By Heather Murdock
“Be kind, say hello, ride slow, and enjoy shared spaces.”
These are some of the slogans on signs in Golden Gate Park to encourage us be more caring toward one another while enjoying the car-free roadways.
During a stressful pandemic it’s wonderful that our Recreation and Park Department is working hard to keep residents and visitors healthy and safe, providing extra space to socialize and exercise outdoors, while also benefiting the environment with fewer cars in natural spaces. I was stunned to read Paul Kozakiewicz’s disparaging comments towards car-free roadways, Park Manager Phil Ginsburg and the Park Department in his latest commentary.
He challenges westside residents to notice the lack of the diversity on JFK Drive due to the road closure, but whenever I visit this area of the park, I’m delighted to see people of all ages, genders, races and ranges of mobility walking, biking, scooting, skating, skateboarding, and dancing on the car-free roadways. I also see the free Golden Gate Park shuttle transporting people to the many attractions that the commentary suggests are less accessible due to road closures. There are eight shuttle stops including JFK Drive, Conservatory of Flowers, Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum. Perhaps more shuttles and better advertising of this park feature would help with some of Kozakiewicz’s concerns.
On my recent visit to the park, I also witnessed an organized 5K/15K race, a Zumba class, swing dancing, live music, frisbee, yoga, soccer, baseball, martial arts, tai chi, paddle boats, surrey bikes, bird watching, reading, badminton, picnics and many other gatherings and activities. It’s so wonderful to see people enjoying nature, exercising, and socializing with one another safely outside.
We are truly lucky to have such spectacular parks and beaches here in San Francisco and I would like to thank our dedicated SF Recreation and Park staff, especially Phil Ginsburg, for everything they do. Even if you’ve never visited the park before, you’re still benefiting from the the work of the Park and Botanical Garden staff. The plants they maintain purify the air, produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, cool our climate, and provide habitat and nutrients for other organisms important to our ecosystem.
Implementing car-free roads during the pandemic and beyond is very forward thinking. These roadways help our physical and mental health by encouraging outdoor exercise, time with family and friends, screen-free activities, and a safer space not only from cars but also from COVID.
I also value car-free roads in San Francisco as a step toward mitigating climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. I understand the frustration people have with road closures, but I believe the many benefits outweigh the inconveniences.
If you are one of the millions of people who enjoy the car-free roadways, or even if you’ve never been, but are concerned about the environment, please let the Recreation and Park Department and your supervisor know that you support keeping these roads car-free.
Heather Murdock is a Sunset District resident.