JFK Drive Bikeway Promises Pleasant Travel in Golden Gate Park

One conceptual rendering showing a painted buffer between the bikeway and vehicle travel lane. Image: ##http://www.connectingthecity.org/routes/##SFBC##

As early as this spring, residents and tourists could be enjoying a world-class bi-directional, physically-separated bikeway along a 1.5 -mile stretch of Golden Gate Park’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) Drive as part of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s (SFBC) Connecting the City campaign for a network of routes safe and comfortable enough for an eight or eighty-year-old.

The project would be the first section installed on the 3-mile Bay to Beach Route. “Envision how welcoming this bikeway would be for the growing number of families who want a safe way to bike to museums and playgrounds in the park and the large number of people who want a comfortable route from the western neighborhoods to downtown,” the SFBC said on its website.

Separated bikeways are expected to dramatically boost the number of bicyclists on key routes by providing a comfortable and safe continuous green ribbon of bikeways, with designs similar to New York City’s recent Prospect Park West Bikeway. Results there have shown a drastic reduction in speeding motor traffic and overall crashes along with a tripling of weekday cycling.

Image: ##http://www.connectingthecity.org/routes/bay-beach/##SFBC##
Another rendering shows a physical buffer of parked vehicles. Image: ##http://www.connectingthecity.org/routes/bay-beach/##SFBC##

Currently, JFK Drive has no designated bike lanes, although most riders use the space just inside the bounding line between the travel lanes and parked motor vehicles. While riding in between moving and parked cars puts a cyclist at risk of being doored and vulnerable to crashes with inattentive drivers, the bikeway would be placed curbside and a parking lane could be placed on the other side of a striped buffer to create a much safer space.

Aside from the early morning or night hours when there are few cars in Golden Gate Park, the only time when bicyclists have been able to experience a safe and comfortable ride has been on car-free Sundays and Sunday Streets. For decades, hundreds of residents of all ages have come to play in the liberated space every Sunday, and since 2007 the opening has been expanded to Saturdays in the spring and summer thanks to SFBC-led efforts.

Herb Caen remarked on the phenomenal effect in a 1973 San Francisco Chronicle article: “Slowly it dawns on them that they can use the main drive and the roads. For once the world does not belong to the automobile. The bicycle is king again and the rider may go where fancy dictates without looking nervously over his shoulder. You are even allowed, for a few unrealistic minutes, to reflect on how pleasant life would be if the car were banned from San Francisco.”

The SFBC is currently working with the SFMTA on implementing the design and is encouraging residents to show their support by writing to the Recreation and Parks Department, which oversees operations in Golden Gate Park.

Learn about the success of the Prospect Park West Bikeway in this Streetfilm from Robin Urban Smith:

  • Mike

    Sounds like the real problem here is that cars are ever allowed to drive through the park. Why not lobby to fix that?

  • =v= I don’t think the Prospect Park West bike lanes are exactly comparable, given that it runs alongside a park, and serve to calm stretches where motorists had felt empowered to speed. We could use something like that along Fulton and Lincoln (and hey, Fell and Oak).

    The other thing Prospect Park has is a loop road that is carfree most of the time. The equivalent in Golden Gate Park would be “Healthy Sundays through Saturdays” on JFK, and also on MLK.

  • J

    Cool idea, but from a design perspective, I would like to see more separation/protection between the bike lane and the car traffic. The buffer is nice, but the layout leaves some bikes traveling between a lane of bikes and a lane of cars, both traveling in the opposite direction. The PPW comparison is also a bit misleading since it’s protected by a lane of parked cars. The JFK design only has a painted buffer between car traffic and the bike lane.

  • sfosparky

    Enjoyed everything about the article except its use, in the very first sentence no less, of the cliche “world-class”…

  • I like it if we get some physical protection like the PPW lane does (parked cars in that case, but it can be jersey barriers, etc.).

  • Nick

    Is the SFBC overplaying their hand with this project?

    Consider this:
    -They didn’t poll their members on this SPECIFIC project.
    -There is no PHYSICAL barrier between bikes and auto traffic.
    -They are giving us cycletracks where we don’t need them while ignoring where we could use them. Will they ever hear us say “FELL and OAK ALREADY!”
    -How less safe is it for downtown cyclists to ride 30mph while kids on bikes are coming towards them at 5mph? You can’t slow down the cyclists already out there in the name of progress.
    -And if this trial results in a dismal failure, what would that mean for the future of other potential cycletracks?

  • Ali G

    This is the worst idea I have ever seen.

    As a daily bike commuter to downtown from the Richmond District, JFK drive is about a quarter of my route. After observing the dangerous conditions of cramming inexperienced cyclists and tourists on “bicycle infrastructure” near Golden Gate Bridge, I am horrified by this proposal.

    Another example of celebrated inadequate infrastructure is the bike path on the Panhandle. On my way to work a couple months ago, a woman cycling with her children allowed her 8-year old girl to zip out across Masonic when the light turned green. The girl then veered in my path, causing me to crash when I couldn’t stop fast enough and get a 2-inch gash on my ankle from the spill.

    Crowding cyclists together and slapping some green paint on the ground is no good for anyone. Tourists want to go slow and enjoy the park, which is great. Bike commuters want to get to work on time. Cyclists riding for exercise want to get their heart rates up. Don’t force these users of the road- especially in the middle of a park that should be car free anyway- to compete with one another for space.

