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Some 100 advocates, policymakers, parents and children gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday morning to demand an end to attempts to turn Golden Gate Park’s JFK boardwalk into a heavily trafficked freeway.
David Miles of the Church Of 8 Wheels, a roller rink and skate school in Golden Gate Park, told Streetsblog he’s tired of people asking for “compromises” that would allow cars to return to the 1.4 mile stretch that has been open to families, skaters, pedestrians and cyclists since the start of the pandemic. “I believe in compromise,” he told Streetsblog, but it’s no compromise when groups demand cars be allowed on all roads in the park. “I have to bring thousands of pounds worth of skate gear to my rink,” he said, noting that he’s doing just fine because there are plenty of alternate routes for motorists through the park.
Advocates collected more than 6,000 written postcards in support of keeping half of JFK car-free, which they displayed on the steps of City Hall to illustrate how many people want JFK to stay a walk. “We need it,” Jodie Medeiros of Walk San Francisco said in an address to the crowd. “We need it for our safety. Car-free JFK gives us a place to walk without the threat of dangerous traffic. »
Supervisors Dean Preston and Matt Haney both spoke at the event to pledge their support for keeping JFK a place for people. “We are in a climate and road safety crisis,” Preston said. “Banning or restricting a road to cars is not ‘closing’, it is opening a road to greater uses.”
“It’s the crown jewel of our city, Golden Gate Park, and for too many years it’s been dominated by cars,” Janelle Wong of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition told the crowd. “Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell family members to contact their supervisors.”
Many advocates expressed frustration at the threat that within the next month or two a vote by the board of supervisors could end up putting cars back on this short stretch of road in the park. From a Walk San Francisco statement written by Medeiros, explaining why the decision on JFK could still be overturned:
With over 300,000 people using (and loving) car-free JFK Drive every month, it’s hard to believe this could go away. Especially when car-free JFK Drive just keeps getting better, with major accessibility improvements like daily shuttle service and new 100% free ADA parking.
But there are powerful, well-funded interests fighting car-free JFK Drive. The de Young museum desperately wants to bring traffic back. They have high-flying lobbyists fighting against car-free JFK Drive. And now they’re paying for misleading ads on Facebook and NextDoor. I was shocked when I saw one of the dishonest ads they run.
The ad she refers to features a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) employee claiming that not allowing parking on JFK Drive forces them to take a dangerously long walk at night to get to their jobs at the museum:
On the other hand, if the museum let them park in the garage just below the museum, they wouldn’t have to walk at all.
Preston pointed out that this type of publicity resembles the fallacious arguments that attempt to frame putting cars back on JFK as going against “fairness” and “recreational redlining.” “A lot of low-income residents don’t have cars,” he said. “They go on foot and by bus, or even get around by bicycle.” He added that the tunnels that lead to the 800-space parking lot under the museums can make the concourse accessible to people who need to drive, without allowing cars on JFK.
“Golden Gate Park is meant to be an escape for people from the hustle and bustle of the city,” Miles said. “How do you do that in a park when cars are running over people? When cars are off the street, it becomes a recreational resource for everyone.
“If we can’t keep 1.4 miles in our park car-free, there’s no hope for San Francisco,” Medeiros said.