by Thomas K. Pendergast
In October, the City will start building 10 “speed humps” to slow down traffic on the west side of Golden Gate Park, including one which will also be a raised crosswalk.
This is in response to SF Mayor Ed Lee’s executive directive calling for safety improvements in Golden Gate Park over the next nine months, after a woman bicyclist was killed on John F. Kennedy Drive, near the intersection of 30th Avenue, by a hit-and-run-driver in a stolen car last June.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) says a recent traffic study in Golden Gate Park found that cars were driving above the speed limit. The study collected information between roughly when the last fatality occurred and when the speed humps were proposed. It concluded that during peak traffic hours, cars exceeded the speed limit between seven to nine miles per hour on average.
The SF Department of Public Health has designated J.F.K. Drive as a “high injury” traffic corridor. The analysis which resulted in this conclusion was completed in 2014, when 130 miles of streets throughout the City that had the highest concentration of accidents were classified as high injury.
Luis Montoya, director of the SFMTA’s Livable Streets program, said at least part of the problem could be local people
attempting to cut through the park to get somewhere faster and avoiding traffic congestion.
“We’ve heard that from a number of people and we’ re actually collecting data right now, out there counting cars, to try understanding that a little bit better,” Montoya said.
Patrick Golier, a Livable Streets senior transportation planner, said the question of whether or not residents are using park streets to get to their destinations is a separate question than the speed issue.
“That would just impact the number of vehicles through Golden Gate Park,” Golier said. “Our immediate efforts are really trying to address the speeds at which vehicles are traveling.”
Miriam Sorell, SFMTA project manager for the speed hump project, said at this point they are waiting for data to be collected during October before they make any further plans.
“We did initially consider what would make sense for the entirety of J.F.K.,” Sorell said. “Because this has been pretty new and because we are considering a broader project, we’ll look at a variety of options. We wanted to figure out what the most critical locations are, most in need of improvement.”
She said that because of the separated bicycle lanes on the eastern leg of J.F.K. Drive, bicycle riders and pedestrians are both already kept safely away from moving vehicles.
Montoya added, “What we want to emphasize is that we’ ve heard people’s concerns about
traffic safety in the park and we want to collect some data to understand the nature of the issues more. We want to have a conversation with all the people who use the park, to decide what changes might be needed to address the safety concerns that we see.”
According to Golier, speed humps are an effective tool for slowing vehicular traffic.
“Speed humps are cheap. They are easy to build. And, there’s really no other trade off,” Golier said. “There’s no parking removal required, and they are incredibly effective at managing vehicular speed over stretches of roadway.”
One change under consideration for the western portion of the park is dedicated bicycle lanes, but enthusiasm for them is not shared by all.
“We have had some ongoing concerns about that. One concern is for people with disabilities who are in cars and trying to park. It can be a big problem for people to be able to get out of their vehicles safely,” said Jessica Lehman, the executive director at Senior and Disability Action, a community advocacy group. “If somebody has a van with a ramp or a lift on the right side that can open into the bike lane, that can be really dangerous. With para-transit vehicles, or anybody trying to load or unload, the question is can they use the sidewalk to drop somebody off safely if there is a protected bike lane?”
Nicole Ferrara, the executive director of Walk San Francisco, another community advocacy group, said the speed humps are
a good first step toward addressing traffic issues in Golden Gate Park, but there needs to be a more comprehensive safety approach.
“The community and the city need to come together around what’s physically possible on that space, and what is feasible,” Ferrara said.
She recalled a recent trip to Vancouver, Canada, that gave her some ideas.
“It actually had a great cycle track model that was elevated to the height of the sidewalk, so anyone pulling up next to the cycle track could get off onto the cycle track and get onto the sidewalk without having to go down again, but it’s made out of asphalt so it looks very different from the sidewalk,” she said. “So, we can be creative. We’re a creative city. We can find solutions that will work for everyone.
“Another thing that they did in Vancouver was pedestrian crosswalk areas on the cycle track so people knew where to expect walking,” Ferrara said.
The SF Recreation and Park Department’s Open Space Advisory Committee will have a public meeting about the issue on Oct. 4, at 6:30 p.m., in City Hall, Room 278. The SF Recreation and Park Commission intends to take the matter up in its Oct. 20 meeting, at 10 a.m., in City Hall, Room 416.
For more information about the speed hump project on J.F.K. Drive, go to the website at http://www.sfmta.com/projects-planning/projects/golden-gate-parktraffic-safety-project.