  • JD

    I often bike down JFK during the evening rush hour and it is INSANE. There is literally as much traffic choking up that road (at least the end near the Conservatory of Flowers and the California Academy of Sciences) as any street outside the park. And every time I see this I ask myself:

    Can’t we have one damn road in the city — in a park no less! — without the cars choking it up?! Their noise, their pollution, the fact that these people should be out recreating in the park and not sitting on their butts in a car … all this makes we wonder how we tolerate this.

    I have no idea why cars are even allowed into the park. We should be able to have *one* place where we can get away from them. They already dominate every single road outside the park … can’t we just have one place to get away from them? Obviously many of these people, at least on JFK, are going to destinations in the park, and so they should be forced to park outside the park and walk in. And since that parking will be limited, it will encourage people to walk, bicycle, or take public transit to the park. The only vehicles that should be allowed in the park are shuttles for the handicapped or disabled and maintenance or emergency vehicles (and much maintenance can be down from a bike … not everything needs to be down in an automobile … see the car-free parts of the old towns in Europe to see how this is done).

    However, what really irks me, is that, since I doubt we’ll be banning cars in the park anytime soon, we even allow people to cut through the park on their way somewhere else, especially those going north-south. That should not even be possible without it taking an incredible amount of time so that it completely discourages most people. It’s already bad enough that 19th/Park Presidio — literally a highway — goes right through the park, but that should be it. The city of San Francisco should be doing everything possible to make the park the *one* place where people can get away from the automobile. As a cyclist, I’m constantly fighting to not get run over or doored all over the city, and I would expect that the park would be one place where I don’t have to worry about my safety so much.

    So while we talk about adding a bike lane on JFK, I just have to respond with: get the cars off it so the whole road is a bike/pedestrian/scooter/skateboard/whatever lane! And if we can’t do this, then at least get rid of the shortcuts that allow people who aren’t even going to the park to cut through it. And they must get rid of evening parking near on MLK drive near the east side of Lincoln where everybody going to restaurants and bars is just using the park as a parking lot. That is *not* what our parks are for.

  • more sf ugliness

    That green painted “ribbon” is dog-ass ugly, which means it will undoubtedly be approved.

  • TK

    People. I’m an avid reader and I refrain from commenting most of the time, so I can say with certainty that it’s a good idea to READ the article before spouting off.

    Please re-read paragraph 4. You will find stated here–and you can see in the picture–that there is indeed a physical separation between bikes and cars. “[T]he bikeway would be placed curbside and a parking lane could be placed on the other side of a striped buffer to create a much safer space.”

    Point 2: My god, can we have a single improvement without whine whine whine rant rant rant “it doesn’t go far enough”? I’m thrilled that one of these European-style cycletracks are slated for a trial period so soon. Maybe it’ll suck, but why can’t we try it first? And no, speed-racer commuters, the Panhandle will never work for you, and this won’t either. That’s what Oak and the south side of JFK are for…let’s hope soon many more roads will become safer for bikers one way or another.

  • Joel

    Heh… the rendering shows what appears to be a two-hour parking sign on the lamppost.

  • Is the SFBC overplaying their hand with this project?

    No.

    -They didn’t poll their members on this SPECIFIC project.

    i don’t want to wipe their butts for them either — feel free to email them or call them if you have a specific concern — that’s part of their role.

    -There is no PHYSICAL barrier between bikes and auto traffic.

    yes – i agree with this (as stated above) — let’s make sure this happens.

    -They are giving us cycletracks where we don’t need them while ignoring where we could use them. Will they ever hear us say “FELL and OAK ALREADY!”

    i think every single street/road/bridge/tunnel/bus/train/etc. in and around SF needs to be 100% walkable and 100% bikeable, but we have to do something at sometime — we can’t always get the most-important, most-wanted streets done first. the general rule of thumb, i would argue, should be ‘take what you can get, while you can get it, while you continue to push what what you really want and need and require and deserve’ — so i’ll be very happy to see this project come to fruition — the sooner the better.

    Will will get Fell and Oak — as well as every other *** **** street in this city — count on it.

    -How less safe is it for downtown cyclists to ride 30mph while kids on bikes are coming towards them at 5mph? You can’t slow down the cyclists already out there in the name of progress.

    Yes, you can, actually. And, in some cases, you should. If this actually requires slowing any existing bikers down, then it needs to happen, sorry. Rights and responsibilities — it’s not all about existing bikers — in fact, it’s not even mostly about existing bikers, it’s mostly about would-be bikers, which is most of the city of SF, millions of tourists, the entire human population, the entire living population of the planet, etc.

    -And if this trial results in a dismal failure, what would that mean for the future of other potential cycletracks?

    I dig the positivity, but you worry too much. We’re bursting at the seems with would-be bikers — we just have to make it possible for them to do so.

    This is the worst idea I have ever seen.

    Worse than Capitalism?

    After observing the dangerous conditions of cramming inexperienced cyclists and tourists on “bicycle infrastructure” near Golden Gate Bridge, I am horrified by this proposal.

    Horrified?

    Another example of celebrated inadequate infrastructure is the bike path on the Panhandle.

