Sup. Kim Raises Banners to Tell Drivers to Slow Down in SoMa and Tenderloin

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim wants you to know that driving fast in her district is not okay. At a press event today, Kim drew attention to the banners recently raised on 150 street poles telling drivers to slow down in the South of Market and Tenderloin districts.

Photo: Davi Lang/Twitter
Photo: Davi Lang/Twitter

The “Slow down!” banners feature images of people, including “Mother” Elaine Jones, a community activist who has called for safety measures on deadly streets like Sixth, beneath the words “I live here.”

Kim had the banners created using general funds set aside for District 6. “These banners portray real residents and small business owners uniting across neighborhood lines for a common goal — zero pedestrian deaths by 2024,” she said in a statement, referring to the city’s Vision Zero goals.

“Traffic safety concerns, especially speeding, are the top reason why San Francisco parents choose not to walk or roll with their kids,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said in a statement. “We’re grateful for Supervisor Kim’s initiative in developing this signage, and her leadership in ensuring that streets around schools, such as Bessie [Carmichael Elementary], are prioritized for safety improvements.”

The “Slow down!” banners are part of the Vision Zero publicity campaigns coordinated by the SF Department of Public Health. Though media campaigns alone haven’t been shown to slow drivers significantly, a study released last week by the SFMTA and SFDPH [PDF] found that, when combined with targeted enforcement, they increase the rate of drivers yielding to pedestrians slightly — by 3.2 percent on average.

Redesigning streets has been shown to be far more effective at reducing injuries. But “in addition to the work we’re doing to hard-wire safety into the streets, we can also influence the software, the behavior,” SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin told the SF Chronicle. “It’s encouraging to see that this can actually work.”

“In thinking about Vision Zero and safety, it is important to remember the people who are impacted by traffic fatalities and injuries,” said a statement from SFMTA’s John Knox White, who manages the agency’s Safe Streets SF campaign. Kim’s campaign “does a great job of reminding us why this issue is so important,” he said.

  • Greg Costikyan

    Yes, saw them (and was pleased) on my last visit to SF. Which was a month ago, so surely they’ve been up for some time?

  • Speed bumps (or speed humps). Those slow down San Francisco drivers. Sorry to say, I haven’t seen what else really works. Not stop signs, not timed lights. Not posters, not narrow roads. Not stop signs or lights every block. Not public relations campaigns, not “Your speed is” signs. Not crossing guards, not poorly designed roundabouts. (I have to say in 20 years living here, I’ve never heard of or seen someone receive a ticket for speeding in San Francisco so I have no idea if that might work.)

    San Francisco drivers are very, very good at ignoring or circumventing what might cause average drivers in other cities to lift their foot from the accelerator. In fact, I suspect they see it as a challenge. Otherwise, why would they race to red lights on Valencia Street (timed 13 mph) only to sit at a red light, or hit 40 mph on residential streets where there is a stop sign every block?

    In SOMA drivers are rewarded by making the lights if they floor it. (Can I do 50mph on Folsom? Yes, I can!) As a bicyclist who is in no way rewarded by light timing, I see it all the time. But to tell the truth, even on Market Street, where drivers are not usually rewarded by speed, drivers still speed, roar, slam brakes, speed, roar, slam brakes. The power of the internal combustion engine appears to overcome all other appeals to rationality.

    Speed bumps–because, I am guessing, they jar one’s skull and one’s car suspension–do seem to create a deterrence. With the current design, no matter the banners decorating them, the mini-freeways of SOMA will see 50 mph. Even if SOMA streets were made two-way, unless drivers have a reason to believe 40 mph is not acceptable in San Francisco, all of our streets will see 40 mph vehicle speed unless physically deterred by speed bumps/humps.

  • murphstahoe

    I presume you’ve never crashed your bike on a speed bump. I think for cyclists they are a net loss.

  • The speed humps on Octavia have a gap in the center for bicycles. Pretty easy to maneuver.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    Speed bumps would be terrible for bus-riders. It’s already hard to hang on sometimes, without a big jarring bump!

  • Chris J.

    Let’s have a 20 mph speed limit citywide.

  • StrixNoctis .

    There are several big speed bumps I ride over almost daily on my bicycle (on the stretch of Precita Ave between Harrison St to Mission St), and they aren’t a problem to ride over on a bicycle. What speed bump(s) are you talking about that cause bike crashes? Where?

  • ARRO

    Not possible since speeds are set at a state level nor practical…

  • Chris J.

