Golden Gate Park bike lanes may be safety risk for disabled

A new bike lane planned for Golden Gate Park has raised the ire of disabled advocates who say the pathway poses a safety hazard.

Click on the photo at right to see more on this story.

The bike lane, the first of its kind in The City, will be situated between a row of parked cars and the sidewalk on John F. Kennedy Drive. The parked automobiles will provide a shield to cyclists from automobile traffic, and an accompanying buffer zone is aimed at preventing bikers from being struck by opening car doors.

The lane, set to be installed over a 1½-mile stretch in December, is a cornerstone of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting The City plan, which aims to improve cycling access on city streets.

But because cars will now have to park several feet from the curb, crossing the bike lane — full of swift-moving cyclists — will be very difficult for persons with limited mobility, said Byron Yan of the Independent Living Resources Center, an advocacy organization for the disabled.

A separate problem is that the buffer zones — off-limit spaces to both cyclists and motorists — are not wide enough for wheelchair users who get unloaded from paratransit vehicle lifts, said Howard Chabner, a wheelchair user.

Instead of being dropped off in the buffer zones, wheelchair users will be placed down in bike traffic.

Chabner said that until the issue came before the Mayor’s Disability Council on Oct. 14, there was no outreach to the disabled community about this proposal, despite it being worked on by various city agencies for a year.

“It’s real clear that no one thought too much about how this would affect the disabled community,” Chabner said.

“It comes down to a civil right to safety for disabled people, versus the interest — an important one, but not a civil right — of bicyclists.”

Bob Planthold, a longtime local  activist for the disabled, said he is reaching out to Mayor Ed Lee urging them to stop this project.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, which has more than 10,000 members, said her organization and the city agencies working on the plan received extensive feedback from the Mayor’s Office on Disability and other advocacy groups when coming up with up a design.

Shahum said similar projects have been added in cities such as Portland, Oregon and New York City, and early results have shown improved safety conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. Those plans have not yielded any issues for people with disabilities either, she said.

Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is leading the project, said the design of the plan could be tweaked — there are no major infrastructure changes — if problems arise with the new lane.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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