Advocates rally to keep JFK Drive car-free through Golden Gate Park

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Pedestrian and bicycle advocates are increasing the pressure to keep John F. Kennedy Drive through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park car-free.

While the road is still closed, activists took to the steps of City Hall on Tuesday in hopes of keeping it that way for a mile and a half through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

Formerly a traffic path through the city, since the pandemic it has been prohibited for cars.

Pedestrian and bicycle advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall, posting 6,000 signatures of people who want it to stay closed.

“When I’m out there during the week and see so many people using it, I just think, ‘God, that would be full of cars,'” said Jodie Medeiros of Walk SF. “It’s just shameful to think that this could eventually go back if we don’t get our decision makers to vote to keep it permanent.”

Those who want to keep the road car free say it would help the city move toward its vision zero plans to eliminate pedestrian fatalities in traffic collisions and the city’s environmental goals.

They took their message to the office of Supervisor Connie Chan, who launched a task force to determine the impact of a car-free JFK and work on a compromise.

Supervisor Dean Preston says he’s already decided keeping the cars out of JFK is the way to go.

“We are in a climate and street safety crisis,” Supervisor Preston said. “We must act boldly to confront these threats to make our streets safe and car-free. JFK is an absolutely essential part of that fight.”

The de Young Museum is one of the voices seeking to restore at least some vehicular traffic. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco says the de Young is down 48% from pre-pandemic attendance, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, down 18%.

Megan Bourne, of the city’s fine arts museums, explains that part of this difference can be attributed to the lack of parking and access. She says she hopes for a compromise to ensure people with disabilities, who lost 17 parking spaces near the museum, also have the opportunity to visit.

“Two people told me that they were effectively banned from Golden Gate Park, and it’s not just about going to the museum, it’s about going to the Conservatory of Flowers, the Ferris wheel, the tea garden,” Bourne said.

Bourne says for some, public transit is inconvenient, with an hour-long journey from some parts of town; made particularly difficult if visitors are traveling with families.

“So you’ve got your mom, you’ve got the parents, you’ve got the kids, it’s a lot to take on public transportation,” Bourne said.

As the debate continues over a car-free JFK city voters may have the final say, Supervisor Connie Chan is considering a potential ballot measure to address vehicular access to Golden Gate Park.

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