    You know, as well as the rest of us do, that the Panhandle Path is celebrated because it allows so many people to hop on a bike and feel relatively safe — just as we all also know that we need more and better space through that area. This is, as odd as it may seem, the ideal situation for advocates of more and better walk and bike infrastructure (@see Jane Jacobs). It’s taken too long to get the fixes, of course, but it always takes too long. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good — let’s make ‘good’ get to ‘better’, and we have to start somewhere.

    Crowding cyclists together and slapping some green paint on the ground is no good for anyone.

    It is, actually — as you’ve so aptly pointed out — The Pandhandle is a glory to behold — we need to get the SFMTA serious about carving out some cycletracks along both sides of that thing so we can leave the existing path to pedestrians.

    Can’t we have one damn road in the city — in a park no less! — without the cars choking it up?!

    My main reasoning for keeping cars in the park, at least for now, is to provide ‘eyes on the street’ (more Jane Jacobs). The park is so damn huge, and so empty at time of night, that it doesn’t feel safe to ride through — so while I don’t have all that much confidence that cars traipsing through the park during the ’empty hours’ would really provide any more actual/statistical safety, I feel like they could provide some of that necessary ‘subjective safety’ (just like physical barriers do) — so that’s probably worth allowing cars to continue to roll through, if only in the short-term while we convert the rest of the city to biking.

    That green painted “ribbon” is dog-ass ugly, which means it will undoubtedly be approved.

    I’m not generally a fan of ‘dog-ass,’ but i do like that green paint.

    People. I’m an avid reader and I refrain from commenting most of the time, so I can say with certainty that it’s a good idea to READ the article before spouting off.

    You really should comment more — it makes the place more interesting. I already know what I think, for the most part — I need someone to disagree with — don’t think we can really get things settled without some spirited debate — and the folks who post here surely like to get our constructive comments.

    Please re-read paragraph 4. You will find stated here–and you can see in the picture–that there is indeed a physical separation between bikes and cars. “[T]he bikeway would be placed curbside and a parking lane could be placed on the other side of a striped buffer to create a much safer space.”

    We did read the article — it says a parking lane ‘could’ be used — that’s a big difference from ‘would’ be used. Also, if there are parking restrictions, it’s reasonable to assume there will be times when the parking lane is empty, and therefore times when bicycles will be unprotected — a serious problem.

    But more importantly, the picture shows no physical barrier — pictures really are worth 1,000 words — that’s why that phrase exists — I’ve tried to make the point a zillion times, now — pictures/images/graphics/rendering — even if only a ‘fantasy rendering’ — are extremely important — they set expectations for what is possible, and ideally, what we should be fighting for. If you show a wack, unprotected, buffered bike lane like the one above, I’m not gonna get that excited about it — I probably won’t even bother telling any of my friends about it — but if you start talking (protected) cycletrack — well then, it’s on — that’s Miller Time — that’s worth drinking to — that’s worth discussing — that’s worth Twittering and finding out who the organizers are on that particular project and figuring out how you might be able to lend a helping hand.

    Point 2: My god, can we have a single improvement without whine whine whine rant rant rant “it doesn’t go far enough”?

    I’m one of those whine/ranters — getting things right matters — we bike advocates have a tendency to shoot for the street lights instead of the stars — if we can’t get to the stars, fine, at least we tried, but not shooting for them seems defeatist — it doesn’t sit well with me — we (SF bike nerds) need to start thinking bolder, instead of waiting for Portland and New York and DC and Yurp to lead the way — I want cycletracks on the main ***-****** corridors of this city — every single one of them, without exception — and I want them two days before yesterday — instead, we read about how suck the sharrows are on Sutter and Post, where we’ve prioritized all motorized traffic over non-motorized traffic — a travesty for human dignity, self-reliance, the city’s budget, etc. Nobody’s going to give it to us, we have to take it — and the people on the ground need to hear it from us when they propose half-solutions — they need to know that we have their back when they propose something that’s actually somewhat adequate, because you can be damn sure that the driving interests in this town are going to let them know about it.

    Immediate emancipation from car dependence and transit subservience, gradually achieved — nothing less.

  • Al

    I too bike this route frequently. I’ve been hoping for something like this.

    I think it would be nice with parked cars for protection (with some door-opening space too). If there’s only room for one row of parked cars, put it on the same side as the bikeway. It might make the street look lopsided, but there’s no real issue as far as I can see.

    I don’t support banning cars. It is big, and some people are of limited mobility. That said, I’d support traffic-calming measures like bollards and physically narrowed traffic lanes.

    For physical separation and protection, it seems to me that some 6″ concrete blocks, bolted down, could be a cheap and effective measure, at least temporarily. More permanently, planting beds would be very nice.

    I will be interested to see how it’ll connect to the Panhandle. That’s an area that could use a thoughtful treatment, especially for westbound bikers. Probably something like replacing the median with a bidirectional bikeway, which crosses over all three car lanes with a traffic signal (synchronized with Stanyan). It should also keep in mind the potential to continue the bikeway along the Panhandle, instead of through it.

  • jwb

    As soon as this is installed they will use it as an excuse to get rid of carfree weekends.

