Mayor, SFMTA, Walk SF Announce First 15 MPH School Zone

"Walk SF has been working on this campaign to get 15 mile an hour safer speed zones around schools for a long time, and we're so excited that it's coming to fruition," said Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF (at microphone). In background: Mayor Ed Lee, SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman, Police Chief Greg Suhr and far right, SFMTA Chief Ed Reiskin. Photo: Bryan Goebel

San Francisco became the first large California city to implement a 15 mph speed zone around a school this morning, as SFMTA workers installed one of four signs that will go up around George Peabody Elementary School on 7th Avenue in the Richmond District. It’s part of a groundbreaking citywide initiative pushed by walking advocates to implement safe speed zones around 200 schools, and comes right as the school year is beginning this week.

“It’s really a very simple issue. Kids need to be able to get to school, to leave school and to have any other interface between the school and the street happen safely,” said SFMTA Chief Ed Reiskin, who started his job as the head of the agency on Monday. He was joined by Mayor Ed Lee, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, Supervisor Eric Mar, walking and biking advocates, SFMTA officials, San Francisco Unified School District officials and others.

“It’s verified that the streets and areas around our schools are dangerous, that they need to be slowed down,” said Lee. “It’s been shown in study after study, and the last one that we looked at was in London, and it showed that when you slow down, even a fraction of the speed, you can get a high increase in safety and a reduction in the amount of fatalities that result from a car collision.”

Lee said the signs, funded by $361,700 in Prop K sales tax funds from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, should be in place at all schools in San Francisco by early 2012.

An SFMTA worker installs a 24x48 inch 15 mph zone sign, as the Mayor and other officials look on. Photo: Bryan Goebel

The 15 mph campaign is a victory for the pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco, which has been relentlessly pushing the issue for some time.

“We’re here today to establish these speed limits because the thing is, speed kills. If you’re hit by a car that’s going 30 miles an hour you’re six times more likely to be killed than if that car is going just 10 miles an hour less, 20 miles an hour,” said Walk SF executive director Elizabeth Stampe. “Establishing these safe speed zones around our schools will make it safer not only for kids to walk to school, but for everybody.”

Stampe said the new speed zones will help make the streets safer for children at a time when the SFUSD has been forced to cut its transportation budget by 44 percent and significantly scale back yellow school bus service. More and more parents, she said, will need to find alternate transportation for their kids. In addition, new school reassignments will have more children going to neighborhood schools, which means they are close enough to walk, or bike.

SFUSD officials said they are working on boosting programs to get more kids to walk and bike to school as part of the Safe Routes to Schools program. Lee said the safe speed zone program will include education for drivers and stepped up enforcement by the SFPD.

“A couple of weeks ago, I was present when the young Phillies fan was hit by a car. Nothing impacts a person more than an injured child, especially as serious as that was, and it was so unnecessary,” said Suhr. “This speed limit will go a long way toward keeping the kids safe, and the enforcement will be strict. It’s a very expensive citation, but it’s one that if you’re putting the kids in jeopardy will be well deserved and will be given. Please, slow down around schools, no electric devices, no texting, avoid the ticket.”

The SFMTA recently legislated the first batch of 15 mph school zones, and another list is scheduled to go before an SFMTA engineering hearing tomorrow prior to proceeding to the SFMTA Board in the next few weeks.

“I think these signs and the community education that the police department and all of the city family will be working on in the 200 different schools and sites will help save lives,” said District 1 Supervisor Mar.

Mayor Ed Lee talks to parents driving their kids to school about the new 15 mph zones. Photo: Francis Tsang, Mayor's Press Office
  • Er!k

    Hopefully this will be a well-enforced policy.  Nice work!

  • mikesonn

    Was there any progress on getting kids to “local” schools so that parents don’t have to haul their kids all over the city? I thought I remember hearing this school year was going to start the process of having kids go to nearby schools instead of the lottery system. I could be wrong.

    Either way, this is great and I hope it continues to expand and has enforcement support.

