Fight is on to Keep JFK Car-Free

Advocates of all stripes meet up Saturday morning to demand JFK Drive remain for people

Image: Car-Free JFK's twitter
Image: Car-Free JFK's twitter

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Advocates and their families came to show their support for keeping JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park car-free beyond the pandemic on Saturday. The groups supporting the movement include People Protected Bike Lanes, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco, Livable City, the I love San Francisco Skate Club, and CarFreeJFK.

It’s unclear how many people showed up, but “I’d say over a thousand stopped to learn about the effort,” said Matt Brezina, one of the founders of People Protected Bike Lanes. “We printed 600 fliers, all of which were distributed by 1 p.m. We didn’t have any more to give out for the last hour!”

The event page has forms for contacting city officials to support keeping JFK car-free. Or email phil.ginsburg@sfgov.org, MayorLondonBreed@sfgov.org, jeffrey.tumlin@sfmta.com.

“This 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week peaceful respite from the danger, noise, and fossil fuel exhaust of cars is one of the best things to come from the covid pandemic, and we must make this silver lining permanent,” wrote the advocacy group Grow SF, in a blog post about keeping JFK car-free.

JFKsun

Before the pandemic started, JFK was closed to motorists only on Sundays. But then in April of 2020, the city finally closed JFK to cars to give people space to get some exercise while practicing socially distancing. Now that people have seen how nice it can be (as pictured above and below), they want it to stay that way.

This should be an easy lift with political support coming from most of San Francisco’s lawmakers. However, as the city has started to reopen, motoring interests, concerned about preserving free or near-free car storage on public space, are pushing back–including the de Young Museum, which has the following statement on their web page:

The closure of JFK East removed street parking spaces including 20 dedicated exclusively to the disabled without a plan to relocate. We are working with SFMTA and SF Recreation and Parks to develop a long-term solution for safe and efficient access to the Park. We believe that all visitors have a right to access Golden Gate Park regardless of whether they arrive on foot, by bike, or by car. The solution needs to take into account all members of our population, especially those who are unable to walk or bike here, who have been historically shut out of the planning process. The Slow Streets closure of JFK East was designed in a vacuum without the consultation of the Park institutions and key community stakeholders. As we look to the future of our City’s greatest Park, we ask for an open planning process that is informed by objective data and that includes all stakeholders, to determine how people access the Park and its institutions, and how transportation to the park affects neighboring residents and businesses.

Of course, the museum has paid parking structures. The de Young even recommends motorists use the paid Impark Garages, which remain fully accessible via Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. There are also other ways for motorists (including disabled motorists who perhaps can’t afford it or don’t want to pay for parking) to reach the museum from other parking locations, using the Golden Gate Park Shuttle and, of course, public transportation (as listed on the museum’s own web page).

“They are hiding behind ADA [disabled] access,” said Brezina. He added that his group is pushing for even more accessible spots “…on Fulton, behind the Band Shell, on Pelosi behind Cal Academy and at the end of Pelosi by the tennis courts.”

Meanwhile, for another look at the event, as part of their coverage, the San Francisco Examiner put together this great video of advocates, lawmakers, and local residents urging the Mayor and SFMTA Director Tumlin to make JFK permanently car-free:

“This former roadway is now the most popular feature of our park, filled with people of all ages and abilities,” wrote Brezina, in a post on social media. “Never go back.”

A couple more pictures of the event below:

JFK2
What was once essentially a freeway through the park, now a place for kids to play
Senator Scott Wiener doing a TV interview supporting car-free JFK
Senator Scott Wiener doing a TV interview supporting car-free JFK

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Public works paved the roadway to the left, but left the bike lanes full of cracks, dangerous furrows, potholes, and other defects. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted.

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