    So are stop signs and yet the Bike Yield law is moving forward. Why isn’t a slower speed limit practical?

  • gary

    Best way to get them to slow down is to hit them in the pocket book hard. So hard they’ll struggle to pay it. These soft pretty please measures don’t do much.

  • RichLL

    A better approach, which I have seen in Europe, is the use of “smart” speed limits on the major routes. These are electronic signs that show what the speed limit is. More expensive, but more flexible, the point is that they can be changed for different circumstances.

    Anyone who drives in SF can tell you that, for any given major road, there are times when 40 mph is perfectly safe and other times when 20 mph is too fast. So much depends on the road conditions, weather, visibility, congestion, time of day etc.

  • murphstahoe

    If you know the speed bump is there, you manage it. If you don’t… if you are in a car it’s jarring. If you are on a bike, you go over the top.

  • RichLL

    If drivers are being rewarded for speeding by getting green lights, then that is simply a matter of poor design of the light sequences.

    I don’t know about the roads in SOMA, but the light phasing on Gough/Franklin, Fell/Oak and Pine/Bush generally encourages modest but constant speeds.

    On Masonic, on the other hands, you can catch every green from Geary to Haight as long as you speed in some places, while back off in others.

    I don’t think drivers can be blamed if the light sequences are designed poorly and incentivize bad behavior.

    IMO, speed bumps are best employed on residential streets and not on major arteries. They are tough on buses, bikes, emergency vehicles etc.

  • gneiss

    Actually not true. Speed limits on locally controlled roads are set locally. One only needs to take a drive down Alexander Ave. in Sausalito to see how the community has decided that 20 mph is enough at the entrance to their town. It is perfectly feasible for San Francisco to make the same determination.

  • Chris J.

    > Anyone who drives in SF can tell you that, for any given major road, there are times when 40 mph is perfectly safe and other times when 20 mph is too fast.

    I don’t think that’s true, otherwise people wouldn’t be getting killed. Would such signs be capable of detecting if bicycles and pedestrians are near the road? If we had a citywide speed limit, we wouldn’t need so many signs to explain what the speed limit is on every stretch (“Oh, I didn’t know what the speed limit is.”). And injuries would be much less severe if there does happen to be a collision.

  • Flatlander

    No, really there is no time when it is safe to drive 40 in SF, except on facilities that are grade-separated from people walking and biking.

  • RichLL

    We have different speed limits in different parts of the city because the situation varies so much. A quiet narrow hilly residential street is very different from a 3-lane flat one-way artery like Pine and Bush. Treating them both as the same doesn’t make much sense.

    The “smart” speed limit idea takes that idea one step further and says that, for the same street, different limits may make sense at different times. You might have a lower limit during school commute hours, for instance.

    All that said, if safety were the ONLY concern, then it would be better to set the limit at 15mph. Or maybe even 10mph. But the problem with such low limits is twofold:

    1) Safety isn’t the only concern. Throughput is also a requirement. The slower the traffic speed, the longer everyone takes to get somewhere, and the lower the effective capacity of the road. (analogously the main benefit of high-speed rail is throughput not travel time)

    2) Almost everyone would exceed artificially low limits, even bicycles, so they would not be enforceable as a practical matter.

    I think a range of 15 mph to 35 mph is reasonable for a city like SF.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    They are also generally painted for maximum visibility, and maximum slickness in the rain! Anyone pushing for speed bumps has never fallen off a bike because of one. It’s real.

  • murphstahoe

    The factor you are failing to consider are the stats on crash survivability at various speeds. 20 is plenty.

  • Rascal_Face

    Pine and Bush still have pedestrians trying to cross the road and if that wave of traffic chasing the lights comes blasting through you have a the potential for a fatality at 40 mph.

    Worse still is Fulton st. in the 30s. You have four wide lands and lots of crosswalks leading to the park. I think two people have been killed in that area this year to date and it’s because the cars are going way to fast for what is effectively a residential street next to a park.

  • twinpeaks_sf

    Reduce capacity >> more congestion >> lower speeds. And if you don’t build capacity for the 1-3 hr daily peak volumes, off-peak speeds will be lower too.

  • omaryak

    SoMa should have two-way streets

  • Andy Chow

    SF always has a network of faster streets to cover area that don’t have more purpose built faster streets (like Sunset Blvd or Park Presidio), freeways, or subways (something that Scott Weiner wants to see all over the city). Streets like Pine and Bush are fully signalized. For some streets like Fulton, a strategy is to get flashing signs.

