SFMTA Launches a Smarter Safe Streets Ad Campaign

Photo: Tim Papandreou/Twitter

The SFMTA has launched a new ad campaign called “Safe Streets SF” that takes the most thoughtful approach to addressing the causes of pedestrian injuries of any city campaign thus far.

The ads have started rolling out on Muni buses. One depicts cars stopped in front of a busy, unmarked crosswalk, with the text, “It Stops Here.” A side panel says “all intersections are crosswalks” — a message aimed at combating the misconception that crosswalks aren’t legal unless they’re marked.

“We’ll be targeting the driver violations of pedestrian rights-of-way that are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all pedestrian collisions,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin at an agency board meeting yesterday. “We’re trying not to just put random ads out there, but to really be thoughtful and strategic about what behaviors we’re targeting.”

Reiskin said the campaign, part of Vision Zero, is a collaboration between the SFMTA, SFPD, Department of Public Health, and Walk SF. Next month, it will be complemented by “24 high-visibility enforcement days” from police on streets with high rates of pedestrian injuries. “Officers will be on the streets citing drivers for violating pedestrian rights-of-way,” Reiskin said, noting that it will add to SFPD’s ongoing “Focus on the Five” enforcement campaign.

Reiskin said the SFMTA, with the help of community groups and the SF Conservation Corps, will also “talk to pedestrians, businesses, and drivers” on four high-injury streets — Mission, Kearny, Sixth, and Geary. Bumper stickers and bike stickers reading “I Pledge Safe Streets” will also be handed out, and Reiskin said taxi companies “are already taking the pledge.”

A “Safe Streets SF” Twitter account and Facebook page were also launched in July, promoting the use of a #SafeStreetsSF hashtag, but the campaign only seems to be ratcheting up now. The campaign’s tweets have shown a clear pedestrian safety bent, promoting articles — some from Streetsblog — featuring data and examples of smart efforts to make cities better for walking.

The messaging is a refreshing improvement over previous city efforts that skirted around the primary causes of pedestrian injuries, or sometimes just blamed victims. An SFPD flyer campaign blamed pedestrian for getting run over by drivers, and an ad run from District Attorney George Gascón seemed to equate plowing through pedestrians in a crosswalk with crossing against a light on bike or foot.

Then there was Mayor Lee’s “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign, which the League of Pissed Off Voters said was “deeply offensive to the hundreds of victims of traffic violence and shows that the Mayor is clearly not taking this issue seriously.”

“It Stops Here” is clearly a step up.

  • runn3r85

    Anyone know about SFPD ticketing drivers who travel on Market in front of Twitter instead of turning onto 10th street? I understand it’s against the law except for taxis and busses, but it isn’t one of the focus 5. And at Market and 9th street just a half block away, drivers consistently pull in front of pedestrians or block the crosswalk on Hayes/Larkin. I see SFPD pulling over cars at least once a week in the afternoon. Usually 2-3 motorcycles. Doesn’t seem like an effective use of their resources.

  • 94103er

    Thank you, Ed. It seems that as long as the other Ed isn’t involved, we might get somewhere with these ad campaigns.

  • theqin

    So if an intersection has one of those permanent metal signs directing you to use the other crosswalk, is there technically still a crosswalk even though it’s blocked off?

  • Boo

    I’m all for this but to be honest, I think cyclists are just as guilty here. I see them constantly failing to stop at a crosswalk and many insist on parking in the crosswalk and impeding the flow of pedestrians. Back in the olden days this was the only way to get in front of cars (so they see you) but now cars stop back from the intersection about 5 feet on market st.

  • EastBayer

    No, that is an exception (I think the CVC spells this out).

  • Howard Lovecraft

    I am not certain of the veracity of your statement about the polite behavior of motorists on Market Street, but the poster on the bus could have easily included a cyclist in the cue of cars to extend the message that cyclists should behave responsibly as well.

  • 94103er

    Whoa, what a TBH moment for you. Some bare honesty there.

    Do you see anything in that ad that says “All intersections are crosswalks*. (*Only cars applicable)?”

    For that matter, will a bicyclist dog-legging around a pedestrian in a crosswalk cause imminent harm? How about a cyclist ‘parking’ (??? I think you mean ‘stopping at the light’) in a crosswalk? Nope. Though it is true *some* people are rude when going about said behavior, the answer is still ‘nope.’

