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Posts from the "Mayor Ed Lee" Category

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“Pissed-Off Voters” to Mayor: “Be Nice, Look Twice” an Insult to Victims

The League of Pissed Off-Voters says the mayor’s message to drivers to “be nice” and not run people over is an insult to victims of traffic violence. Here, a Lyft driver injured an elderly woman in a crosswalk at a stop sign at at Larkin and Jackson Streets last Friday. Image: ABC 7

The League of Pissed-Off Voters is, well, pissed off about Mayor Ed Lee’s lighthearted tone in his “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign — his answer to the maiming and killing of San Franciscans by reckless drivers.

Mayor Lee at his “State of the City” address last week.

In an open letter to Mayor Lee, titled “Don’t be a Zero: We need public service, not lip service,” the League — a non-profit that works to increase young people’s involvement in politics — posited whether the mayor would ever take such an offensively blithe approach in addressing gun violence:

A cute rhyming slogan is not only worthless, it is deeply offensive to the hundreds of victims of traffic violence and shows that the Mayor is clearly not taking this issue seriously. Imagine how the you would react if Mayor Lee proposed a plan to reduce gun violence with a Public Service Campaign called “Give a Hoot, Don’t Shoot.” We need leadership from the Mayor – not pandering to the vehicular class.

Will you join the rest of the city and call for zero deaths in the next ten years? And will you prioritize the funding in your budget to get the engineering, education and enforcement necessary to save lives? It WOULD be nice, wouldn’t it, to not have to worry about getting killed every time you step into a crosswalk on a green light.

Note the difference between the city’s message to drivers and what it tells pedestrians. While drivers are asked to “be nice” and not run people over, pedestrians get flyers from SFPD depicting a body lying on the street, alongside the words, “It’s of little comfort to know you had the right of way, while you recover from serious injury in the hospital.” How nice.

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Mayor’s “State of the City” Offers Tepid Support for Vision Zero

The mayor’s “State of the City” speech last Friday was a major opportunity for Ed Lee to call for the changes needed to sharply reduce traffic deaths in San Francisco. Lee did endorse the Vision Zero goal, though it wasn’t exactly a full-throated call to action. He also re-affirmed his desire to repeal metered parking on Sundays, ignoring the benefits reported by the SFMTA.

Image: Mayor's Office

Image: Mayor’s Office

The idea that San Francisco should aim to eliminate traffic fatalities has recently picked up momentum from many different quarters in city government. Vision Zero resolutions proposed by the Board of Supervisors and the SFMTA Board of Directors appear to have broad support, and the SFPD backed the goal last week with policy reforms that should improve police response to crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists. At a meeting immediately following a rally at City Hall yesterday, the SFMTA Board directed its staff to draft a Vision Zero resolution, as proposed by vice chair Cheryl Brinkman, who noted that ”we play a major role in ensuring that pedestrians can safely walk the streets of San Francisco.”

“People shouldn’t be killed or seriously hurt just trying to get around our city,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, who praised the “leadership from the mayor and the Board of Supervisors.”

The mayor’s address on traffic violence, while touching on several aspects of street safety, lacked the sense of urgency and moral commitment that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio conveyed in a Vision Zero announcement earlier this month. Here’s what Lee had to say:

And let me say a few words about another public safety challenge on our City’s streets that last year grew at an alarming rate, and that’s the safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists.

This week I announced a renewed strategy to keep people safe, including stepped up enforcement, especially against reckless drivers, better training for commercial drivers and those who drive the most, our “Be Nice, Look Twice” public education campaign, and improvements in places like Polk Street and South Van Ness, where we most urgently need improvements.

It’s another reason the transportation measures I discussed earlier are so important, so we can dramatically expand our segregated bike lanes and pedestrian bulb-outs.

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Mayor Lee’s Spineless Sunday Meter Reversal: Bad for Business, Bad for SF

Sunday parking meters have cut cruising times in half, according to an SFMTA report. Mayor Lee wants to undo that.

After a years-long push to implement a smart parking policy in San Francisco, leave it to Mayor Ed Lee to take us back to 1947.