  • J

    The city of Montreal just implemented a design like this, although without a buffer. The main cycling advocacy group Vélo Québec (SFBC equivalent) fought successfully to have it removed, and it’s gone now. (The links below are in French):

    http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/regional/montreal/201010/08/01-4330674-piste-cyclable-sur-le-mont-royal-dangereux-et-completement-dement.php

    http://www.velo.qc.ca/fr/index.php?page=Chemin-Remembrance-la-voie-cyclable-effacee

    The point is that you need constant physical separation for that type of design, in the form of concrete barriers, curb, or whatever. NYC has done this a lot recently and has even commissioned artists to decorate the barriers so they look more attractive.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycstreets/5258063101/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycstreets/4555160074/

  • Sprague

    Three cheers for this plan, especially if it is “protected” by parked cars or something else. And I agree with the comment that the JFK/Kezar/Panhandle/Stanyan intesections need improvements to better and more safely serve cyclists, rather than forcing those biking eastbound with young kids onto the sidewalk since nothing else feels safe there. An eastbound bike lane to the left of the eastbound vehicle lane(s), along the medians, would be an improvement here. Or maybe the cycletrack will be connected more fittingly with the Panhandle?

  • Morton

    Do we have any idea how much of the bike traffic in the Park is transit (i.e. getting from A to B) rather than recreational?

    It seems to me that a specific bike lane is for transit. Those who just wish to gently ride around the park don’t need a bike lane because they are not going to any particular place.

    In much the same way, pedestrians don’t need disignated routes becuase the whole park is a designated pedestrian right of way.

    What I like about GG Park is that it is a park for everyone. If we start physically segregating different classes of users, we will lose that sense of universality.

    We already have something like this in the Panhandle part of the Park. There is no bike lane as such but there is a lane where cars are banned but bikes are not banned. Bikes and pedestrains share that space successfully.

    Bikes are an essential part of the Park but I don’t think they should be seen as a “special” kind of park user with their own private facilities.

  • Ali G, it might seem reasonable to blame your crash on the kid who swerved into your path, but it’s more constructive to blame yourself for not anticipating that she might, and being ready for it.

    Heading downtown from the park, you might have less hassle taking Page St. instead of the panhandle path.

  • Nick

    Look into the future and you’ll find:

    -The battle over lost parking is going to be significant. Look closely at both pictures and you’ll see it would result in a 50% reduction in available spaces.

    Cycletrack— Painted Buffer—-Auto Lane—Auto Lane—Parking Lane.

    or

    Cycletrack—Parking Lane—Auto Lane—Auto Lane.

    -Another issue: Faster cyclists may opt to take the auto lane which is fine.

    For these reasons, I think all SF cyclists should start supporting this plan despite it’s flaws. It wasn’t so long ago we were fighting inch by inch for space for bike lanes. Now is not the time to lose that momentum.

  • Morton

    PeterNatural

    You’re correct. AliG clearly does not realize that that path through the PanHandle is NOT a bike lane but simply a path where bikes are not banned.

    Joggers and walkers use that same path, and everyone seems to share it well.

    But anyone cycling there, or for that matter anywhere else, should be aware that a child or dog could appear from nowhere, and slow down to a speed where they can easily stop. This would have to be the rule in GG Park too – parks should be a safe place for everyone.

  • Actually, the northern path through the Panhandle is a designated Class 1 bike path. (The southern path is pedestrian only.) The problem is that it is not a very good Class 1 Bike Path: it is not wide enough and it is shared with pedestrians. Because pedestrians (and children on bicycles, and dogs, and strollers, et cetera ad infinitim) are the more vulnerable users, bicyclists must take care and slow down to a speed that allows them to react to unanticipated movements. I think all of us know that the current Panhandle path is so popular and successful that it has become unsafe for both pedestrians and bicyclists and that another solution needs to be found soon.

    I am looking forward to the physically separated bike lane on JFK. I, too, would like a greater barrier than just a painted buffer zone, but at least this should prevent buses and cars from parking in front of the Conservatory of Flowers (where they are not supposed to be at all) and I won’t have to worry about inattentive drivers clobbering me as they pull into and out of parking spaces. (And whatever happened to putting parking meters into GG Park?)

    As to why are there cars on JFK at all? I, too, think far too many car drivers use the park’s roads not for park destinations but rather as surface streets like any other that gets them across the city. I must admit I’ve been guilty of this in the past. (No more!) Perhaps a ban on cars entering JFK between 6:30-8:30am and 4-6pm? (People could still exit during these hours.) This way people could drive to the park when park attractions are open but during heavy bike commute hours the roads would be much calmer and the air would be cleaner. And cars could always access the concourse garage at all times via Fulton, as well as use the other roads.

    If you are a fast cyclist who feels threatened by the possibility of vast numbers of non-bicyclists becoming slow-moving bicyclists who get in your way, I beg you to reconsider and be a little more generous. Each person who bicycles means cleaner air and less children with asthma and inhalers. Each person who bicycles means a city more able to prosper in the face of peak oil. Each person who bicycles means a planet rushing less quickly to its environmental demise. Lastly, each person who bicycles becomes a healthier, happier, less alienated human being. Getting more people on bikes is worth doing. It really is.

  • James Figone

    If you look at this other rendering at the connecting the city site, it seems that the lane is parking protected.

    http://bit.ly/huFZ6O

    Perhaps an sfbc member can confirm.

  • Morton

    Taomom,

    I don’t know what a “Class 1” bike path is. I didn’t know there were classes.

    The Panhandle bike path is not a bike-only path – it’s a mixed use path. But not all cyclists seem to know that, judging by the speeds they go there.

