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Protected bike lanes not considered for Golden Gate Park for beauty reasons

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After the deaths of two cyclists on the same day last year, Mayor Ed Lee issued a directive to speed up traffic safety improvements in the park. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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New protected bike lanes won’t grace Golden Gate Park anytime soon because the barriers may detract from the park’s beauty and interfere with marathons.

That’s according to San Francisco Recreation and Park Department Director Phil Ginsburg and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff, who revealed the news during an informational presentation on traffic safety improvements in Golden Gate Park at a Rec and Park Commission meeting on Thursday.

At the meeting, SFMTA planner Mark Dreger discussed a suite of traffic safety improvements set to begin construction in Golden Gate Park this fall. They include new stop signs, painted crosswalks, raised crosswalks (which resemble speed humps), speed humps, turn guidance markings for drivers, “safe hit” posts bordering bike lanes and new dedicated turn lanes.

Dreger also described substantial success in slowing drivers with speed humps on John F. Kennedy Drive in the park.

The improvements come after the deaths of two bicycle riders on the same day, June 22, 2016. Heather Miller, 41, was killed on John F. Kennedy Drive near 30th Avenue in Golden Gate Park by a speeding driver. Katherine Slattery, 26, was killed at the intersection of Seventh and Howard streets by a driver running a red light.

Soon after, Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive directive to speed up bike safety with specific asks, including a study of traffic calming in Golden Gate Park.

Though protected bike lanes may not twist through Golden Gate Park anytime soon, speed humps installed on John F. Kennedy Drive have reduced drivers’ speeds in the park from 32 mph to 26 mph, according to public health data. Slower speeds, even by as much as 5 mph, can save lives, according to public health officials.

“This was our immediate response, addressing near-term improvements where Heather Miller passed,” Dreger said.

Though SFMTA and Rec and Park saw success with traffic calming measures, there won’t be physical barriers for cyclists in the park, at least not yet.

Rec and Park Commissioner Kat Anderson asked Dreger to explain why no physical bike lane barriers were proposed.

“We’re dealing with some particular circumstances in the park,” Dreger said. “We do have some concerns for aesthetics, and various events like foot races on the streets, and concerns not to constrict the roadway width.”

Protected bike lanes haven’t been ruled out altogether.

“We discussed [protected bike lanes] with MTA,” Ginsburg said. “This is a longer term endeavor.”
Approvals for the projects already in the pipeline will come before various commission and boards in August, including Rec and Park and the SFMTA, with input from the San Francisco Fire Department.

New traffic signals will aim to improve crossing on Fulton Street, as well as at 28th, 33rd and 37th avenues. New “bus bulbs,” where the sidewalk juts out so buses don’t have to swerve to the curb, will also be installed along Fulton Street.

“In my view, there are too many cars in the park,” Ginsburg told commissioners.

“It’s primarily and fundamentally a park,” Ginsburg added. “The primary commute road is Crossover Drive. The other roads in the park are for park circulation and park access, not to get from someplace to someplace else.”

Editor’s Note: The photo caption and story have been updated from the original versions.

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