Imagine No Deaths: Supes, Safe Streets Advocates Call for “Vision Zero”

Duboce Avenue at Noe Street. Photo: Aaron Biailck

A coalition of safe streets advocates, community organizations, and city supervisors have launched a campaign for San Francisco to join leading cities in adopting a “Vision Zero” goal — an end to traffic deaths on city streets within ten years.

“We need a culture shift in San Francisco, and it has to start from the top down,” said Supervisor John Avalos, also the chair of the SF County Transportation Authority, in a statement. “We’re calling for our mayor, our police chief and our SFMTA director to commit to allocating resources to the three areas that we know can save lives,” he said, referring to engineering, education, and enforcement efforts to reduce crashes.

Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. Image: Board of Supervisors
Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. Image: Board of Supervisors

Leaders in Chicago and New York City have adopted Vision Zero policies, following the lead of Sweden, which launched the official campaign in 1997, though the country’s traffic deaths have been declining since the 1970s despite increasing population.

In a press release, Supervisors Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee said they’ll introduce a resolution calling for a “Vision Zero Plan” based on three major components:

  • The establishment of a “crisis intervention” team by the SFMTA that would be tasked with getting at least two dozen pilot projects into the ground over the next two years, using “near-term, low-cost safety improvements in the areas with repeat traffic collisions.”
  • SFPD to direct its traffic enforcement resources to “cite the most problematic dangerous behaviors and locations.”
  • A “citywide safety awareness program for drivers.” Supervisors Yee and Avalos are “targeting state funding opportunities through the Transportation Authority” to fund it, and Supervisor Kim has called for the formation of “an interagency work group to develop a large vehicle and city fleet driver education program for all city employees or drivers who contract with the city.”

Last year, the number of people killed while walking and biking — 21 pedestrians and four bicyclists –- was the highest since 2007, noted a statement from Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition:

Despite calls for critical safety improvements to the streets and more data driven enforcement of traffic crime and widespread education, the Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney and SFMTA Director have made only small commitments to street safety and have not committed to any larger vision toward keeping our residents safe on increasingly chaotic streets.

“It is completely unacceptable to end 2013 with a record loss of life,” said Supervisor Kim in a statement. “We must beef up our engineering, enforcement and education efforts, and fully fund and dramatically strengthen the Pedestrian Strategy.”

At least one city with a population comparable to SF has reduced annual traffic deaths close to zero. Copenhagen, Denmark, hasn’t officially adopted a Vision Zero policy, but thanks to the city’s safety efforts, in 2009 it saw only five traffic deaths, the Danish newspaper Politiken reported the following year. As of 2011, traffic deaths were lower than at any time since the 1950s, according to the city’s official website. Copenhagen has a population of 560,000 in the central city.

In Sweden, traffic deaths are declining even as the amount of traffic grows. Image: Swedish Road Administration via Walk SF

“After the unacceptable number of combined pedestrian and cyclist fatalities last year, the need for public awareness is greater than ever,” said a statement from Supervisor Yee, who has been seriously injured by a driver, and whose grandfather was killed by a driver. “We have to reach communities through different mediums and in different languages about the importance of driver safety and vigilance on our streets.”

Mayor Ed Lee is expected to make an announcement regarding pedestrian safety tomorrow.

Here’s a list of groups supporting the “Vision Zero” campaign:

Excelsior Action Group, Chinatown TRIP, Central City SRO Collaborative, the Yerba Buena Neighborhood Alliance, the Mission Economic Development Agency, the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (NOPNA), CA Walks, CC Puede, Central City SRO Collaborative, Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown TRIP, Community Housing Partnership, Folks for Polk, Friends of Monterey Boulevard, Livable City, Mission Community Market, the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, SFUSD, SF Bay Walks, SF Housing Action Coalition, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

  • voltairesmistress

    I don’t trust our status quo mayor, police chief, and fire chief to get it. For them this past year it’s been the opposite — zero vision.

  • Upright Biker

    Maybe they’re starting to get it…they are politicians, after all.

    I’m going to play the optimist: Looking forward to Mayor Lee announcing “20 is Plenty” at his press conference tomorrow.

  • djconnel

    I saw no mention of slowing down cars. And if you don’t slow down cars, it’s all just talk.

  • mikesonn

    Well, Ed Lee wants to return Sundays to god and remove metering so that should help with having less cars on our streets

  • Rod_North

    I’d vote for abolishing right turn on red for all intersections. I see that abused routinely and dangerously. The city must have the power to enact that because it is forbidden at a number of city intersections already.

  • GC

    I disagree. This is something that can be done quite safely.

    Anyway, I think the state decides how stop signs are treated, not the city or county.

  • GC

    Long overdue.

  • Upright Biker

    See, that’s what I get for playing the optimist.

    I’ve been played the fool instead.

  • thielges

    Perhaps first start with enforcing the “After a complete stop” part of the “right turn on red” allowance. Coming to a complete stop really decreases the chance of a collision.

  • JJ94117

    “coming to a complete stop”… I’d add “before the crosswalk”. Some dirtbag cut my 3 yr old and I off to sit in a crosswalk waiting to turn right earlier this week. When I said something to him (to be fair, I was not polite about it), he said that if I wanted my daughter to be safe, I wouldn’t let her cross the streets at all. WTF?

  • gneiss

    I disagree. Many motorists do not come to a complete stop, nor do they look to the right before executing their turn. I’ve had more incidents then I’d care to count where people encroach on the crosswalk while waiting for traffic to clear from the left and fail to look to their right before turning. In high volume pedestrian environments like we have in SF it simply encourages bad behavior by motorists. Better to ban all right on red turns in the city rather than piecemeal one intersection at a time.

  • I’m going to reserve judgment until I see what plans they have to implement this vision.

  • SFF

    I doubt the city can do this, since it’s a state law that allows turning right on a red light or can they? I guess they could since there are some intersection where there is a no turn on red sign, they would just have to put them up at all intersections

  • The Grammarian

    you mean “fewer cars”

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