    So perhaps the SFBC case here will have more success if they do some outreach to their own community and persuade those using the Panhandle mixed-use path to slow down and not act as if they have priority.

    That will give the rest of us some confidence that if we have similar bike paths in GG Park, they won’t become race tracks for people like AliG who blames little children for his bad riding and control skills.

  • @taomom et al – A little bit of topic drift here, but yes, multi-use paths (MUPs) such as that one are always a problem. It seem the city’s priority is to keep Fell and Oak as de facto freeways, unsafe for bikes, and just merge us into pedestrians.

    MUPs are always problematic. I can deal with slowing down to pedestrian speeds, and being extra alert around children, but clumps of gabbing people blocking everyone in both directions, people with hostile dogs, people with friendly dogs on long (and nearly-invisible) retractable leashes, well, that’s not really a tenable situation.

  • Some of you seem to be coming in late on the cars-in-the-park issue. City voters passed Prop. J way back in 1998 to build the garage under the Concourse, which was a sensible thing to do once the city decided to keep both the new de Young Museum and the new Academy of Sciences in the park. Before Prop. J there were 200 parking spaces on the Concourse itself, which made it a lot like a parking lot. The Concourse really is more of a “pedestrian oasis” now than it was before the garage and the rehab of the Concourse.

    One of the important elements of Prop. J was making access to that part of the park easier, including people with families, seniors, and the handicapped, which the garage surely does. Not everyone is able to ride a bike or a bus to the park.

    The text of Prop. J: http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2006/11/legal-text-of-proposition-j.html

  • Nick

    When they originally proposed a cycletrack for GGP I think a lot of us assumed it would be a curbside bike lane on both sides. As much as I like looking at other cyclists, I don’t necesarrily want them riding towards me.

  • Al

    Nick: -“The battle over lost parking is going to be significant”:

    I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Look at the satellite images. JFK is 50 feet wide in most areas, sometimes narrowing to 45 (where there’s currently parking on only one side). You can see that there’s a lot of space between the painted driving lanes and the parked cars, which is currently used as a de-facto bike lane.

    Hugo Street just south of the park is a ‘neighborhood’ two way street with parking on both sides, and is 30 feet wide. 6th ave. is wider, at 40 feet, but fits in a single 5-foot bike lane as well. As such, 35 feet is plenty for two driving lanes and two parking lanes, leaving room for a wide, 15 foot cycletrack without sacrificing any parking at all. The only difference for drivers will be that it will have more of a ‘neighborhood street’ feel than a ‘boulevard’ feel, but this also has the beneficial side effect of reducing speeds in the park. Win-win.

    Obviously it won’t have the issues of the Panhandle path (which is, incidentally, ~12 feet wide), since there’s a designated pedestrian path right next to it. There should be enough room for passing, too.

  • Al

    I prefer cyclists riding towards me to watching the sides of parked cars, and their doors. I think it depends on the situation, but in a park setting with few streets branching off to the left and right, and no cross-streets, I prefer the separated two-way bike lane.

    PS: The Embarcadero begs for a cycletrack– it’s long, popular with tourists, and uninterrupted by cross traffic (except driveways). Whose bright idea was it to have those narrow lanes tucked between the parked cars and traffic?

  • Morton

    Jym,

    Re the Panhandle, you find there are:

    “clumps of gabbing people blocking everyone in both directions, people with hostile dogs, people with friendly dogs on long (and nearly-invisible) retractable leashes, well, that’s not really a tenable situation.”

    So you mean exactly the kind of enjoyable activities that people might engage in somewhere like, say, Golden Gate Park?

    “multi-use paths (MUPs) such as that one are always a problem. It seem the city’s priority is to keep Fell and Oak as de facto freeways, unsafe for bikes, and just merge us into pedestrians.

    So you think cars should share their routes with bikes, but you don’t think bikes should share their routes with people? Car routes should be multi-use but bike routes should not be multi-use?

    Why the double standard?

  • @Morton – Blocking a pathway is rude, whatever one’s mode of transportation. Simple common courtesy, nothing else.

  • Morton

    Jym,

    “Blocking a pathway is rude, whatever one’s mode of transportation. Simple common courtesy, nothing else.”

    I’m not saying it’s OK for folks to obstruct other folks. I’m saying that the Panhandle and GGPark are not transit thoroughfares – they are recreational areas.

    And so the criteria by which we judge a major transit route (rapid traffic, minimal delays) is different from the criteria by which we judge a park (leisure, sharing, no particular haste to do anything or get anywhere).

    What worries me about this plan is that it fudges the two aims. And discriminates between different classes of space user.

    I’m all for fast car, bike and transit routes TO the park. But once we get there, I’d prefer genuinely shared space rather than segregated “seperate but equal” classes of park user. That is really not what parks are about.

  • Nick

    The Panhandle is not a transit thoroughfare? Do you even live in California!

  • Al

    JFK Drive–as in the actual road–can hardly be described as a recreational area, except on Sundays when the park is closed to traffic. And when it is, bikers and joggers and kids seem to be able to share it with no issues. Why is this? Because even a bike traveling at ‘high speed’ would be legal in a school zone (25 mph), and there’s plenty of space. A cycletrack might disturb the park’s atmosphere if it were put through the middle of a grassy lawn, but it’ll hardly do so on JFK Drive, compared with what exists there now.