The mayor wants to repeal parking metering on Sundays, undoing the slew of benefits that the policy has brought to the city in its first year. As a recent SFMTA report lays out, Sunday metering has increased turnover for businesses and reduced car traffic circling for parking in commercial areas. Previously, meter hours hadn’t been updated since 1947, when businesses generally weren’t open on Sundays.

Mayor Lee. Image: CBS 5

By pandering to drivers complaining about parking tickets, the mayor appears to be betting he’ll win support for three transportation funding measures expected to hit the ballot in November. But reinstating free parking would come at incredible cost in the form of extra car traffic, while undermining the SFMTA’s ability to implement rational transportation policy.

Lee’s absurd argument is that SF doesn’t need Sunday metering because Muni will have sufficient funding once voters approve the ballot measures. It’s an insult to the transit-riding public, and it shows how out of touch he is with the city’s transportation needs. Explaining why he didn’t stand in the way of Sunday metering when it was adopted, he told the SF Chronicle this week, “I’ve always felt uncomfortable with it, but Muni was suffering and we needed the money,” as if parking meters serve no purpose other than revenue collection.

Yet the Chamber of Commerce backed Sunday metering — and it still does, because it’s good for business, said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president for public policy. “In most commercial corridors, virtually every business is open on Sunday,” he said. Without metering, “There are neighborhoods where it’s difficult, if you have to drive to do any business, because parking is just not available from Saturday night until Monday morning.”

Sadly, it looks as though the Mayor is playing political games instead of responsibly managing the city’s transportation system,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “Aside from the revenue hit to Muni, what’s disappointing about the mayor’s move is that the facts show that Sunday metering was working – parking availability and turnover increased in commercial districts, which is helpful to merchants and shoppers.”

“Improved parking availability reduces cruising for parking, which in turn reduces danger to pedestrians and cyclists, traffic congestion in neighborhoods, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The benefits were demonstrated in a December SFMTA report [PDF] on the impacts of Sunday metering in 2013:

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NYC Mayor de Blasio Pursues “Vision Zero” While Ed Lee Displays Zero Vision

“There is an epidemic of traffic fatalities and it can’t go on… Every one of us thinks: ‘What if that was my child?’” The mayor of a major American city said this today, announcing efforts to pursue Vision Zero, the goal of ending traffic deaths within ten years. Standing at the site where a child was killed by a driver, he said, “That is, in fact, how we have to make public policy and how we have to implement public policy.”

Meanwhile, Ed Lee put out a press release. Photo: Asian Week

The mayor who spoke those words was not SF’s Ed Lee — it was Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City. Coincidentally, Mayor Lee did issue a press release today addressing traffic violence, but unlike the message de Blasio sent at his press conference, Lee’s statements appeared to be aimed more at placating city residents who’ve been calling for safer streets than demonstrating a serious commitment to making that a major priority.

Lee’s press release, which he did not hold a press conference to announce, touted a new SFMTA safe driving awareness campaign, an increase in SFPD traffic enforcement staff, and the SFMTA’s procurement of funds for planned traffic signal upgrades along Polk Street and South Van Ness Avenue — in 2017. A safe driving training program for truckers contracted by the city will also start in 2015.

The “Be Nice, Look Twice,” campaign will comprise a safe driving fact sheet to be distributed starting next month. Nice, yes, but the campaign is being produced by the SFMTA, not the SFPD — the agency that has the force of law behind it. (The only traffic safety flyers recently issued by the police department were basically a middle finger to pedestrian victims.)

While de Blasio stated today that he and his top commissioners “are standing with” the families of traffic violence victims (and they literally stood with victims’ families at the announcement), and that “we’re starting immediately to make changes to protect our children, and to protect all New Yorkers,” Mayor Lee’s printed statement was essentially a tepidly generalized “be careful, slow down” PSA, softened to the point of near meaninglessness:

Pedestrian safety continues to be a key focus as our City grows. San Francisco is a City that walks, and we all have a shared responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable users on our City streets. By looking out for each other and by driving more slowly and carefully, we can make a big impact on improving safety for those walking in San Francisco. This new campaign will be culturally competent and will touch all corners of San Francisco.

