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Friday, August 7, 2009

'GodFather of Skating' Hopes to Use 'Sunday Streets' to Fight For Golden Gate Park 'Healthy Saturdays'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 7, 2009 at 5:15 PM

Leading the skate skate revolution...

San Francisco's GodFather of Skating, David Miles, Jr., has been one of the main supporters of Sunday Streets, the city's new series of events in which avenues are closed off to traffic to give bikers, skaters, and strollers free reign of the roadway. 

At the last event in the Mission, Miles' Golden Gate Park Sunday skate possee moved their act to Valencia Street to perform "Thriller," "Electric Slide," and the "Hokey Pokey" for passersby. (That's the GodFather in the furry red skates above.) At yesterday's press conference regarding Sunday's street closure in the Richmond District, Miles was one of the event's main cheerleaders. ("I'm the sparkplug of sorts. I energize the cause," he explains.)

But there's a motive behind his fight to make Sunday Streets a success. Miles was also one of the main proponents of closing JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park to traffic on "Healthy Saturdays" back in 2007. That placed the man who embodies the city's eccentric soul at the center of the ensuing fight with the park's cultural titans: The de Young Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, and the California Academy of Sciences. The museums lobbied hard at City Hall to keep the street open to traffic so their patrons  could easily access the buildings. 

The city eventually struck a compromise. A portion of JFK Drive would be closed on Saturdays from April to September. Making up only about half of the stretch the bikers and skaters take over on Sundays, it was a weak victory, and one that will expire in 2012. So Miles has three years to prove how important it is to have people out in the streets and not in their cars. What better way to prove that on a city-wide level than -- you guessed it.  

"I'm trying to kill as many birds with the only stone I have: Sunday Streets," Miles said. "It's inevitable this fight is going to come back."

Miles is part of the generation of skaters who started rolling on JFK Drive every Sunday in the 1970s. He developed his signature skate move he calls the "coffin" (see him perform it on the news here); it's at around the 2:45 mark. He also started up "Friday Night Skate" event in which thousands of skaters would skate along the Embarcadero, the inspiration for Critical Mass, he says. He still skates at the stretch of pavement at Kennedy and 6th Avenue in Golden Gate Park he calls the "Skatin' Place" each Sunday.

With his history in the park, he gets a bit annoyed when the "Sunday Streets" advocates pointed to the success of a similar event in Bogota, Colombia, to sell the idea to the city. "We've been doing this in Golden Gate Park for 42 years," Miles says. "I like to lead, not follow. They got it from us."

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Lauren Smiley


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