    If we wanted a genuine shared space, it could be done. That’s the idea of the Woonerf, which allows children to safely play in the street even while cars still have access. I wouldn’t be opposed to this on JFK, but I think most drivers would.

    As for the Panhandle:

    Fell St. is currently about 50 feet wide, and devoted to cars. Oak St. is 50 feet wide. But suggesting that there’s a problem with crowding both pedestrians and bike traffic onto a 12 foot wide path is a “double standard”?

  • Oh no, woe is you commenter who will no longer be able to terrorize others at 30mph, and shudder, have to share a lane with slower vehicles!

    Seriously, some of you are like a parody

    “How dare slow kids get in my way! I’m going somewhere”
    =
    “How dare slow cyclists get in my way! I’m going somewhere”

    Especially considering, that last I checked, people commute at 7-8am. Kids generally do not go to the park at those hours.

  • Morton

    Nick,

    When I said “Panhandle” I thought it was obvious that I was talking about the recreational grassy median and not the roads either side of it. Obviously there is no problem with children playing on Fell or Oak!

    Al,

    25mph is quite fast for an area crowded with people, children and dogs, and whose purpose is recreational. Most people “switch off” when they’re in the Park and don’t expact to have to look out for traffic.

    More generally, I think speed limits should be context-specific. There are SF streets where 35 works and others where 15 should be the limit.

    But my real point was to differentiate between major thoroughfares and recreational spaces. Cyclists in a Park shouldn’t need to ride at full speed as if they were trying to get somewhere. Surely they have already arrived!

  • JD

    Some thoughts ….

    I agree with the sentiment that for improving cycling infrastructure in our cities (or anything for that matter) you can’t prevent progress just because it isn’t perfect. You have to tolerate less-than-ideal progress, even if it’s not nearly as good as you had hoped. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have respectful debate on issues first. As long as we remain respectful and offer constructive criticism and agree ahead of time that we must make compromises so that we get something accomplished rather than stalling everything with non-stop arguing, then it is a good thing.

    On that note, in general, I agree that taking some sort of bicycle improvement, even if it is far from ideal (like sharrows instead of a bicycle lane), is better than nothing. However, in the case of the JFK cycletrack, it raises flags for me because I think it’s not the best of use of limited resources. In other words, it could do more harm than good since those same resources could have been used to put a cycletrack somewhere where cyclists are much more at risk. Sure, as I have noted myself, there is a lot of car traffic in the park (way more than there should be in the one place that should not be built around the automobile) and I would love to see a cycletrack there, but I still feel much safer riding in the park than just about anywhere else in the city. I feel like we should be using the funds, energy, and time to put bicycle infrastructure improvements elsewhere, in places that *really* need it. If you look at making SF a truly bicycle-friendly city, adding a cycletrack in GG Park does the *least* to help this cause (in my opinion). And when you add into the mix the fact that really we should be limiting cars in the park, I see it is an inefficient use of resources.

    Also, regarding the debate between commuters and recreational riders …. First, many recreational riders who ride through the park also care about moving quickly because they are trying to get a workout.

    Second, as bicycling becomes more popular, it is *inevitable* that there will be more and more issues with crowding and traffic control on bike lanes. But this is a good thing! Again, along the lines of my first point of accepting progress even if it isn’t perfect, I would LOVE to see bicycle traffic all over the city than car traffic! Sure, it would annoy the hell out of me, but it’s still *huge* progress over having the same thing happen in cars. You can’t only tolerate the perfect solution (especially since everybody’s definition of “perfect” is different) and you have to realize that there will always be some bad with all changes. But as long as it is outweighed by the good, we are doing the right thing and it is progress. If you look at Northern European cities, the *vast* majority of bicyclists on their cycletracks are moving at a rather chill pace and they are all just riding respectfully in bike traffic. In the US, those of us who already cycle are in a super small minority and have been used to having bike lanes wide open. And we’ve been pushing for this to change and for more people to ride. And guess what: it’s finally happening! And that means that we also will need to make some compromises (not being able to always travel as fast) for the greater good of getting people out of their cars and onto bikes. And as someone else pointed out, if you really want to fly and can keep up with traffic, you have the right to pop out of the cycletrack and join car traffic.

    All this being said, if we decide to put a cycletrack on JFK, it should definitely be protected from the cars by a barrier. But rather than ugly concrete, there is a much better solution: just put it off the road like a sidewalk (ie, a curb and grass act as the barrier). It’s amazing to me that we quickly realized pedestrians shouldn’t be sharing the same space as cars so gave them sidewalks way off the road and not even near parked cars. But then we think it’s okay to stick bicyclists on the side of the road squeezed between moving cars and parked cars with opening doors! Can you imagine if they tried to put sidewalks in the same space?! Everybody would be up in arms. And why? Because that is INSANE and extremely dangerous for the much more vulnerable pedestrians. But then somehow we have decided it was okay to put bicyclists there even though they are just as vulnerable to cars in a collision with one.

    So I would envision three layers: the road for cars, then 1 lane for parked cars (or even none), then a 3-4 ft strip of green, then a cycletrack, then another 3-4 ft strip of green, and then the sidewalk. That gives the 3 main transit groups — pedestrians, cyclists, and cars — their own space.

