Mayor’s vision for transportation falling short on safety: Citizens call for action 

click to enlarge pedestrians
  • David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • San Francisco's streets have become increasingly hostile for pedestrians and cyclists.
In an opinion article last week, Mayor Ed Lee laid out an argument for why we should invest more in San Francisco’s transportation system. And we could not agree more.

The ability for people to move where they need to go — in ways that are affordable, convenient, healthy and sustainable — is critical to our everyday lives and the future success of our city for people and businesses of all types.

But as San Francisco’s streets become increasingly hostile, with a nearly record-high number of tragedies last year, the lack of decisive action from our top leader is startling.

Imagine if two dozen people were violently attacked and killed in a shooting in San Francisco. Wouldn’t our mayor be mobilizing every resource in his control to help immediately and prevent future tragedies?

In fact, nearly two dozen people have been violently attacked and killed. Last year, 21 people were struck and killed by cars while walking and another four while biking — the highest number in seven years. Yet, we’ve seen little urgency from Lee, the police chief and other city leaders to stop preventable violent traffic crime before it claims the lives of more daughters, grandfathers, sisters, husbands and friends.

Shouldn’t we expect more?

Citizens call for Vision Zero

This death and destruction plaguing our streets should be no less important to the mayor than other types of violent crime.

Just since New Year’s Eve, three pedestrians have been killed, including a 6-year-old child and an 86-year-old man. In response to this spate of tragedies, frustrated citizens are coming together to demand that our elected leaders perform their most basic job responsibility of doing all they can to keep our residents safe.

We ask Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Transportation Director Ed Reiskin to publicly commit to the Vision Zero goal — which was introduced this week at the Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Jane Kim — of zero traffic deaths in 10 years, and to take decisive and sustained actions to reach this goal. The leaders of New York City and Chicago have already committed to this. Will our leaders now stand up and take real action to make our streets safer for all of us?

The majority of these deaths and injuries can and should be prevented — just as we tackle other types of serious violent crime. The recipe is already well-established. The tools are within our reach to reduce, and eventually eliminate, traffic deaths by:

Redesigning streets for slower, safer and less chaotic travel by adding corner sidewalk bulb-outs, safer crossings and protected bikeways at the locations with the highest number of serious traffic crime incidents, focusing on changes this year in South of Market and the Tenderloin.

Prioritizing police enforcement against the most dangerous behaviors and locations, and holding the police accountable for fair and equal enforcement and ending the victim-blaming.

Mandating meaningful education efforts, particularly for professional drivers, the majority of whom spend significant time on the streets with no training in pedestrian- and bicycle-safety awareness.

It’s time for our city leaders to stand up and say, “No more deaths on our streets!”

Mayor Lee: All eyes are upon you now. Will you translate your long-term vision for a more successful transportation system into near-term action for safety and accessibility on our streets?

Nicole Schneider is the executive director of Walk San Francisco and Leah Shahum is the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

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Nicole Schneider

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Nicole Schneider is the executive director of Walk San Francisco.
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