Celebrating J.F.K. Promenade Forever

Rally to save 'Car-Free JFK' held in February. Photo: Sergio Ruiz
Rally to save 'Car-Free JFK' held in February. Photo: Sergio Ruiz

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Hundreds of supporters of a safer Golden Gate Park showed up Saturday morning to celebrate the proverbial silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic–the elimination of dangerous through traffic on the eastern portion of J.F.K Drive in Golden Gate Park.

Walk San Francisco’s Marta Lindsey, who helped organize the event, told Streetsblog that car-free J.F.K. (alternately known as the J.F.K. Promenade) has helped bring people together. “It’s been wildly successful; it’s only become more popular over time.”

She points out that, out of the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy the new promenade every month, most don’t realize it could be taken away by an upcoming vote of the Board of Supervisors. “If they knew, the Supervisors would be inundated with letters.”

Other organizers of the event and rally included the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, 350.org, Church of 8 Wheels, KidSafe SF, Mothers Out Front, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, Streets for People, and Urban Environmentalists.

More from a Walk S.F. release:

This section of JFK Drive was transformed into a hugely popular destination for people to connect with each other and nature without fear of dangerous traffic. Before the closure to traffic, when JFK Drive was just closed on Sundays, 150,000 people used it each month. Now 300,000+ do. Some months have been 400,000 and even half a million people using the car-free space. Prior to the closure to traffic, crashes happened frequently enough that JFK Drive was on the City’s list of most dangerous streets. In 2018, Heather Miller was hit and killed while riding her bike on JFK Drive. In addition, before the closure 75% of traffic on JFK Drive was cut-through traffic rather than drivers going to a park destination.

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Danielle Echeverria did a great job describing the scene Saturday morning. Echeverria made it clear that statements made by Supervisor Shamann Walton and the de Young Museum – they have said that banning cars from a 1.4 mile stretch of J.F.K. is somehow discriminatory  – simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

The de Young has also claimed that closing the J.F.K. Promenade would limit disabled access because of a supposed loss of parking. Meanwhile, the museum pays professional lobbyists to work on keeping car access on J.F.K. Drive instead of, say, lowering parking prices in the museum’s never full, 800-space underground parking garage.

A heat map of the 100 injury collisions involving people walking and biking in Golden Gate Park since 2015. Note the concentration around J.F.K before it was closed. Image: Rec and Park
A heat map of the 100 injury collisions involving people walking and biking in Golden Gate Park since 2015. Note the concentration around J.F.K. near the upper right. Image: Rec and Park

Pi Ra with Senior and Disability Action reiterated that J.F.K. Drive is much better without cars. He also wants the Promenade to be even more reachable by public transportation, so his constituents can more easily “join the party” and walk and roll on J.F.K. too. “Air quality, pedestrian safety, mental and physical health… they all will improve” if J.F.K. remains free of cars, he told Streetsblog.

Walk S.F.’s Lindsey said that ongoing improvements in shuttle services, signage, and parking garage access are underway. She is confident that, over time, people will no longer ask if J.F.K. should remain a promenade. Instead, they’ll want to know why the city didn’t do it sooner. “It’s like Sunday Streets. There was a fight and opposition, but over time everyone started to see the benefits, including merchants and others who were previously opposed. Car-free J.F.K. is only going to get better and more popular and it will strengthen the whole park and everything in and around the park,” she said.

Be sure to sign the petition to maintain the Promenade and eliminate cut-through traffic on J.F.K. And write to your Supervisor.

More pics of the celebration below:

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Walk San Francisco’s Jodie Medeiros addressing the crowd

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ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Advocates on the steps of S.F. City Hall demanding that J.F.K. promenade remain open to people (and closed to cut-through traffic). Photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Rally to Protect J.F.K. Promenade

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Some 100 advocates, policy makers, and others gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday morning to demand an end to attempts to turn the J.F.K. promenade (previously known as J.F.K. Drive) in Golden Gate Park back into a high-traffic thruway.