  • the greasybear

    It appears some here want to deligitimize and silence cross-town cyclists’ rational concerns about potential conflicts between fast- and slow-moving (or stationary) persons and vehicles in the proposed bikeway. Bi-directional bikeways make passing more dangerous, and yet every experienced cyclist knows riding on JFK means passing by slow cyclists, unpredictable and inexperienced children on bikes and on foot, road joggers, illegally parked cars, and wayward pedestrians. There is nothing immoral or illegal about riding one’s bicycle at the posted speed limit, and new bicycle infrastructure should not make safely doing so impossible.

    It would be a mistake not to at least discuss ways to defuse the potential conflicts engendered in the proposed design before the paint is on the road. Finger-wagging declarations that bike commuters somehow deserve to be shunted off to the side of the road and slowed to 5 mph behind tourists’ kids is completely unrealistic. Or perhaps we should just be honest about how many cyclists will refuse to use badly designed new infrastructure?

  • Casey

    -Another issue: Faster cyclists may opt to take the auto lane which is fine.

    Yes they can, and they can get constantly harassed by drivers when they do so, as happens everywhere that cyclists ride outside of a bike lane. And the harassment has gotten worse and worse the more lanes get put in.

  • The city of Montreal just implemented a design like this, although without a buffer.

    I guess I agree that the scrapped Montreal design is somewhat like this, but also somewhat unlike this, because as you pointed out, there _is_ a buffer in the SF design, which counts for a lot. But yes/agreed, we still need the physical barrier.

    I google translated the couple of links you provided:

    Bike path on Mount Royal: “dangerous and completely mad”

    Because a new bike path on Mount Royal is “insane” and “dangerous” Vélo-Québec asks that the City proceeded to dismantle it as soon as possible.

    The group promoting bike is better known for his activism in favor of bike paths. But in this particular case, its president, Suzanne Lareau, said that the runway of Remembrance Road is so poorly designed that it endangers the safety of cyclists.

    According to Velo Quebec, the track opened in early September does not separate enough bicycles for cars, in a particularly steep section.

    “At this point of the mountain, there is a slope of 8%, she notes. We put a two-way bike path with no physical separation between cyclists and cars. No need to draw a picture to understand it’s dangerous. It’s completely insane.”

    “We demand the dismantling of the runway,” she said. It’s not very complicated, since it is only painted lines on the ground. Ultimately, we would like it to be redeveloped safely. Above all, this track must be removed before someone is seriously hurt.”

    Here’s the second one: Remembrance Road: Bike Path Cleared.

    Next point:

    The point is that you need constant physical separation for that type of design, in the form of concrete barriers, curb, or whatever. NYC has done this a lot recently and has even commissioned artists to decorate the barriers so they look more attractive.

    I would _love_ for SF to be the place where we actually decided to give a hoot about how our Jersey barriers (and other physical barriers) look. ‘Functional’ is awesome, but ‘aesthetically pleasing/elegant/beautiful’ should be right behind.

    When they originally proposed a cycletrack for GGP I think a lot of us assumed it would be a curbside bike lane on both sides. As much as I like looking at other cyclists, I don’t necessarily want them riding towards me.

    I agree with this. I’m assuming that this ‘smush-the-cyclists-together’ design is just a compromise where the SFBC thinks, “We can get this without too much trouble.” — whereas curbside protected bike lanes (on each side) would end up taking more road space, thus engender much more opposition from automobility interests.

    I would very much like wide bike lanes, tho, so it’d be easy to pass and/or ride next to a friend, and/or easily accommodate trikes and pedicabs and wide cargobikes, etc.

    In other words, it could do more harm than good since those same resources could have been used to put a cycletrack somewhere where cyclists are much more at risk. … but I still feel much safer riding in the park than just about anywhere else in the city. … I feel like we should be using the funds, energy, and time to put bicycle infrastructure improvements elsewhere, in places that *really* need it.

    Do more harm than good? I don’t agree with that. The funds/energy/time could be better spent elsewhere? Possible — but I don’t personally agree with that, either. Taking on and successfully completing achievable goals in a reasonable amount of time brings a momentum all its own — success breeds success, draws new believers, etc. And, by definition, you don’t have to spend a lot of funds/energy/time on ‘low(er)-hanging fruit’ — which frees up time to work on the tougher projects which, by definition, will not just take more time/effort/money/resources, but the ‘time’ component can’t be condensed down into a shorter time-frame — just like you can’t work extra hard during pregnancy to have your timeline shrunk from 9 months to 1 month.

    But, besides the difference of opinion on which projects should be tackled first, etc., I disagree with folks who feel like riding through the park ‘feels safe’. Just my personal opinion, of course, but I’ve never felt particularly safe riding through the park, and generally-speaking, I’d rather ride in other parts of the city — on the city’s streets, in populated areas, even in very populated areas, like Market Street, Folsom, almost any street with a bike lane, and many without. I think biking in the park totally sucks, for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the cars and trucks that zoom by me doing 50++ MPH — I _hate_ that ****. If some nutcase hits me out there in the sticks, at that speed, who’s gonna be around to scrape me off the street? Or off that tree? Or out of that ditch? And there are no red lights and traffic, so I have no way to catch them ‘express my displeasure.’

    Also, part of the ‘Connecting the City‘ plan is to build a true network of bikeable routes — which, in theory, will give us ‘network effects’ — i.e. more people riding, more often, to more destinations, which bring more advocates/political and financial support, etc.

