By Adam Nagourney : nytimes – excerpt
Though pedestrians and cyclists are rejoicing at a Golden Gate Park ban on cars, rebounding museums fear the detour will keep visitors away.
SAN FRANCISCO — From the top of the Hamon Observation Tower at the de Young Museum, with its sweeping views of San Francisco, John F. Kennedy Drive cuts a gentle curve through Golden Gate Park below. It is, these days, a road without cars, set aside for pedestrians and bicyclists since the beginning of the pandemic, which forced the museum to shut down for nearly a year.
But as the de Young comes slowly back to life, this six-lane road has become a flash point, pitting two historically influential constituencies — cultural institutions and park enthusiasts — against each other in a divisive debate about public space, the arts and the priorities of a city rethinking its future after the pandemic.
For park-goers, closing the road to cars has shown what can be and should be: A broad boulevard that cuts through the city’s premier park, transformed into a safe, quiet refuge for people to enjoy on foot, Rollerblades, skate boards and bicycles.
For the museum, the closed road has become another obstacle as it tries to draw people back to an institution slightly off the beaten path. The road closing has cut off the vehicular approach from the north side of the park, made it more difficult for trucks to make deliveries and eliminated free parking spots, including some set aside for people with disabilities…
Megan Bourne, the chief of staff for the museums, said they were confronting a coalition that had been organizing for 20 years. “It has a large voice in the city,” she said. “It has a great deal of influence of how the roads are used.”…
Shamann Walton, the president of the board of supervisors, argued in an op-ed in the San Francisco Examiner that banning cars was “recreational redlining”; cutting off the park to people with disabilities and minorities who do not live near Golden Gate…
The board of supervisors, which will make the final decision on the road later this year, has asked for more study of the issue in the face of high emotions on both sides, but particularly from Golden Gate denizens who have been fighting this battle for decades.
“They are less experienced at advocacy and this type of civic engagement than the bicycle coalition and the other groups of activists who are pushing for a car-free J.F.K. Drive,” said Gordon Mar, a member of the board of supervisors whose district abuts the park. “The leadership of institutions like the de Young and the Academy of Sciences don’t engage in local policymaking and political efforts as much as the folk on the other side.”…(more)
The terms park enthusiasts and park-goers is inaccurate. The term should be anti-car groups, lead by the Bicycle Coaltion and SFWalk brigade. Park enthusiasts and park-goers include people who arrive or arrived by motor vehicles, including private and public vehicles. The widespread media hype about the closure of this and many other streets and parking difficulty and the car break-ins and muggings in SF has cut the number of visitors considerably.
The streets are not needed by the cyclists or pedestrians for days access and recreation as there are miles of bike paths and pedestrian walkways throughout the park that fully accommodate the needs of bikers and hikers.