  • Sprague

    Beginning with this Fall’s kindergarteners, neighborhood schools  are easier to get into.  Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more kids (and their folks) walking and riding to their local school.

  • roberto

    Oak St/Webster-John Muir School
    Oak St/Gough-French-American School
    Can we get Oak traffic to go 15MPH, or will moving cars continue to take priority over kids’ safety?

  • 94103er

    Sadly, not really. The lottery system’s still very much there. In fact, our awesome school board poison-pilled the ‘new’ lottery system in the final stages of planning and awarded kids from low-performing census tracts top priority, aside from sibling preferences. This pretty much means that few kids east of the Sunset/Richmond can actually get a good neighborhood school or nearby language immersion/K-8 school. 

    So kids in this Richmond photo-op are presumably sitting pretty with neighborhood schools but not so much over here in the eastern, walkable parts of SF.

  • Jeffrey Miller

    Congrats to Walk SF, the kids of San Francisco and all citizens!  This is a model we hope that other cities will be able to implement!

  • Anonymous

    Richmond’s plenty walkable. This school has a walkscore of 88, and it’s well-deserved.

  • Mark D.

    Gotta say – not digging that “when children are present” tag.

  • Jim

    Bay humbug.  Kids have no place in this world
    -Rob Anderson

  • Anonymous

    So, I passed by today. My impression is that it’s a little pointless, because it doesn’t encompass any intersections, where it seems the need for caution is highest. Would prefer, say, a 20 mph speed limit in the whole area, with physical features (like bulbouts and such) to match.

  • Sprague

    This is America.  Moving cars takes priority over everything.  (Otherwise, I’m with you.  SF would be a much nicer place to raise kids if the traffic here were tamer and more respectful of the young lives in our midst.)

  • I, too, would rather see a 20 mph speed limit with physical traffic calming measures such as speed humps, bike lanes, lane narrowing and bulb outs, rather than rely on signs posted and citations to alter driver behavior.  

    In my observation, unless significant vehicle congestion is present, people in San Francisco tend to drive as fast as road design makes physically possible via lane width, light timing, and length of block(s) between signals/stop signs. I guess I have just lost faith in the ability of laws and citations to alter driver behavior, though I do admit that periodic stings increase driver awareness while they are happening and perhaps for a week or two afterward. Signs that flash a vehicle’s speed also appear to have some impact in slowing travel speeds down.

    In the course of an average trip across town by car I routinely see 1 out of 5 drivers talking on their cell phone, at least one driver making an illegal left turn, 25 – 50% of drivers going over the speed limit (depending on the street.)  As I wait for a bus near my home, I generally see 3 out of 4 cars roll through the four-way stop in front of me. As I ride my bike, I see on average a car/truck/van parked in a bike lane every 1 out of 3 blocks, and a car stopped in a bike box or partially covering a crosswalk 1 out of 4 times. In all the hours I spend traversing the city streets by car, bike or by foot I maybe see one vehicle pulled over by a cop for every 100 infractions I witness. There are just not enough police giving out citations to actually ensure safe roads, and I’m not actually sure I want our police force to focus on traffic to the exclusion of other tasks. On the other hand, physical forms of traffic calming do make a significant impact and work 24/7, 365 days a year.

  • Anonymous

    When I’ve traveled to other places, I’ve often been surprised at how narrow many streets are. I’ve realized that it’s less a case of their streets being narrow, and more a case of our streets being unusually wide. Agree with all you say.

  • Bob Davis

    In the third paragraph:”…the streets…..need to be slowed down…”  To be more accurate, the streets just sit there, it’s the DRIVERS who need to be slowed down.

  • Upright Biker

    This is a total nitpick, but how about some attention to typography here?

    The space between the 1 and the 5 is so huge, it’s only a matter of time before some prankster turns it into a 125 MPH zone with wide tip marker.

    Just sayin’.

  • Charles

    They just pasted a sticker over the “2” that was there before. How will this end up costing $371k? Good question.