    I’m generally a big hater of prioritizing non-street bike lanes/paths/whatever over on-street infrastructure, but if you can’t feel safe while riding in the park, where can you? So there’s some moral force to the argument that we should take care of The Park first — even before you get to the practical and political considerations.

    Yes they can, and they can get constantly harassed by drivers when they do so, as happens everywhere that cyclists ride outside of a bike lane. And the harassment has gotten worse and worse the more lanes get put in.

    cyclists are harassed and terrorized and injured and maimed and killed regardless of whether they ride inside or outside of bike lanes. we shouldn’t give in to the terrorists. we have to make them accountable, and we need to work to delegitimize terrorism — i know we are ‘just’ cyclists, but we deserve to go about our lives free from violence and threats of violence.

    speaking of terrorism, can someone please tell the Press Democrat that an intentional hit-and-run is not an ‘accident’ — it is ‘attempted murder’ and ‘domestic terrorism’.

  • As always, it’s great to see all the spirited and intelligent comments on this post, let me respond to a few points that have come up . . .

    Why JFK Drive? Why now? We have a perfect opportunity to establish a 1.5-mile-long example of really great bikeway in San Francisco, in an environment where families and kids and visitors already go to pedal, with money already programmed to make bikeway improvements. There’s no better opportunity to get a great bikeway model on the ground where everyone can go and see and try it. Of course we’re working to improve other routes and streets that more urgently need help for bike traffic, that’s not going to stop. But we’ve got a chance to catch up fast and show everyone what an excellent bikeway looks and feels like, in San Francisco, this year.

    On-street parking & buffer: This design features a 5-foot painted buffer separating a 12-foot bidirectional bikeway from travel lanes and car parking. Where there’s curb parking on JFK Drive now, there will be curb parking with this plan (a few spaces will need to be converted here and there). See this plan view for the concept:

    http://connectingthecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/jfk-plan3-011911.pdf

    A lot of surface car parking was removed as part of the Prop J deal that brought us the Music Concourse Garage, and the visualization featured at the top of this post shows a place (in front of the Conservatory) where there’s not curb parking now, so there won’t be parking pushed out to the south side of the buffer. The second image shows how it works a little further east where there’s curb parking to pull out and preserve.

    Physical barrier between bikeway and vehicle traffic: We don’t want to do that here because of Sundays and other days, where we want to maximize the “recreational pavement” (as our friend David Miles says) — don’t want to have to drag planters and other barriers out of the way for Sunday curb-to-curb skating and biking and strolling.

    Oak and Fell: Yes, we’re working on that for this year as well, as essential pieces of achieving three continuous miles of 8-to-80 bikeway — quoting from the ConnectingtheCity.org home page:

    2011: Three continuous miles of bikeway
    We will achieve this by getting 1.5 miles of separated bikeway on the Bay to Beach route on JFK Drive by May 2011, and connecting it with a bikeway on Fell and Oak streets and the traffic-calmed streets of the Wiggle route in the lower Haight by December 2011.

    Three miles of 8-to-80 bikeway, that you can take your mother and your neighbor and your boss and your mayor to ride and evaluate, that’s what the SFBC and Connecting the City are about ~right now~ — help us get it done and the momentum for “everybody” bikeways will be unstoppable . . .

    http://connectingthecity.org

    –Andy–

  • Nick

    Thanks Andy for clearing a lot of this up.

    And so no one forgets, please e-mail City leaders in support of this project.

  • In the not too distant future this family and many others will feel safe and comfortable biking thanks to Connecting the City s bikeways. ..Stephanie is much more comfortable now that her husband is able to commute downtown on the Bay to Beach bikeway which provides safe door-to-door biking access to his job and a lot of the places they love to go. A couple of days a week Joe and Luca bike to school together via the JFK Drive bikeway.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the idea of biking against the traffic without a crash barrier between the cars and the bikes – but I’m all for green bike lanes.

  • Dackerma2000

    To compare the Prospect Park Lane to what is happening in Golden Gate Park is plain silly.  Like many of the screwball fixes in SF, this new bike lane in GGP will only last until the paint fades into oblivion.

  • Earnest

    I have been commuting on JFK Drive on my way from the Outer
    Sunset and Outer Richmond to SOMA for years. 
    It was previously the most pleasant street for cycling that SF had to
    offer.  I found it calm, relaxing, and
    visually pleasant to ride on.  The stop
    signs calm the vehicle traffic, and there was plenty of room for cyclists and
    cars to coexist peacefully and without incident.  The changes to the striping, traffic flow,
    and parking are atrocious.  It is now
    visually cluttered, which simply removes much of the previous appeal of riding
    through Golden Gate Park.  As I see it, there
    was no need for these changes, and they have proven detrimental to the cycling
    experience in the park.  I dislike being
    sandwiched off the roadway, between parked cars and the curb.  I have also found myself having to contest
    with pedestrians and runners and other cyclists crowding the bike lane, whereas
    previously I had much more room and many fewer problems navigating the
    street.  I think it is a pity that the
    city was duped by what seems to me to be a misguided public relations campaign propagated
    by the SFBC.  The only thing I see to be
    thankful for is that at least it is not the two-way bikeway that was initially
    being pushed so hard.

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