    Sorry, but ‘Vision Zero’ is pertaining to pedestrian deaths, not the goal of zero people seeing bicyclists doing something outrage-worthy. Which, thanks to our good old friend Confirmation Bias, is pretty much impossible.

  • This might make a difference if SF drivers bothered stopping for people at marked crosswalks.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Again, Vision Zero is touted as a be-all, end-all with no details, other than —shudder–trusting the MTA bureaucracy and police bureaucracy to allocate and manage. MTA paints the crosswalks – are they in the right place? Many place the vehicle stopline at building corner lines, which obstruct drivers vision such that they as a rule tend to roll up to the point where they can see around a corner – right in the sacrosanct crosswalk. So maybe the stop line should be divorced from the crossswalk. As one Ped Safety advocate said at City Hall and police commission meetings, why doesnt SFPD enforce the law requiring drivers to signal turns? The blinker is the only safety device on a vehicle that’s been there since the 1930s, and yet for some perverse reason, the scofflaw behavior gets no attention. Peds, cyclists, and even other drivers benefit from knowing which way the ‘other guy’ plans to go. Yet, SFPD patrol cars dont even follow this law. Why are these basics being avoided? SFPD and MTA and everyone else charged with ped safety needs to look at the safety problem from the persepctive of what the ped sees while walking (or rolling in the case of wheelchairs). Until this is done, all we get is the same old SFPD practice of issuing a bunch of citations in one place for a day or two and moving on. That aint changing any long existing problems! Advocates who have brought us this far, should not relinquish control to the City’s policy-blind departments. Amelie LeMouliac died one year ago. The mis-handled police investigation was downright incompetent yet aside from SFPD making admissions and promises of “new ideas”, all we’ve gotten is lip service more than sweeping improvements in policy and day-to-day practices. Dont trust the authorities. Watch and command them.

  • Boo

    No need to be rude or defensive – I cycle to work every day and have for the last 10 years. I just hope that this campaign encourages people to show respect for people crossing the streets when it’s their turn.

  • Boo

    I never said that motorists on Market are polite. They are just as rude and entitled as some cyclists and pedestrians.


    …or it gets the hose.

  • sebra leaves

    Where is the money for the Ad program coming from? More millions out of the Muni budget? What is the line item for that expenditure?

  • p_chazz

    Bicyclists riding on the sidewalk, in crosswalks, making illegal left turns off Market, zooming across BART station plazas, etc., create a streetscape that is hostile to pedestrians. “But cars are so much more harmful than bikes!” You say. True, but that’s changing the subject. Bicyclists may cause less harm than cars, but that doesn’t reduce their accountability.

  • p_chazz

    You violated the cardinal rule of Streetsblog: thou shalt not criticize bicycles or bicyclists.

  • 94103er

    Accountable to what? You know we’re talking about Vision Zero here, right? If you bring up Chris Bucchere, you have totally proven my point about confirmation bias BTW. Maybe you really should read that link in Wikipedia.

  • murphstahoe

    It’s a surprise that cyclists don’t hit more pedestrians, given that the pedestrians in SF walk around like drunken sailors while trying to text on their cellphones as they blindly stumble off the curbs, jaywalking into the bike lanes.

  • murphstahoe

    The new parking meters we are putting in your garage.

  • Lego

    Aren’t _you_ changing the subject? The word bicycle/bike is not in the article. The piece is about pedestrian street safety. And the hospital/morgue statistics strongly point toward automobile/pedestrian interactions being the overwhelming cause. Please prioritize your concern to the most harmful factor first. Once your, and our collective, effort have reduced this grave problem, then we can focus on the next prominent cause. I’m working (with police, neighborhood associations) on reducing some pedestrian hazards in my neighborhood. Thank you for anything you can do to help anywhere you can. Cheers

  • p_chazz

    Accountable to traffic laws and the unspoken rules of a civil society for starters. I never said that cars weren’t a greater hazard than bikes. Only that bikes too, in their own way contribute to a streetscape that is hostile to pedestrians, which is something Safe Streets SF is trying to combat.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Wait, bike riders are making illegal left turns off of market? How? They’d have to cross two sets of slippery tracks, potential subway ventilation grading, dodge buses and taxis, then get through an additional traffic lane. I’ve honestly never seen a cyclist turn left off of market in the years I’ve been commuting on it, but I have seen a few, I’m assuming tourists, drivers do it. I’ve seen bike riders do a box turn, which is not illegal.

