Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On the rise in American cities: the car-free zone

Image of JFK Drive in Golden Gate ParkFrom the Christian Science Monitor, 05.02.07:

Pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers are king of the road – at least sometimes – as more US cities ban autos from parks or designated districts.

San Francisco - Every Saturday starting May 26 through Sept. 30, bicyclists, joggers, and pedestrians will have free rein on almost a mile of John F. Kennedy Drive, the main drag through Golden Gate Park. The usual denizens of the road – autos – will be banned, detoured elsewhere.

Vehicles are already prohibited in parts of the park on Sundays, and the decision to "go carless" on Saturdays as well concludes a heated seven-year debate. In the end, arguments that such road closures promote family activities, more active lifestyles, and tighter-knit communities carried the day.

The auto's demotion at Golden Gate Park follows dozens of similar moves in at least 20 American cities in the past three years. It's a trend that is gaining ground rapidly in the US, say urban planners.(Read more.)
This isn't directly related to workday bicycle commuting. But bicycling is an indisputably fun, healthy form of recreation--and bicycles are also useful for weekend transportation.

The victory of the "Healthy Saturdays" compromise in San Francisco is a credit to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), the leading group in a broad coalition of rollerskaters, environmentalists, youth advocates, and community groups. Many suspect the recent Critical Mass media storm was an orchestrated attempt to undermine the SFBC's momentum on this campaign.

I have to quibble with the Christian Science Monitor on one thing: The debate on car-free space on JFK Drive has lasted far, far longer than seven years. If only it were seven years. I was involved in the mid-1990s with SFBC's Golden Gate Park Taskforce, an effort that led to a petition-qualified ballot initiative in 2000. It failed to a better funded opposition and manipulative politics, leading to a successful seven-year effort to win "Healthy Saturdays." All along the way we faced intense media opposition.

Congratulations to the SFBC and all the supporters of parks for people, not parking.

Image: Chris Duderstadt
Visit: Healthy Saturdays Coalition
Visit: Designing Cities for People, Earth Policy Institute
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

No comments: