A Month After Kate and Heather’s Deaths, Mayor Lee Takes Action

The vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.
Last month’s vigil for Kate Slattery. Photo: Streetsblog.

It’s a little over a month since two cyclists were killed in one night on San Francisco’s streets: Kate Slattery, who was killed South of Market, and Heather Miller, who died while riding in Golden Gate Park. Today, in a rare move, Mayor Edwin Lee, after talks with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, issued an Executive Directive to bring safety improvements to the locations where they were killed.

The Directive includes instructions for:

  • SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements on 7th and 8th Streets in the next nine months
  • The SF Recreation & Parks Department (SF Rec & Park) and SFMTA to deliver near­-term safety improvements to reduce speeds and vehicular through­-traffic on JFK Drive in the next six months
  • SF Rec & Park and SFMTA to initiate a study of expanded traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park within the next three months

More details on the complete directive in a moment. First, some background.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition started pushing right away to get some action in response to the horrors of June 22. Streetsblog readers should take a moment and add to their letter-writing campaign by clicking here.

Brian Wiedenmeier, the Bicycle Coalition’s new executive director, has been in near constant contact with the Mayor’s office, SFPD, and SFMTA. In his own words:

Over the last month, the Mayor’s office has reached out to us, along with several city agencies, to meet regularly and develop a plan of action in light of the tragic fatalities on June 22. Informed by what we are hearing from our members through the 1,500 emails directed to the Mayor, we are approaching those meetings with the goal of seeing prompt, specific safety improvements delivered not just to the sites of two fatal collisions, but to streets across San Francisco.

We are urging the Mayor to demonstrate his commitment to Vision Zero by ensuring city departments take immediate actions to implement protected bike lanes, deliver significant safety improvements to the streets that saw the tragic fatalities of the past month, ensure SFPD focuses enforcement on the most dangerous traffic violations and speed the delivery of Vision Zero projects.

The Bicycle Coalition also put together this timeline of efforts to derive a concrete response to the tragedies:

SFBC Timeline

Below is the full list of Mayor Lee’s Executive Directive orders to all city departments to improve streets and the bike network. The Mayor will:

1. Require that all infrastructure implemented on the city-designated high-injury network be the highest achievable quality, including Class IV protected bicycle lanes, with comprehensive WalkFirst treatments.

2. Direct SFMTA to accelerate its Vision Zero engineering project delivery schedule to achieve a minimum of 13 miles of Vision Zero projects per year, with of the goal of increasing to 18 miles of projects per year.

3. Direct SFMTA to accelerate key projects in the capital plan to meet the goals outlined in the 2013-2018 Bicycle Strategy by completing three protected bike lane projects within the next nine months, including safety improvements on 7th Street and 8th Street.

4. Direct SF Rec & Park and the SFMTA to deliver near-term safety improvements to reduce speeds and vehicular through traffic on JFK Drive in the next 6 months.

5. Direct SF Rec & Park and SFMTA to initiate, within the next three months, a study of expanded traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park.

6. Direct the Department of Public Health to analyze collision and related data to identify areas where targeted safety investments can improve safety for youth, seniors, and people with disabilities, and in collaboration with SFMTA and community stakeholders develop recommendations for prioritized projects for those vulnerable populations.

7. Continue advocacy for Automated Speed Enforcement legislation at the state level.

8. Direct the Police Department to expand its efforts to meet its “Focus on the Five” goals and continue quarterly public reports and presentations at the Police Commission.

9. Direct the SFMTA, in coordination with other city departments, to begin implementing a comprehensive Vision Zero awareness campaign within the next 30 days to ensure widespread public knowledge and significant increased awareness of Vision Zero.

10. Direct the installation of telematic vehicle tracking systems in all motor vehicles owned or leased by the city, as appropriate, no later than January 1, 2017.

11. Direct the SFMTA to explore, over the next year, tests of other proven crash prevention solutions on SFMTA and city-owned or leased vehicles.

12. Direct the departments to track and report progress quarterly to the Mayor’s office, to be shared publicly and at regular meetings of the Vision Zero Task Force, SFMTA Board of Directors, and SF County Transportation Authority’s Vision Zero Committee meetings.

This is a welcome shift. Streetsblog readers will recall the Mayor got a dose of flak last month for sending out a release that implied that some of the Vision Zero projects already in the pipeline were “new” and in response to the deaths. We will see if the Mayor and the relevant agencies follow through on the new directives. Meanwhile, both the Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco had positive things to say about it. From the announcement:

“There is nothing that can bring back the lives of two people who died biking in San Francisco on June 22. We still feel their losses and can only imagine what their family and friends have gone through,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier. “The Mayor’s Executive Directive to improve the state of biking where those collisions took place, and on high-injury corridors across San Francisco, is a bold commitment demonstrating the city’s resolve to eliminate traffic deaths.”