“The mayor’s announcement acknowledges the long-standing and pervasive problem of traffic crimes on our city’s streets, but it does little to end the preventable injuries and deaths from the daily crashes plaguing our streets,” said Natalie Burdick of Walk SF. ”When there are solutions that can save lives, no loss of life should be acceptable. Rather than taking a scattershot approach that doesn’t even offer safety training until 2015, or engineering improvements until 2017, the city should adopt a Vision Zero goal now to eliminate every traffic death, whether it’s a driver, bicyclist, or pedestrian, over the next 10 years.”

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Mayor’s Task Force Proposes Solid First Steps to Fund SF’s Transport Needs

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The funding measures recommended by the Mayor’s Transportation 2030 Task Force are a promising step toward building out the safe, reliable networks for transit, walking, and biking that San Franciscans need. Only a portion of the $10.1 billion needed for improvements identified by the task force would be funded by the measures, but if approved by voters on the November 2014 ballot, they could build traction to help city agencies obtain the rest.

“It is encouraging to see the city beginning to address the capital investments needed to keep our transportation system running,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City. “State and federal funding for transportation continue to decline, so regions and cities are increasingly on their own, and need to make smarter choices about what we fund and how.”

A lack of dedicated funding is currently a major hurdle to building out the SFMTA’s Pedestrian Strategy, the Bicycle Strategy, and the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, not to mention filling a $3.1 billion backlog of Muni vehicle and infrastructure maintenance. The Mayor’s Task Force proposals, which were developed in meetings over the past year, would be a start towards realizing those visions, as the SF Chronicle explained:

The Municipal Transportation Agency expects to receive $3.8 billion in revenue over the next 15 years to pay for transportation needs, but that leaves the city $6.3 billion short. To close the gap, city leaders should ask voters to take three actions that would raise almost $3 billion and help attract federal, state and regional funds to pay the rest, [said Monique Zmuda, deputy city controller and co-chair of the task force].

The task force will recommend that the Board of Supervisors put before the voters three ballot measures that would each raise roughly $1 billion:

– Two $500 million general obligation bonds — one in November 2014 and another in November 2024.

– A measure to raise the vehicle license fee from 0.65 percent to 2 percent — in November 2014. State law allows San Francisco voters to restore the fee, which was cut by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

– A proposition that would increase the sales tax by half a cent — in November 2016. That would raise the city sales tax from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent.

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Mayor Lee: I Will Have Tickets Issued to Double Parkers Who Block My Car

With the spotlight turned on the dangers and dysfunction that result from the sorry state of double-parking enforcement in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee has staked out a position on the matter that seems to show a tone-deaf windshield perspective on city streets more than an actual commitment to making them safer.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who grilled parking enforcement officials at a hearing on double parking last week, asked the mayor at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting what he will “do to ensure that double parking enforcement is a priority where it impacts transit riders, pedestrians, and cyclists.”

“What specific goals and metrics do you propose we establish to ensure that the most impactful double parking behavior becomes an enforcement priority for the MTA and the police department?” Wiener asked Lee. “Will your office agree to report back in a year on the city’s stepped up enforcement efforts against double parking?”

The mayor’s prepared response started off with an anecdote about a recent encounter with double parkers who blocked his car while he was apparently being chauffeured around the Mission. The strongest commitment made by the mayor was that “next time, instead of rushing off to my appointment, I will ask my officers in my car to get out and issue those citations, if not strong warnings.”

“You couldn’t even turn the corner,” he said of the inconvenience he experienced when trying to turn off of Valencia on to 16th Street last week. “All three double-parkers were looking at each other as if nothing was wrong.”

Lee went on to mention that double parking creates hazards for people walking, biking, and driving, and that it “literally stops Muni,” and listed the measures the SFMTA has already taken to address it, such as increased enforcement and new loading zones. But while he said it’s “it’s clear we need to do more,” his commitments were limited to “meeting with both the MTA and police department to understand how we can better deal with double parking.”

“Specifically, I will task both of these departments to identify how we can change the culture to make our streets safer for all modes of transportation, while fostering a more transit-friendly San Francisco,” Lee told Wiener. “If it’s a part of a resource issue, I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to address the issue through the budgetary process.”

