Two years after the Pedestrian Safety Task Force formed to devise a plan to meet the ambitious targets for reducing injuries set by former Mayor Gavin Newsom, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency has released its Draft Pedestrian Strategy [PDF]. The document serves as a rough guide for how the city can re-engineer streets and target traffic enforcement to make walking safer in the coming years.
Advocates say the goals are on par with the targets set forth by cities like Chicago and New York, who have recently set the bar with their own pedestrian safety plans. But implementing the infrastructure called for in the plan will require leadership from Mayor Ed Lee and other elected officials, who must increase the abysmal level of funding dedicated to pedestrian safety projects, as well as a diligent effort by city agencies to get the most out of their budgets by integrating pedestrian improvements into transit and road re-paving projects.
“We’re very pleased with the central ambitious commitment set out in the Pedestrian Strategy: to fix five miles of streets per year,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe, who praised the plan for taking “a big step forward with clear metrics and timelines. With these, it creates accountability. Walk SF and its members will be monitoring the implementation of the plan closely.”
“The mayor’s goal is to cut injuries in half,” added Stampe. “To succeed will take political will and funding. The SFMTA’s Strategic Plan states that ‘infrastructure support for walking is cost-effective,’ but over and over again [at the SFMTA board meeting this week] we heard how little we’re spending on pedestrian improvements.”
As Streetsblog has reported, two to three pedestrians are injured in San Francisco every day. In addition to the human toll, this costs the city an estimated $76 million per year, much of that in health care costs paid for out of public funds. Two pedestrians have been killed in January alone. Last year, 19 pedestrians died in traffic, and 17 were killed in 2011. Overall, roughly 800 to 900 pedestrians are hit by cars in the city every year.
“When comparing ourselves to other major U.S. cities, many look towards San Francisco as being on the leading edge of progressive transportation,” said Paul Supawanich, a transportation planner at Nelson/Nygaard and former chair of the SF Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. “However, in the arena of pedestrian safety, places like New York and Chicago were setting the standard, we were behind. While it’s taken longer to produce than many had expected, the Pedestrian Safety Task Force has produced a great vision, and one that provides meaningful and tangible steps towards reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities.”