SFMTA: 15 MPH School Zones Could Be Implemented Within the Year

Flickr photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lynnfriedman/5538883754/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Lynn Friedman##

Many streets could become safer for children walking and biking to school with a project in the works to lower speed limits within school zones to 15 mph. New signs warning drivers could be in the ground as early as this winter, according to an SFMTA staff report [pdf], granted the funds are approved next month by the SF County Transportation Authority.

“It’s a very important item because it’s very visible and we think it will have a measurable impact on school safety and it can be done fairly quickly,” SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Bond Yee told the Board of Directors yesterday.

About 200 schools have already been identified by staff as potentially eligible within the criteria of the California vehicle code, the report states. The project was mandated in an Executive Directive issued by former Mayor Gavin Newsom last December and has been urged by advocates and city officials.

“I know there’s a lot of thought from the supervisors and the public that we’re not doing enough,” said Director Cheryl Brinkman.

Each school zone would need to be approved by the board, and each local jurisdiction would have to adopt the changes by resolution, said Yee. But the number of streets that could be affected is no small number.

“It’s a pretty big scale,” said Yee. “When you draw a radius around each school in San Francisco, 200 schools would probably cover most of the city.”

Board Chair Tom Nolan expressed support for the measure but cautioned against its potential to slow down already crawling Muni lines. Yee said staffers are doubtful the impacts would be significant.

“Muni operates more on the major streets, and these signs are more applicable next to the schools on streets that are 30 mph or less and with a certain number of lanes,” he said.

Conditions like a street’s history of crashes and a “residential density threshold” are also taken into account during evaluations. The project’s total costs are estimated at $361,700, with $30-40,000 of that needed for planning.

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