In the meantime, keep an eye out for the mayor out on the streets, “Carrying forth my personal commitment to you that everywhere I see it, I will stop it myself.”

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As SF Launches Bike-Share, Mayor Calls for Safer Folsom, Safer Truckers

Mayor Ed Lee takes bike-share for a spin alongside cement trucks with his transportation advisor, Gillian Gillett, and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr on Seventh Street in SoMa. Photos: Aaron Bialick

Bay Area Bike Share’s celeste-colored fleet of bikes is now part of the streetscape in downtown San Francisco. At many of the city’s 35 stations, people took bikes for a spin as soon as the system went live at noon today, while curious observers said they were likely to use it as a convenient way to get around SoMa and the Financial District.

With bike-share users facing motor-dominated conditions on many of the streets within the area covered by the system, Mayor Ed Lee delivered some promising words about making SoMa’s streets safer at the press event held at the 4th and King Caltrain station this morning. Lee appeared prepared to respond to reporters who questioned the safety of novice bike riders encouraged to take on the wide, speed-plagued streets, with the recent death of Amelie Le Moullac on Folsom Street fresh in people’s minds.

Lee’s responses focused primarily on educating truck drivers, calming motor traffic, and implementing safer bike lanes.

“We’ve got to educate truck drivers in particular, but all other drivers, to respect bicyclists along the sides, as well as pedestrians, and then of course we’ve got to have the same amount of education for bicyclists — novice as well as experienced,” said Lee. “One of the recommendations that came to me after the very sad death of the 24-year-old a couple weeks ago on the 14th, is that … we’ve got to have good education with construction companies that hire truck drivers to make sure that they have an additional level of safety, looking around the right side and left side as they go down a street like Folsom.”

When I asked the mayor if he’s looking to roll out more protected bike lanes on SoMa streets, he said “absolutely.”

“A 96 percent [ridership] increase in SoMa alone has got to command a lot more dedicated lanes, and I think we’re going to focus on Folsom Street right now,” Lee said.

Lee, who said he’s very familiar with riding a bike on Folsom, pointed to the recent re-timing of traffic signals on the street, which synchronized lights for 25 mph travel speeds. He said he plans to look for ways to expedite other near-term safety improvements on the street while the plan for protected bike lanes and a two-way traffic conversion undergoes environmental review.

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Leona Bridges Abruptly Leaves SFMTA Board of Directors

Photo via SFMTA

Leona Bridges is no longer a member of the SFMTA Board of Directors, for reasons which remain unclear. At the start of this week’s board meeting, which Bridges didn’t attend, chairperson Tom Nolan announced that she’d been sworn in as a member of the city’s Retirement Board. Appointments to both boards are made by Mayor Ed Lee.

A request for comment from Bridges forwarded through the SFMTA Board’s clerk was not returned.

Mayor’s Office spokesperson Christine Falvey said that “a vacancy opened up on the Retirement Board and the board could greatly benefit from someone with financial services expertise.”

“The mayor thanks Ms. Bridges for her work on the MTA Board and he looks forward to her continued service on the Retirement Board,” she said.

Bridges was appointed to the SFMTA board in January 2011 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. Although she had no background in transportation, she was championed by then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty for her financial expertise and because she would provide African-American representation on the board.

During her tenure on the board, Bridges was one of the least vocal members, though board member Cheryl Brinkman said that “she helped round out a great board with a unique perspective.”

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Supervisor Mar: Abysmal Funding for Bicycle Infrastructure “Not Acceptable”

It looks like Supervisor Eric Mar is ready to make some noise about the need to fund the SFMTA’s vision for a major expansion of bike-friendly streets — which Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t prioritized at all since the agency released its Draft Bicycle Strategy earlier this year.

Supervisor Mar speaking at last week's Bike to Work Day rally. Photo: Aaron Bialick

At yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Mar issued a request to the City Budget and Legislative Analyst and the Controller’s Office for a report on potential opportunities to increase the abysmal amount of funding currently devoted to bicycle infrastructure — 0.46 percent of the city’s capital budget.

“It’s time that the city walks the walk when it comes to funding bike improvements,” said Mar. “Less than a half of one percent is not acceptable.”

