There's always been a lot of back and forth between San Francisco and New York, with residents of both cities visiting, trading places, and being influenced by each other's ways and culture. But some people aren't so happy with all that bi-coastal swapping, and believe that the large influx of New Yorkers flowing into the Bay Area in recent years has also brought some of their more obnoxious driving techniques. More specifically, they believe that New Yorkers are bringing their love of honking with them.
Nancy Dionne, a Russian Hill resident, says she has experienced a vast rise in the general amount of honking both in her neighborhood, and the streets of San Francisco in general. Time and time again, Dionne says, she has encountered cars with drivers, often overly aggressive drivers, keen to lay on the horn for almost no reason. In many cases, she explains, the guilty vehicle is sporting New York plates and stickers, and more often than not, a driver with a thick New York accent. “It’s true, many New York and New Jersey people have moved here since the crash,” Dionne says, “and you hear them all the time out in restaurants, speaking loudly, having the accent and it’s my theory that these same people are also behind the rise in honking.” Dionne doesn’t think the honking is malicious, rather just a clash of cultures and a general lack of understanding of surroundings by the transplanted New Yorkers. Regardless of its origin, Dionne thinks San Francisco’s traffic noise, especially the unadulterated blast of a car horn is only getting worse.
I reached out to Linda Capato - a good friend, long-time San Francisco resident, and former native New Yorker – wondering how she felt about the accusatory statements being aimed at the driving etiquette of relocated New York City residents. “San Francisco isn’t made for driving,” Capato says, “It’s made for biking, public transit, and walking.” Now, though, with the city increasing in size (we’re projected to break 1 million residents by 2014), and with more commuters, New Yorkers or not, driving to and from work, it’s no wonder we’re suddenly experiencing an uptick in traffic noise – there are just more drivers in general. Capato believes it doesn’t have anything to do with New Yorkers, there’s just more money, more cars, and the same old road problems – a lack of space for bike riders, the San Franciscan tendency to double-park when and where they want, and steadily diminishing amount of parking spaces – that have always plagued San Francisco.
When I contacted City Supervisor David Chiu’s office (Chiu is the City Supervisor for North Beach, a supposed hot-spot of both New York City transplants and honking) they hadn’t heard anything about an increase in traffic noise, let alone the idea that transplanted New Yorkers were at the heart of the problem.
So signs seem to point to Dionne’s theory being just that – a theory, but there’s at least a kernel of truth in her worries; increased traffic noise is just one facet of San Francisco’s future. As more and more people move to San Francisco for new opportunities, we’re starting to have the issues of a bigger, denser city. And if we don’t start thinking about them now, while we’re still growing, we’re going to get caught with our pants down, and the horns blasting. And nobody wants that.
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