nearest Ferrari dealer and haul ass around the city Gymkhana style.

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