While pro-bike talk from elected officials abounded at last week’s Bike to Work Day rally, Mar noted that ”there were no commitments to step up and deliver the funding that our fledgling bicycle network needs.”

In February, when Mar asked Mayor Ed Lee how he planned to help fund the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy – a vision for making bicycling a mainstream mode of transportation – the mayor made it clear that he has no plans to back up his pro-bike rhetoric with a commitment to implementation.

With the SFMTA set to approve its next two-year budget a year from now, “Now is the time where we can start planning and working proactively to make these plans a reality,” said Mar.

Mar pointed to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin’s remarks at last October’s NACTO Conference in New York, reported by Streetsblog, when Reiskin stated that “the most cost effective investment we can make in moving people in our city is in bicycle infrastructure.”

The efficacy of bicycle infrastructure is already evident in neighborhoods like the Inner Richmond, which Mar represents, where bicycle commuting increased by 167 percent from 2000 to 2010. During that time, bike lanes were installed on Arguello Boulevard and Cabrillo Street. Mar also pushed for the recent implementation of the Fell and Oak protected bike lanes, which now provide a safer commuting route for District 1 residents. “I think the improvements to bike lanes, making them safer for families, has had a real impact in the Richmond,” said Mar.

“We know that improving the bicycle network in San Francisco leads to healthier communities, less car congestion, less pressure on Muni lines already at capacity, healthier commuters, and many other economic benefits,” he added.

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Bike to Work Day at City Hall: Lots of Pro-Bike Talk, Few Real Commitments

Elected officials and thousands of commuters took to two wheels for the 19th annual Bike to Work Day, welcomed by the new protected bike lane on Oak Street and the city’s first bicycle counter on Market Street. As in the past few years, the mayor and city supervisors gathered on the steps of City Hall to give speeches cheering bicycling, with some calling for the implementation of more bike lanes.

Supervisor David Chiu neglected to mention Polk Street in his Bike to Work Day speech. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The event saw record-breaking bike traffic counts, according to manual counts by the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, which found that bikes accounted for 76 percent of eastbound vehicle traffic on Market at Van Ness Avenue between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. — a three percent increase in bike traffic over last year, and a nearly 30 percent increase since 2009.

By 9 a.m., the new digital bike counter on eastbound Market between Ninth and Tenth Streets displayed a total of 1,300 bicycle commuters. (That may be an underestimate, as riders who didn’t run over sensors in the bike lane appeared to not be counted.)

While city leaders had a few recent improvements to point to, important issues went unaddressed. At the podium, Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy, which he has so far refused to fund.

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors’ supposed bike champion, David Chiu, said nothing about Polk Street – the vital bicycling corridor on which the rally was held, where the SFMTA has ruled out plans for protected bike lanes on all but six blocks. His omission didn’t seem to sit well with several rally attendees, who, after Chiu’s speech, shouted “Polk Street!”

Mayor Ed Lee made no mention of the need to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure on the 19th annual Bike to Work Day. Meanwhile, Morgan Fitzgibbons (out of the frame) holds a sign in the back reading, "19th Annual Photo Op & Empty Promises Day.” Photo: Aaron Bialick

After the rally, when Chiu was asked if he planned to take a stand for protected bike lanes on Polk, he declined to do so, instead characterizing himself as a mediator between street safety advocates and parking-obsessed merchants. “I think there has not been enough dialogue between the various sides of this perspective,” he said. “On the one hand, we’ve had significant safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists on a thoroughfare that is used every single day by thousands of folks. On the other hand, the plight of our small businesses is very, very real.”

“I do hope we will have more protected bikeways around the city,” he said. “The question is if that should be for all of Polk Street.”

Chiu, along with Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos — who represent San Francisco on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission – did call for an increase in the city’s abysmal level of investment in bicycling, currently 0.46 percent of the capital budget.

“We’ve got to get real here,” said Wiener. “If we don’t put our money where our mouth is and start investing in bike infrastructure, in Muni, it’s not going to happen as fast as we need it to happen. I want to move fast, and I want us to invest and transform our city into a city where we can get around in all sorts of different ways, including biking.”

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