Saturday, July 25, 2009

Share the Path, Love the Panhandle

Once proposed as an extension of Interstate 80 to cut through Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle Park today calms the city as an oasis between the busy Oak and Fell corridors. Pedestrians, bicyclists, parents with strollers, dog walkers, sun-seekers, tai chi enthusiasts, neighbors and lucky tourists enjoy this leafy flourish every day.

A scan through yelp reviews of the Panhandle Park and path remind us how cherished this strip of park and asphalt is to so many San Franciscans. Bicyclists revere the path as a haven on their daily commute. Lauren W. posted her praise a year ago: "I didn't love the panhandle until I got my bike." Another cyclist extolled the eight block ride in the Panhandle as a huge respite from negotiating the traffic (often speeding) on Fell and Oak.

Sometimes cyclists enjoy the rush of spinning fast on the Panhandle Path as one of the extremely few opportunities in the city to be free of car and bus traffic -- sometimes so much they lose sight that they're travelling a SHARED, MULTIPLE USE PATH with peds having as much right to walk or jog there. The much greater problem are the roadies envisioning themselves as Alberto Contador owning the Tour de France on our humble Panhandle Path. recently highlighted a traffic calming visual* used in London to temper cycle speed on pathways shared with pedestrians. Might this lead to vertigo attacks, infants grabbing the edge of their strollers, and some cyclists actually SLOWING DOWN?

I'm embarrassed that a few cyclists suggest walkers should keep to their own dedicated path on the south side of the Panhandle. That bumpy, cracked, never-maintained strip of aged asphalt should never be wished on anyone who wants a decent, safe walk. It's not suitable for strollers or anyone a little unsure of their footing. Better to suggest that Rec & Park give the southside route a makeover or that a parallel walking path accompany the current shared use strip.

In the meantime, be mindful of others, enjoy the century-old Eucalyptus trees, the cyclists, the peds, the strollers, the picnickers and optimistic sun seekers.

* photo courtesy of Daily Mail UK

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