“Every 18 hours in San Francisco, someone is killed or seriously injured on our streets. And low-income communities, communities of color, seniors and people with disabilities are twice as likely as others to suffer that fate.” said Walk San Francisco Executive Director Nicole Ferrara. “Under Vision Zero, the city has yet to achieve reductions in serious and fatal injuries; this Executive Directive is exactly the leadership needed to send a strong message to city agencies that Vision Zero is the utmost priority for this administration, and as such the city must go farther and work faster to build a safe transportation system.”

Let’s hope the Mayor’s new directives signify a sincere commitment to reaching that goal.

  • njudah

    and all it took were two more people to DIE before St. Ed Lee decided to do something that will likely be all press releases and talk, but like everything else his administration “does” – nothing will change.

  • als

    How about put a cop writting traffic tickets in the bad spots – tomorrow, not 3 or 6 or 9 months. Traffic (of all kinds) gets real calm when red and blue lights are flashing.

  • gneiss

    These statements from the Mayor certainly are encouraging. However, the biggest hurdle the city faces when it comes to implementing designs that slow down traffic and create welcoming infrastructure for people walking and biking are not design or process related, but political. The opposition by Rose Pak http://www.sfexaminer.com/rose-paks-opposition-slam-brakes-car-free-stockton-street-project/ to creating a pedestrianized space on Stockton Street, or the opposition from leaders in the Mission Community over bus lanes are symptomatic of a significant disdain that many in the SF merchant community have for any infrastructure that does not support private motorized vehicles. After all, if it had only been up to Chinatown, we would have a rebuilt Embarcadero Freeway instead of the great civic space that exists there now. There is the continuing belief that without good access for cars and trucks, commerce would grind to a halt, despite all the studies and data which show otherwise.

    The mayor must successfully outline not just “Vison Zero”, but a vision of how streets that are better designed for people walking and biking won’t harm businesses. Otherwise, we will continue to have watered down designs that prioritize parking and motorist convenience and a broken process where it takes 18 years to implement three blocks of protected bike lanes.

  • Rascal_Face

    I’m ready to be optimistic that these actions will result in real changes for our city. Let’s all keep the political pressure up to follow through on these promises and knock down the inevitable resistance to change.

  • murphstahoe

    Once someone dies at every intersection in SF, and the city responds to each one in turn, we’ll have safer roads.

    Alternatively we could simply approach the problems before they result in a collision.

  • murphstahoe

    “There is the continuing belief that without prioritizing access for cars and trucks, commerce would grind to a halt”

    That’s part of it, but in my travels I’ve found it’s more about the person who is complaining worrying about their own personal parking. If every single customer was arriving on bike or on foot, but they drive to their business themselves, they will prioritize their own parking spot over their customers safety.

  • Justin

    Does the mayor’s plan include constructing PROTECTED bike lanes in addition to all of the other safety improvements for people who walk and bike for transportation, and getting that done in a timely manner??? Because if not, it’s just more broken promises and more of the same BS coming out of this guy. This mayor has been such a failure on this issue, and I don’t see him improving anytime soon. I’ll believe it when I see it!

  • SF Guest

    “if it had only been up to Chinatown leaders, we would have a rebuilt Embarcadero Freeway”

    Not surprised by your bias, but would your outlook of Chinatown leaders be any different if they agreed with your view? And factually you are incorrect that the decision was up to Chinatown leaders. The majority voters which represent the entire City of SF voted to approve repairing 480.

    Your reference to Chinatown leaders is no different from suggesting Masonic or Taraval residents should have no input to street designs and is what it is — politically incorrect.

  • gneiss

    I don’t know where you get the idea that I suggested that the rebuild of 480 was up to Chinatown leaders – Here’s what I wrote, “After all, if it had only been up to Chinatown leaders, we would have a rebuilt Embarcadero Freeway instead of the great civic space that exists there now.

    Nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t have input. However, when we design sidewalks and curb cuts for ADA compliance we don’t ask people if it’s okay to do that. We just design them that way by default. Why aren’t we being doing the same for designs that are proven to be safe? Why does every pedestrian space and bike lane have to be fought over? We know they are safer than what is there currently, so why doesn’t it just get built?

    If I’m biased, it’s in favor of safety over danger. Roads designed to encourage slower motorist speeds and roadways that prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists over motorists are safer for everyone.

  • Henry

    Now would be a great time to get off that computer screen and repetitive complaint high-horse, and join one of the many groups dedicated to agitating the mayor to get improvements on the ground. If this is important to you, you will find time for it.

  • @SF Guest – At no point were “residents” part of the process.

    The actual history is that mayor Art Agnos wanted to tear down the highway, and suggested that a Central Subway go in if the highway loss hurt Chinatown business. Chinatown’s merchant organizations rejected this idea and supported Agnos’ challenger, Frank Jordan, in the election. (Jordan won, and turned out to be a disaster.) Meanwhile, Chinatown business wasn’t actually hurt after all.

    The next mayor, Willie Brown, pretended that residents were a part of the process after all, and spun Agnos’ rejected offer as “a promise to the Chinatown community” to justify getting the Central Subway project underway.

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