A Win for People-First Parks

You’ve probably heard the exciting news from earlier this week: Starting Tuesday, car-free spaces have been expanded in both Golden Gate Park and McLaren Park to help San Franciscans stay safe and follow the current public health orders.

These road closures have now been approved by our city’s public health officials and create much-needed space in our beautiful parks where people can adhere to social distancing rules. In Golden Gate Park, JFK Drive will be closed to drivers between Kezar to Transverse and in McLaren Park, the entirety of the Shelley Drive Loop will be closed to drivers every day at all hours until the shelter-in-place order is lifted. We want to thank our public health officials, the Recreation and Parks Department, Mayor London Breed and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for listening to the needs of our members.

Map of current and planned road closures and Slow Streets during shelter-in-place.

The push for car-free spaces in our parks is not a new one. Our members have worked for decades to see JFK Drive opened up, and this announcement comes on the tails of a recent Parks Commission meeting where we pushed them to expand car-free spaces in Golden Gate Park year-round beyond just weekend closures. Over 400 people sent in letters and over 40 people called in to the meeting demanding the Parks Commission to put people first in our parks.

As Olivia Gamboa, a mom and Richmond resident, noted, “JFK being car-free means I can let my kids run relatively free while maintaining appropriate social distancing without having to constantly worry about their safety.” Olivia is a healthcare provider and is relying on her bike to get to work throughout this crisis. “The closure of JFK Drive to auto traffic has meant that my commute is substantially safer and less stressful than it was before,” she added. “Instead of choosing between taking my chances in the car lane or cramming too close to other people in the bike lane, I can now ride comfortably at an appropriate distance from others.”

Another member and neighborhood bike advocate Robin Kutner rode through the park the other day and shared her experience of seeing ”happy kids spending time in the safe environment they deserve, parents relaxing as their kids play, adults zoning out as they run or walk, and folks on motorized accessibility devices in the roadway.” Most importantly, she says, “All San Franciscans deserve this sacred 1.5 miles of safe space to play.”

We know this announcement by Mayor London Breed comes just a week after she introduced the Slow Streets program, which will close streets to through-traffic throughout the city to give more space for people biking and walking while we shelter in place. In response to Slow Streets, your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition issued a response letter that called for streets in parks to be included. Clearly, our member-driven advocacy is being heard by our City leaders.

Take a look at all the asks we make in our letter, and sign on today so that we can keep pushing City leaders to make sure the Slow Streets program responds to our city’s needs.

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