JFK Bikeway Project Faces One Last Hurdle Before December Arrival

Image: SFMTA

Anticipation is building for the arrival of San Francisco’s first parking-buffered cycle track along the eastern stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park this December. The project received approval from the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority on Wednesday, and the final step in its approval will come at a Recreation and Parks Commission hearing on October 20.

“We are happy to see such strong public support for the proposal for a dedicated bikeway on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park from key city leaders as well as hundreds of citizens who have sent letters of support,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum. “We hope that the Recreation and Parks Commissioners will also prioritize safety and access in the park by making the street safer for the growing number of families, locals, and visitors who bicycle.”

Recreation and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg testified at Wednesday’s hearing in support of the project, and it also has the backing of District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Lee, who announced the project’s December arrival at Bike to Work Day, sent a letter [PDF] to the Concourse Authority lauding the project.

“The city must work to improve our streets with innovative designs in order to attract more people to this healthy, fun, low-cost transportation option,” wrote Lee in the letter. “Following significant public input, the SFMTA has developed designs for JFK Drive that will create San Francisco’s first parking-buffered cycle tracks, providing a protected space for bicyclists and attracting those who are less comfortable riding in traditional bicycle lanes.”

The design [PDF] proposed by the SFMTA features one-way cycle tracks on opposite sides of the road in each direction, separated from motor vehicles by a striped buffer of at least three feet along the entire length of the bikeway. A lane of parked cars would also provide a physical buffer where room is available. Safer conditions created by the project could invite many visitors who don’t currently feel comfortable biking outside the weekend motor vehicle closures.

The project faces some opposition from the neighboring de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, who have come out publicly against it in favor of preserving car parking.

Just 5 percent of the existing 1,900 free car parking spaces that line the roads of eastern Golden Gate Park would be replaced by the redesign, according to the SFMTA website. That number doesn’t include the 800-space underground paid parking garage which has invited car traffic to congest the park and its adjacent neighborhoods since it opened.

The Academy’s opposition runs in sharp contrast with its image as a beacon of sustainability. Its stated mission involves “raising public awareness about the urgent problems” of sustainability and “minimizing its own environmental impact,” including in the area of transportation.

In spring of 2009, Academy of Sciences Chief Revenue Officer Don Skeoch even testified at a Concourse Authority hearing on local vehicle congestion that “Golden Gate Park is too car-friendly.”

Despite the broad public support for the project and the dissonance between the Academy’s recommendations and its stated commitment to sustainability, representatives from the two institutions are expected to testify at the final hearing.

The SFBC is urging supporters of the project to email Phil Ginsburg and to testify at the hearing on October 20 at 10:00 am at City Hall, Room 416.

  • J

    This is a really interesting and exciting project. However, I do have some concern with terminology. Some of the designs are labeled “cycle tracks”, which implies a physical separation from car traffic, but appear to be more of buffered bike lanes. I know that sometimes SF installs the flex-hit poles to create a buffer, but it is not clear from any of the drawings if that is what is intended.

    Also, good work calling out the hypocrisy of the Academy of Sciences. You can’t honestly claim to be for sustainability and reduced traffic and then fight to keep a small number of parking spaces. It’s a sad lack of leadership on their part, especially since the traffic there is so awful.

  • Hey J,

    Just a normal guy here but I was at the meeting and my understanding is that yes, at certain narrow points the cycle track will either only have 1 row of parked cars as protection, or at the very narrowest points the painted buffers. But, a good portion of the track has parked cars between the traffic and the cycle track on both sides.

    I couldn’t tell from the presentation whether or not soft hit posts were planned to be installed in parts where there was no parking lane buffer. I think it would be a nice addition if they are not currently in the plan.

  • J

    Thanks for the response, Ross. It’s really encouraging to hear that most of the route will be protected by parked cars on both sides, as that is a very effective means of protection. I really think that the more effective the protection, the more people will feel comfortable using the bike lanes. This can even include children and older people who rarely cycle in urban cities. Hopefully they will include the soft-hit posts to provide protection where there isn’t room for parked cars.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Parked cars between a bike lane most of the way = American cycle track. The intention is to paint the buffer space and (probably) paint the bike lane itself. Soft hit posts through our gorgeous GGP would be a tragedy. 

    I think it should be pointed out that during the Concourse hearing, it was a representative from the DeYoung that made a rather unorganized and unprepared statement about the loss of parking, and negative revenue impact from the cycle tracks displacement of parking. 

    Ironically she followed a bike rental rep who presented stats of exponential growth of bike rentals near GGP, a half dozen, or more speakers who were also members of the DeYoung, including one Patron donor (which gives at least 2500 to the museum) and yet still figured it would be really smart to argue for a hold on the plans because the net loss to parking is around 56 spots (down from over 100). This was also after the management company who runs the parking garage stated that even when the garage is full it is only for  two or so hours, and only on occasional high volume weekend days. The DeYoung rep of course was to busy to arrive on time and hear the parking garage manager present his parking stats for the last year.

    As a member of the DeYoung I was actually quite disappointed to see that the museum could not show the process enough respect to at least have a rep show up on time and prepared with a relevant and vetted statement.

     I do not recall anyone from the Academy speaking (they could have written a letter however), or I could have just forgotten their complaint after the DeYoung debacle.

  • Abe

    It’s no surprise that the De Young doesn’t like bicyclists. Has anyone tried using that “bike rack” in front of their museum?

  • The rack in front of the De Young is annoying, but not impossible. (Impossible is the rack in front of Office Max at Division and Harrison. Whoever installed it was utterly clueless.)

    The DeYoung is being shortsighted as to their future audience. They should take a look at the video of the bike parking for the Hardly Strictly Blue Grass Festival.

    It is the quality of their exhibits that will draw people to the De Young, not free parking. After all, SF MOMA has long lines without offering any free neighborhood parking at all. In fact, the city should have the gumption to put in $1/hour meters that operate seven days a week for every parking spot in the eastern half of GG park to at least mildly discourage people from doing damage to the park by bringing their car there. (They should also not allow cars to enter JFK weekdays from 7-8:30 am and 4 – 6:00pm to discourage people from using the park as a thoroughfare. Unless, indeed, we think our parks should serve as congested arterials.)

    If the De Young doesn’t court the next generation of future museum goers, they may very well find themselves in the dustbin of irrelevancy where fusty institutions tend to end up. At present the De Young gives no discounts to anyone arriving by bicycle (the Academy of Sciences does), they offer no directions on how to arrive by bicycle (they offer directions by car) and now they stand in the way of making the park a safer, more family-friendly place for their patrons to arrive by bicycle.

    I am a member of the De Young and visit once every three months or so. Happily the price of the underground garage and dearth of parking gives me great incentive to bike there and even make my family bike with me on occasion. I haven’t taken a car to the De Young in over three years.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    @KarenLynnAllen:disqus 

    The meter idea is great for the east end of GGP. Especially when taking into account the SFMTA parking study of the spots effected by the new bike track – presented at the Concourse hearing – showed a significant portion were occupied by cars that did not move for multiple days, i.e the park is being used by neighborhood residents as storage. Last I checked the DeYoung doesn’t operate a hotel onsite.

  •  only on occasional high volume weekend days – during which the road is closed, meaning all the spots are gone…

  • Anonymous

    There seems to be some misunderstanding about the position the California Academy of Sciences is taking with regards to this project. We are not opposing this project, nor do we have any plans to try to stop it from happening. On the contrary, we fully support this project are very happy to see that it will promote and encourage safer, easier, and more sustainable methods of transportation for park visitors. We did request that some red zones be converted into parking spots on Middle Drive in exchange for the parking spots that would be lost JFK Drive (as the reality is that the demand for parking in Golden Gate Park far exceeds the supply, since many park visitors are from outside of San Francisco), but have done nothing to oppose this project. We hope this helps clear up any misconceptions.

  • Kevin

    The thing is, private entities like the Cal Academy and the DeYoung are profiting over the free public parking in the park, paid with tax dollars. They protect these spaces because they have a special interest in accommodating out-of-towners that drive in and spend money at these museums, rather than making JFK a better place for people that actually live in the neighborhood and use the route every day.

    Let’s face it, despite the green stuff the Academy is doing, they directly profit from being a tourist destination, were people burn gasoline from driving in from out of town, especially families that bring in polluting SUVs and Minivans.

  • @bc7e5583cff1290ca2c6791469a98985:disqus The city is in a better position than is the Academy to solve the traffic problems near Golden Gate Park.  If the N-Judah was anything other than a notorious operational disaster, more people would use it.  When I visit the Academy I can BART across the bay and transfer to the N if I’m feeling really masochistic, but what should be a 30-40 minute trip can often turn into 90 minutes or more of tiresome stupidity on the part of the SFMTA and its operators.  And the worst part is you can still get stuck in traffic, even though you chose to ride public transit.

    The parking demand at the Academy simply reflects the difficulty of getting there by any other means.  I think the Academy has done right by prominently advising visitors of their public transit routes.

  • Anonymous

    Those red zones are there to provide visbility at intersections, so that pedestrians don’t get run over. The hypocrisy from Cal Academy is unbelievable.

  • Dackerma2000

    At what point will the onslaught of government vandalism in Golden Gate Park end?  New signs are plastered everywhere…parking signs….rules signs…ADA signs.  Now the streets have this horrid white paint all over them that shouts look at the street not the trees.  Gardeners rip out every branch of trees that hang under six feet.  Huge chain link fences pop up everywhere.  Meanwhile the lakes are slowly vanishing…being taken over by growth and people have to fight tooth an nail to save grass. 
    I predict that this new bike lane will only last as long as the paint does and once the paint fades it will not be replaced.  This is sadly just one more example of money wasted by MTA/DPT.

  • Now the streets have this horrid white paint all over them that shouts look at the street not the trees.

    Now we’re talking. Let’s rip out the streets altogether and put in singletrack dirt paths! I’ll run the backhoe.

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