John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park is a bit calmer since it was reconfigured for San Francisco’s first parking-protected bike lane – and a majority of people like the change, according to a preliminary report [PDF] recently released by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency.
Since JFK was redesigned, average speeds are down by two to three MPH for both bikes and cars, the report says. The perception of safety for bicycling and driving went up significantly, though for walking, it went down a few percentage points.
“It’s having a calming effect in Golden Gate Park overall,” said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Given the environment of a park, that’s a good thing to see.”
The bike lanes are the first in the city to be placed between the curb and parked cars, separated by a buffer zone — a configuration that other cities have employed to help more people feel safe riding bikes. Although traffic counts won’t be reported until the release of the SFMTA’s final report early next year, they’re expected to show a significant jump in bicycle ridership. Shahum said the SFBC has heard strong anecdotal evidence that the lanes are attracting new riders who didn’t feel comfortable riding between parked cars and moving cars under the old configuration.
“If anything, Golden Gate Park should be the ideal location for people who are new to bicycling or who want to build up their comfort level,” said Shahum. “I think it’s really great to see that the JFK Drive bikeway is having that positive, intended impact.”
When the redesign was first implemented, it saw its share of complaints, especially as drivers adjusted to the novelty of parking away from the curb. In the SFMTA’s survey, conducted through interviews in the park and online submissions, 87 percent of respondents now say they understood the configuration.