Vision Zero: Working together to save lives on the road 

click to enlarge Sophia Liu
  • Mike Koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
  • A tribute marked the spot near where Sophia Liu was fatally hit.
Twenty-five people died last year while walking or biking in San Francisco. Some of the names were reported in the media, and others were not. But in each instance, we lost a life connected to families, friends and community. Sophia Liu. Tania Madfes. Amelie Le Moullac. Diana Carol Sullivan. Dylan Mitchell. And 20 others. Young, old, of all races, from all neighborhoods. Twenty-five deaths — 25 preventable deaths — happened in our city.

We can stop this.

Vision Zero is a road map to reducing the number of preventable deaths to zero — yes, zero — within the next 10 years. And it can be accomplished if our budget priorities truly address this crisis on our streets. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority has been working with city transportation experts and advocates to help implement this three-pronged strategy to save lives.

Vision Zero has three components: investments in education, enforcement and engineering. Our driver education and outreach campaign will reach out to the general public, and further, large-vehicle safety training will be mandated for the growing number of construction, Muni and other city-employed drivers on our roads.

The Police Department and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s parking control officers will step up their enforcement efforts, using existing data to target San Francisco’s most dangerous intersections. In addition, as a city pioneering innovation across sectors, we will leverage technology to automate enforcement so we may better deter and correct dangerous behaviors of unlawful motorists.

Finally, we must implement immediate, high-impact street redesign improvements that target our most dangerous corridors and intersections — particularly in the Tenderloin, South of Market and downtown areas, where the vast majority of fatal collisions take place.

In addition to Mayor Ed Lee’s support, we’re pleased to see the Police Department and SFMTA adopt Vision Zero and commit resources to support a multiagency Crisis Intervention Team. This team will be empowered to act quickly and creatively. This focused leadership is critical to getting projects past red tape and on the ground.

In the California Environmental Quality Act reforms the Board of Supervisors passed last year, we prioritized pedestrian and bike redesign safety in the planning process. We must expedite approval timelines to get these projects implemented now. There must be clear reporting and defined timetables for the work we undertake to reduce the injuries and fatalities happening on our streets. We will hold regular hearings at the Transportation Authority board to track and support the progress of city teams to deliver Vision Zero projects.

With these streamlining and accountability measures in place and continued advocacy by our residents, we intend to deliver two dozen pedestrian- and bicycle-safety strategies and improvement projects by 2015. We are ahead of other cities. We have years of data, and we have identified best practices in engineering and enforcement. We must prioritize these improvements in San Francisco’s budget.

Even with a booming local economy, our city government must make tough choices when funding projects. We may need to choose between prioritizing safety improvements over street beautification. We may need to find new sources of income to fund new parking control officers on our most congested arterial roads, and we may need to remove parking spaces to build traffic-calming sidewalk bulbouts. We were elected to make tough decisions, and we are confident that San Franciscans will add their voices to this necessary and urgent debate.

We welcome that conversation, as we are eager to educate everyone about how Vision Zero will save lives. Certainly by 2024 — but let’s start today.

John Avalos is a member of the Board of Supervisors and chairman of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. Jane Kim is a member of the Board of Supervisors and sits on the TA.

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