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

Pedestrian and biking advocates are increasing the pressure for John F. Kennedy Drive through San Francisco's Golden Gate Park to remain car-free.

While the road is still closed, activists on Tuesday took to the steps of City Hall hoping to keep it that way for a mile and a half winds its way through San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Once a path for traffic through the city, since the pandemic it's been car-free.

Pedestrian and bike advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall, displaying 6,000 signatures of people who want it to remain closed.

"When I'm out there during the week and I see so many people out there using it, I just think, 'my gosh, this would be full of cars," said Jodie Medeiros from Walk SF. "It's just shameful to think that it could possibly go back that way if we don't have our decision makers 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 deaths in traffic collisions, and the city's environmental goals.

They took their message to the office of Supervisor Connie Chan, who has pitched a working group to determine the impact of a car-free JFK and work on a compromise.

Supervisor Dean Preston saying he's already made up his mind that keeping cars off JFK is the way to go.

"We are in a climate and street safety crisis," said Supervisor Preston. "We need to act boldly to address 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 looking to restore at least some vehicle traffic. San Francisco's Fine Arts museums say the de Young is down 48% from pre-pandemic visitorship, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, down 18%.

Megan Bourne from the city's Fine Arts Museums says part of that difference can be attributed to a lack of parking and access. She says she's hoping for a compromise to make sure that those with disabilities, who've lost 17 parking spaces near the museum, get a chance to visit as well.

"I've had two people tell me they are effectively banned from Golden Gate Park, and it's not just getting to the museum, it's getting to the Conservatory of Flowers, to the Ferris Wheel, to the tea garden," said Bourne.

Bourne says for some public transit is impractical, with an hour-long trip from some parts of the city; made especially difficult if visitors are traveling as a family.

"So you've got your mother, you've got the parents, you've got the kids that's a lot to get on public transportation," said Bourne.

While the debate continues over a car free JFK, the voters of the city may have the final word, Supervisor Connie Chan is looking at a potential ballot measure to address vehicle access to Golden Gate Park.