Streetscast: An Interview with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

Mayor Ed Lee talks to Streetsblog Editor Bryan Goebel. Photo: Christine Falvey

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee supports the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting the City vision, promises to “very aggressively” carry out Gavin Newsom’s executive directive on pedestrian safety, and said he has a commitment from the SFPD to do more aggressive enforcement of drivers in the Tenderloin to make the streets safer for those on foot.

In a 25-minute interview with Streetsblog in Room 200 yesterday, Lee described himself as an occasional Muni rider “if I have downtown meetings” and said he does like to ride his bicycle on the weekends and during Sunday Streets, which he called a “remarkable experiment.”

On pedestrian safety, Lee said he wants the SFMTA to review “what the adequate speed should be” on San Francisco streets: “I know we have posted 25 and 30 mile per hour zones but I’m not sure, and I think that people are falsely led that that’s the speed they ought to operate on, whereas in reality maybe it’s closer to 15 miles an hour where it’s safe, more acceptable and it’s actually the usual way to get around the city.”

Lee said he wants “to move quickly” on the executive directive issued by Newsom in December, which called for a citywide target of reducing serious and fatal pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016 and 50 percent by 2021. The directive includes recommendations for implementing nine near-term improvements, including reducing speeds to 15 mph around schools, which the SFMTA is currently working on.

“I am a big fan of that executive directive and I am definitely wanting to lower, if not eliminate, pedestrian fatalities. I am even intrigued with designing these streets immediately so that they don’t have car parking at the corner so that you can see the pedestrians come out.”

Here’s the complete audio of our interview, and read more below the break:

[audio: http://sf.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/02/Mayor-Ed-Lee-Interview-1.mp3]

Lee said he got a commitment from the captain of the Tenderloin SFPD station last week to immediately up enforcement of drivers in the Tenderloin, which has a high rate of pedestrian fatalities and injuries. “‘I’ll be walking those streets a lot given that we want Twitter to stay and we want a lot of companies to get a lot of their employees down there.”

On Connecting the City, the SFBC’s bold vision for a series of connected crosstown bikeways, the mayor said: “I’d like to get the whole city family together and see how we can make that work from the ground up.” Lee indicated he understood that current standard bicycle lane designs aren’t ideal for people who ride bikes, and that protected, dignified bikeways would make them safer and more inviting for people of all ages.

Specifically, Lee said he supports a trial protected bikeway on Fell Street, long a source of trouble for bicyclists: “I want to get to that experiment on Fell Street quickly because I’d like to see how these lanes that we are dedicating would be away from the open doors, and away from fast traffic.”

Lee is definitely a personable guy, and we’re still sifting through his answers. Look for more stories in the coming days. Although there were a number of questions I didn’t get to ask Lee in our interview, he invited Streetsblog back in a month “to check on my progress.”

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