My Ode to a Walkable City

What car-free JFK can mean for San Francisco

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: San Francisco just permanently made one of Golden Gate Parkโ€™s roads car-free. People-first policies like this can transform cities into livable, green, and happier places.

Read on for moreโ€ฆ

This week, San Francisco had a historic win. Not only is it exciting for my fellow San Franciscans, but itโ€™s also a shining example of what people-first policies can look like in major cities.

So sit back, relax, and imagine a city that works for people over cars.

@corgiemachines favorite spot

First, a little bit of background. In March 2020, the city transformed into a walkable, people-first city where certain streets were designated โ€œslow streets,โ€ parklets popped up for outdoor dining, and John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park was blocked off to cars allowing residents to walk, bike, run, and play without fear.

What came out of โ€œcar-free JFKโ€ was nothing short of a miracle for pandemic weary San Franciscans. I honestly donโ€™t know how I could have managed the stresses of the pandemic without car-free JFK.

Walking into the park every morning and evening was the shot of community love and joy that I needed during those times. Even though we were unsure how the virus spread, we could still feel in community with others just by going for a bike ride or walking our dogs.

A few car-free JFK memories over the years

Living next to the park has been a blessing. Not only does it allow me to be more active, but I can feel close to my community.

It was the small moments that buoyed my spirit.

A friendly chat with a fellow dog owner.

Watching a very wobbly kid attempt to learn how to ride their bike.

Listening to the live swing dance music as swing dancers young and old come together for a little joy on their Saturday.

Listening to a homeless man tell me about his hopes and dreams.

Friends embracing for the first time after their first vaccine dose.

Watching the stream of cyclists with their kids commute on the โ€œSF bike busโ€ organized by Kid Safe SF.

And of course sitting at the Skate Place watching the insane talent from the most eclectic group of skaters.

So hereโ€™s the historic win.

After months (technically years) of rallying support and nine hours of public comment, the SF Board of Supervisors approved a measure to make JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park car-free forever!

Why is this important? Itโ€™s just a small stretch of road in a park. Yes, but it means so much more than that. San Franciso like most major cities is stubbornly a car culture. The amount of pedestrian and cycling fatalities a year should prove that.

But what if we did it differently?

What if we planned our cities around people?

Stress levels due to commuting would recede, accidents around the city would decline, and we would actually see our fellow human beings. Seeing and interacting with people that are not like us is transformative.

Imagine the possibilities.

I love my city deeply. I hope that this is only the start of transforming San Francisco into a people-first, green city.

*For my fellow San Franciscans, if youโ€™re around this Thursday, weโ€™re all celebrating by the Conservatory from 4-7 pm. Join the festivities!

๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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