San Francisco bicycle advocates are celebrating a major milestone after the city’s first parking-protected bike lane  cleared its final hurdle yesterday. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission approved the John F. Kennedy Drive bikeway, which will be installed in Golden Gate Park this December.
“The new, dedicated bikeways coming on JFK Drive will be a great benefit to the growing number of people, including so many families with children as well as seniors, biking in the park,” said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) Executive Director Leah Shahum. “These parking-protected bikeways have been proven in cities such as Portland, Oregon and New York City to make the streets safer and more inviting not only for people biking but also for people walking. And there’s nowhere this is more needed than in a park.”
The bike lane will be the city’s first to place a row of parked cars between motorized traffic and bicycle traffic, protecting bicycle riders from the dangers of passing vehicles and opening car doors . It will also be the first completed project that the SFBC called for in Connecting the City , its plan for a citywide network of protected bikeways.
“As an agency that is committed to providing safe and efficient streets for all users,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, “including cyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities, and cars, we are pleased that this project has taken a significant step forward.”
Installing the bikeway “allows the city to further enhance our bike network and create a safer environment for those who travel throughout the park. Going forward, we will continue to meet with all stakeholders to gather feedback and answer all questions,” he said.
John F. Kennedy Drive serves as a popular road for recreational cycling as well as a critical connection for cyclists traveling from the Sunset and Richmond districts to one of the city’s most heavily-trafficked bicycle routes along the Panhandle and the Wiggle . Connecting the City envisions a continuous, three-mile “Bay to Beach” bike route  all the way from downtown Market Street to Ocean Beach, comfortable enough for anyone 8 to 80 years old.
Bicycle advocates have long called for greater use of protected bikeways instead of the bike lane designs  that American cities have historically provided. The shortcomings of those traditional designs help explain why, in San Francisco, “dooring” is the top factor behind cyclist injuries  caused by vehicle drivers or passengers. Where implemented, protected lanes have strongly increased cyclist safety  and bicycling rates, as well as pedestrian and motorist safety. The world’s most successful cycling countries, like Denmark  and the Netherlands , have made protected bike lanes the standard over the past few decades. Recently, American cities like New York , Washington , Chicago  and Portland  have adopted them.
A plan for protected bike lanes is also being developed for three blocks on Fell and Oak Streets , the second project in the “Bay to Beach” route.