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.

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

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