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: 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: 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: