Mayor Lee’s Doctor Prescribes “Balanced Diet” for San Francisco Streets

A rendering of the plan for Second Street. Image: DPW

Mayor Ed Lee has appointed his personal physician, Dr. Barbara Peñalosa, as San Francisco’s first Transportation Administrator.

In her new role, Peñalosa will have an unprecedented amount of authority over SF’s streets. As her first order of business, she has vowed to put city streets on a “balanced diet” by devoting at least 50 percent of street space to walking, biking, and transit by 2020.

Lee said he created the position for an expert to take “balanced” stances on politically challenging issues such as removing car parking to implement life-saving measures.

“Barbara has always been there to advise me on transportation policy, as have all my doctors,” Lee said in a statement. “They’re the experts. They have so many issues to balance, and I just want to make sure I embrace a very strong balancing process.”

Peñalosa’s appointment “reflects our commitment to Vision Zero,” Lee added. “Barbara will ensure that our investments in pedestrian and bicycle safety are balanced with the convenience of other road users. I have absolute faith that she can balance our city’s streets into balance, just like she balanced my diet.”

Peñalosa’s first priority as SF’s transportation czar, she said, is to re-purpose street space to “provide safe, affordable, and efficient options for San Franciscans” to get around in a city where streets are “overwhelmingly dominated by private automobiles.”

“For too long, an alarming and unhealthy amount of our city’s public space has been reserved to move and store cars at the expense of a safe environment for people,” said Peñalosa. “Like a healthy diet, our city must balance how its streets are used. If we’re serious about improving our city’s public health, we can’t have so much space devoted to parking and car traffic while so few streets provide real safety.”

With the vast majority of curb space in San Francisco used for car storage, parking is one of the “low-hanging fruits” that’s “ripe for re-use,” said Peñalosa. Placed end-to-end, SF’s on-street parking spaces would stretch longer than the California coastline, and 90 percent of that space is given away for free at all times.

“Imagine if even a quarter of that space were used for wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, or dedicated lanes for a more reliable Muni,” said Peñalosa, adding that she would also mandate a major expansion of SFpark meters so that parking spaces are priced according to demand, “just like nearly every other commodity.”

The failure to implement life-saving interventions to the greatest extent possible is “transportation malpractice,” said Peñalosa, borrowing a phrase from Dr. Rhajiv Bhatia, a pedestrian safety researcher who was forced out of the SF Department of Public Health last year.

“We know what we need to do to really cut traffic injuries,” said Peñalosa. “We can’t waste any time in treating the patient.”

  • Ah, if only this post arrived on a day other than 4/1! 🙂

  • Mesozoic Polk

    At first I was really excited by the idea of an Ed Lee doctor as transportation administrator. (The optometrist Hiura is fantastic — so visionary! — and really should be swapped in for Ed Reiskin ASAP.) But then things really went off the rails at: “…we can’t have so much space devoted to parking and car traffic.” Drivers and cars are not the enemy. We are just trying to live our lives and get from place to place in a calm, law-abiding fashion (as opposed to cyclists).

  • deuce_sluice

    Out of everything on the internet THIS was the thing that got me for April Fools. Blargh.

  • helloandyhihi

    Bravo to Mayor Ed Lee, who once again demonstrates his powerful leadership skills by quickly helping San Francisco acheive sustainable transit and safer streets!

    Considering that he’s already solved the housing crisis, fixed homelessness, and Muni is now fully-funded and operating 100% on-time, I’m astonished he has the time and energy to also be so incredibly effective at championing Vision Zero, too!

    Woo! Hoo! Where can I get a campaign poster?!?

  • mike_napolis_beard

    Ha ha! Nice. Sure hope Mayor Lee’s optometrist will be named the new Vision Zero coordinator.

  • Jay

    I was thinking….wasn’t this the goal all along? Why hire a physician when sustainable transportation planners and advocates have been striving for this the entire time?
    …..then I realized….April 1st!

  • M.

    Peñalosa…Name rings a bell. Ah yes, the inspiring woman shunned by her illustrious family who overcame to rise to prominence as a world-famous specialist in Zero Vision complicated by Electile Dysfunction.

  • njudah

    o hai!

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    This was a dirty trick. April fools day is dumb.

  • sebra leaves

    This plan could be the best way for his competitors to oust him. He already pissed off a lot of folks who don’t drive now he can go after those as well. I salute M. who came up with Zero Vision complicated by ED.

  • Chris Courtney

    Its a nice soundbite….Its nothing more than a shill for Uber at this point. This much effort is obviously motivated by profit. There is no other reason for this. Environmentally and socially it does way way way more harm than good.


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