More San Francisco agencies signing on to pedestrian safety initiative Vision Zero 

click to enlarge A tribute marks the spot where a girl was fatally hit at Polk and Ellis streets Dec. 31. - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File photo
  • A tribute marks the spot where a girl was fatally hit at Polk and Ellis streets Dec. 31.
San Francisco’s police and public health departments didn’t wait to formally adopt Vision Zero resolutions before taking measures to eliminate pedestrian traffic fatalities, but have the opportunity to make their commitment official.

In a joint Police Commission and Board of Supervisors committee meeting in January, Police Chief Greg Suhr vowed support for Vision Zero, but the formal resolution will come before the commission for the first time Wednesday.

At the meeting, police Commander Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, will present new data on the first quarter of the year, during which officers began ramping up traffic enforcement.

In March, the police department announced it issued 10,530 traffic citations in January of this year, a 43 percent increase since January 2013, and 11,123 citations in February, a 54 percent increase since January 2013. On Wednesday, Ali will report to the commission that March saw even more citations -– 12,444 -– and that April had 11,655, a 6 percent decrease from that number.

The slight decline in citations from March to April, Ali attributed to a number of factors, like activities in The City to which resources were diverted.

“We’re not going to be always escalating. Like playing the stock market, you’re always going to see ebbs and flows,” Ali said. “As long as you’re moving in the right direction, you’re good, and I think we are.”

But as more officers get recruited to bring the force to full staffing, he said he expects the number of citations to trend upward.

Overall, “we’re seeing improvements,” said Ali, who will also detail to the commission an overall decrease in traffic collisions and various efforts the department took in the first quarter of this year to mitigate pedestrian collisions and fatalities.

The Department of Public Health, a co-chair of the Vision Zero Task Force along with the SFMTA, has long spearheaded a data-driven project that revealed 60 percent of severe and fatal injuries occur at 6 percent of The City’s streets. In March, the Health Commission’s Community and Public Health Committee recommended the full commission adopt a Vision Zero resolution, and Tuesday was the first date the vote could be calendared in. It passed unanimously.

“We had so many speakers, it took a long time to find a date everyone could come to,” said Ana Validzic, the department’s pedestrian and traffic safety coordinator. “The reason it’s important for the health department to adopt Vision Zero is our mission is to prevent death and injury."

The SFMTA was the first city agency to formally adopt Vision Zero in February, and the Board of Supervisors followed suit in March. Mayor Ed Lee announced his commitment at the State of the City Address, District Attorney George Gascon did so in his State of Public Safety Address, and Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru did so at Walk to Work Day last month.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk San Francisco, said she hopes the Planning Department will adopt Vision Zero in early June and is working to get the Fire Department and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on board as well. Vision Zero was first introduced months ago, but Schneider said the agencies should not rush into adoption.

“We prefer a well thought-out resolution that clearly outlines how Vision Zero is going to be implemented,” she said, rather “than just passing a resolution for the sake of it.”

The first Vision Zero Task Force meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for June 10 at 9:30 a.m. in City Hall Room 201.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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