  • 94103er

    Ed Reiskin really isn’t worried about ‘showing respect’ right now. That was well covered with the previous milquetoast message to ‘be nice, look twice.’ This is addressing our embarrassingly large annual body count as a result of car/truck vs. pedestrian collisions and a the tremendously huge number of people who somehow have the wherewithal to drive a two-ton (or more) hunk of steel, possibly even without a license, and do not know the basics of the law pertaining to intersections.

    If you need proof of this, come enjoy the sunshine and hang out near Dolores Park sometime. Total shitshow of blind intersections and unmarked crosswalks.

  • 94103er

    The why’s and how’s–eh, it’s all immaterial. The threadjack is complete. Pchazz is on a roll.

  • Boo

    You are preaching to the choir! 🙂 That still doesn’t change the fact that we are all responsible for how our actions impact others. That’s all I was pointing out.

  • Boo

    lol tell me about it :-p

  • p_chazz

    They do it all the time from EB Market to NB Front.

  • p_chazz

    I haven’t threadjacked anything. The discussion is about ped safety amirite?

  • Dark Soul

    Safer Riders in muni by having disable seat program.

  • Kickstarter. You must’ve missed the tweet.

  • ✧ Next up: “Be nice. Don’t be a jerk twice.”

  • Marc

    Hi there, I agree with this campaign. But as a driver in the city, I believe there must also be a campaign to educate pedestrians. They think they are superheros like Superman or The Flash, and can cross a street in 1 second. As a driver, I have to respect ALL traffic rules and signs. Why don’t they? Pedestrians should know that it’s easier to stop a 160 lb human body than a 6,000 lb vehicle. Pedestrians should understand that when the crossing light is winding down to 3, 2, 1, they should stop at the curb and not start crossing the street, because they will be risking their lives. It’s just like the yellow light for cars (although not all drivers reduce the speed and prepare to stop when they see the yellow light). Such behavior contributes to the already chaotic traffic situation in San Francisco. Sometimes I am waiting to make a right turn (or left) and when the crossing light stops counting, someone who is about 5 steps away from the curb, runs into the crosswalk and then starts walking slowly, without any rush, holding back traffic, making drivers impatient, and creating more chaos. Also bikers should understand their legs are not more powerful than a car’s engine. I have seen bikers line up in front of cars (and my car) in a red light and then slowly start moving when the light turns green. They shouldn’t block traffic like that. They should stay on the side by the curb and not hold traffic back. I believe in mutual respect. But if pedestrians and bikers do not respect their part of the rules, they must understand they will be ultimate losers in this battle, because they are the weakest link. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in there. Please do not bash me. I wanted to offer a different point-of-view. Do not forget, I am also a pedestrian and sometimes a biker.

  • That Guy

    Everyone should pay attention when on roadways, regardless of mode of transport. Contrary to this campaign, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. See Cal. Vehicle code section 21950 (b):

    21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.


Yu Lian Chen, a senior who lives at Mercy, speaking at yesterday SFMTA Board Meeting. Photo: John Entwistle

Seniors Plead with SFMTA for Safer Fell Street

A handful of determined seniors went to yesterday’s SFMTA board meeting to plead with Director Ed Reiskin and members of the board to take immediate action to make the Fell Street and Baker intersection crossing, which connects the Mercy Terrace senior home with the Panhandle Park, safe. “During these past ten years I always go […]

As Tenderloin Crosswalks Get Safer, KPIX Weeps for Lost Parking Spots

The SFMTA recently implemented a simple measure to improve visibility at crosswalks in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with very high concentrations of both pedestrian injuries and children. Corners at 80 intersections got the “daylighting” treatment, which improves visibility by clearing parked cars that obscure sightlines between drivers and people in crosswalks. It’s one of the latest efforts in the city’s […]

Supes, SFPD, SFMTA Stand With Crash Victims and Advocates at City Hall

SFPD officials, transportation department heads, and three supervisors stood outside City Hall this morning alongside safe streets advocates and people whose lives have been affected by traffic violence. The press conference served as a call to action and a memorial for victims of traffic violence in the past year, with participants holding Valentines featuring names of […]