About two weeks after 6-year-old Sophia Liu was struck and killed by a car while she crossed the street with her mother and brother on New Year’s Eve, a memorial remains at the corner of Polk and Ellis streets where the collision occurred. A sign with her photo appeals to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to “please slow down.” Wilting flowers, stuffed teddy bears and burned-out candles sit on the sidewalk.
It’s a painful reminder that last year was a very deadly year for pedestrians. With 21 pedestrian deaths and four bicyclist fatalities, it was the deadliest year since 2001, according to Supervisor Jane Kim.
Kim, with the support of Supervisors John Avalos and Norman Yee, introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for a Vision Zero plan that would eliminate pedestrian fatalities within 10 years. On average, two to three pedestrians are hit by vehicles every day in San Francisco.
“Here in San Francisco, I believe we have cultivated a driver-first culture,” said Kim, who represents the South of Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods, which have high rates of such collisions. Liu was killed in the Tenderloin.
Last year, two-thirds of the fatalities involving vehicles and pedestrians were primarily the driver’s fault, according to police.
“We need a culture shift in The City,” Kim continued. “And it starts with holding our drivers accountable for the tremendous power they wield behind the wheel. Cars are weapons. And regardless of whose fault it is, it is the driver who can kill, not the pedestrian or the cyclist.”
The resolution would “expedite the goals of the Mayor’s Pedestrian Strategy and implement a near-term, three-point action plan to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2024 through engineering, enforcement and education.”
It calls on the Police Department to aggressively enforce traffic laws and regularly report traffic citations.
San Francisco would be following the lead of other cities, including Chicago and New York, which have laid out strategies for achieving zero fatalities for pedestrians and bicyclists. Plans also incorporate safety measures used in the U.K., the Netherlands and Sweden.
“We certainly support the goal of zero pedestrian fatalities by 2024 and will work hard to attain it, because one fatality is one too many,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Under the proposal, the SFMTA would create a so-called “crisis intervention” team that would implement at least one pedestrian safety project each month for the next two years in the most dangerous areas of The City. Those projects could include such things as extended sidewalks at intersections (bulb-outs), bike lanes, left-turn restrictions and speed reductions.
The resolution also calls for increased driver education and mandatory driver-safety training for any driver under contract with The City, which seemingly is meant to address incidents like the one in which a Recology garbage truck fatally struck a pedestrian last month.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the resolution Feb. 4.
It’s unclear if Mayor Ed Lee will support the resolution.
Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said Lee is working on an awareness campaign that will include “stepped-up enforcement” and that “long-term and sustainable funding is what is needed.”