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Why our campaign for a car-free JFK Drive is on hold, and what’s next

 In Uncategorized

Exactly one week ago, we launched a campaign asking city leaders to make JFK Drive a car-free space for people everyday during shelter-in-place. 

Walk San Francisco launched this campaign because we believe this supports the City’s efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by ensuring a significant area for exercise that allows for social distancing. JFK Drive is already closed to vehicle traffic from Kezar Drive to Transverse Drive on Sundays to create a safe space for large numbers of people to be active; making this daily during shelter-in-place seems like a win-win for everyone’s health.

The response to this idea was enthusiastic to say the least. Within 24 hours, 500 people sent emails to Mayor London Breed, SF Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, and SF Recreation and Park Commissioners urging them to make JFK Drive car-free during shelter-in-place. And the list of fantastic reasons for this only got longer.

But in a press conference on Monday, Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, the Director of the SF Department of Public Health, stated that all trips outdoors must be minimized given the threat of Covid-19. During the conference, Dr. Colfax also stated that closure of JFK Drive to traffic is not happening at this time. 

This was incredibly disappointing to hear, and I personally was crushed.

But we also know that the Department of Public Health is overwhelmed dealing with everything from adequate equipment to hospital beds to healthcare workers. Continued pressure at this moment will not be well-received, and we need to respect that right now. So for the time-being and with heavy hearts, we are putting the campaign on hold.

I want to emphasize the “on hold” part. Things are changing daily, as we all know. Walk SF continues to support this idea, and this certainly isn’t the end of the road for a car-free JFK Drive. 

And I need to say this: The need to prioritize safety and people on our streets across San Francisco remains urgent. Three pedestrians have been killed this year. On average, three people are hit while walking every single day. So much more can and must be done to end severe and fatal traffic crashes. We cannot lose sight of this, nor can Walk SF slow its work for a single moment. 

Something I learned in the past week is that there are more people than ever who want safe streets in San Francisco. And if we can harness this, so much is possible: many more permanently car-free streets (including JFK Drive!); lower speed limits and serious enforcement (including widespread speed safety cameras); and getting the most cutting-edge safety designs on our streets to calm traffic and keep us all safer. And the list goes on.

Thank you for caring so much about our city and all of us during this crisis, and always.