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SF Supervisors Vote to Keep Cars Off JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park

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A man rides a bike in the bike lane and cars drive down the road.
A bicyclist rides in a separated bikeway on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, on May 9, 2012, in San Francisco. The lane separates bicyclists from traffic via a parking zone for cars. (Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban motorists from John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, making permanent a closure that started in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when people needed space to exercise and distance socially.

Since the pandemic began, San Francisco has barred cars from the eastern portion of JFK Drive, which runs alongside the Conservatory of Flowers and the de Young Museum.

After a 12-hour meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 for Mayor London Breed's proposal. The majority sided with supporters who said a car-free promenade was in keeping with the city's commitment to safer roads and a cleaner climate.

"I think we need to be acting boldly to address the threats of climate change and our unsafe streets, and I think car-free JFK is one important step in this direction," said Supervisor Dean Preston during the meeting.

Other roads in the park — which sees more than 24 million visitors a year — will stay open to drivers.

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Critics argued that permanently closing the 1.5-mile portion of John F. Kennedy Drive would cut off park access to people who are disabled or elderly or who live farther away, while benefiting select bicyclists and runners.

Some people asked for a compromise to keep the road car-free on weekends only, saying drivers needed access during the week.

The most vocal opponents were Supervisors Connie Chan and Shamann Walton, although Ahsha Safai also voted against Breed's proposal. Supervisor Chan’s proposal to allow greater access to some parts of JFK and Conservatory Drive was sent to the Land Use Committee while it waits for environmental review.

"To close down portions of the park says to a certain geography, says to a certain class of people, says to a certain race of people here in San Francisco that you weren't welcome before and you're still not welcome," Board President Shamann Walton, who represents one of the most diverse and lower-income parts of the city, said during the meeting.

The most recent battle between motorists and pedestrians and bicyclists has raged in San Francisco for roughly two years. In August, Breed announced that a stretch of coastal highway that was closed to cars in 2020 would reopen to vehicles during the week.

KQED's Sara Gaiser contributed reporting to this story.

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