  • ARRO

    How would you have the potential for a fatality with properly timed wave lights unless a pedestrian is jumping the light and not performing their own due diligence? Having more lights throughout SF timed as waves would likely improve pedestrian safety and would actually get vehicles and transit moving rather then be gridlocked.

  • ARRO

    I believe that may be incorrect. Please reference the material quoted from an article on the matter below:
    “A report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office said that The City has limited authority over changing local speed limits. The state has jurisdiction over local speed limits, which allows for speeds between 25 to 65 miles per hour.
    There are a few exceptions, which include schools within 500 feet or near a senior center. Also, a city can demonstrate through a traffic and engineer survey that 85 percent of traffic is traveling above or below the posted speed limit. If there is no speed limit posted — like in residential areas — the minimum speed is 25 mph.”
    Link to original article:http://sfbay.ca/2015/02/06/report-slows-down-speed-limit-campaign/

  • RichLL

    I considered that factor. Obviously 20 is safer than 25. Likewise 15 is safer than 20. And so on. If the limit was set at 5 mph we could probably achieve Vision Zero. But safety isn’t the only factor.

    There is a street near where I live that has a 15 mph limit. And rightly so – 20 would be too fast there.

    I am not arguing for higher limits. I am arguing for smarter, more appropriate and more flexible limits.

  • Andy Chow

    If this is the only factor that we shouldn’t have any moving vehicles at all, including Muni, may be with the exception of cable cars moving at 10 mph.

    Reason for traffic control devices is to facilitate safe movements for other road users without severe compromise in speed.

    May be from a cyclist perspective no traffic control device is better than ones such as stop signs, and hope that cars move no faster than bikes. But then the peds always complain bikes are too fast and passing them too close.

  • caryl

    Because expecting perfect behavior from everybody at all times is unrealistic. We have to design our streets so that making a mistake isn’t always a death sentence. That’s why we have guard rails and now have a median on the GG bridge.

  • Andy Chow

    Or may be on slower streets some people may take more risk than they would on faster streets. People for instance are much more careless in parking lots because they know cars are slow enough to yield them wherever they’re at.

  • gneiss

    Read the following document from Caltrans: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/engineering/mutcd/pdf/california-manual-for-setting-speed-limits.pdf

    1.2.4 Authority to Set Speed Limits
    Caltrans has authority to set speed limits on the State Highway System. Roadways outside of the state highway system fall under the responsibility of the respective city or county. Some roadways may fall under the jurisdiction of National Parks, tribal governments, or private properties. Although not mandated, the CA MUTCD should be followed by these jurisdictions as well.

    If the article you cite was true, then Sausalito would not have been able to reduce the speed limit on Alexander Ave. to 20 mph.

  • ARRO

    There is perfect behavior and then there is due diligence. Crossing against a red is the equivalent of crossing against a railroad crossing gate and saying we should re-design railroad crossings to not be death traps. Guess it’s time to slow down Caltrain…

  • murphstahoe

    If people driving cars want higher speed limits, they shouldn’t be so incompetent.

  • murphstahoe

    Fine. Let’s get rid of the guardrails, and motorists can do their due diligence on twisty roads.

  • murphstahoe

    People in parking lots are more careless because they are drivers and have little experience in how dangerous we have made it to be a pedestrian. They don’t understand how much danger they are in. And as a result, there are plenty of injuries in parking lots.

  • Flatlander

    Peds complain about bikes because most peds are also motorists who are looking for another reason to grumble about bikes…

  • Flatlander

    It’s not a linear relationship. It is precisely the range between 20 and 40 where collision severity shoots up. Not so for 15 vs 20 or 40 vs 45

  • caryl

    Actually, there is talk about re-designing railroad crossings with grade separations to make them less deadly. Every time a driver is killed on the Caltrain tracks, the issue comes up.

    In dense urban environments where there is lots of unpredictable behavior (from all road users) and where it makes sense to encourage active transportation modes, slower speeds seem like a reasonable trade-off to me. They give everyone more time to react to unpredictable behavior and when the inevitable collision does occur, those involved have a decent chance of surviving. I would love it if we could all exercise more due diligence when navigating our streets, but simply hoping that everyone will exercise “due diligence” has resulted in really dangerous streets. When we don’t acknowledge that people do sometimes make bad decisions (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike) and allow speeds that make those bad decisions lethal, it seems like we are prioritizing the speed of automobiles over pretty much everything else. Speed belongs on freeways not on urban streets.

  • Rogue Cyclist

    So much for that. Another fatality yesterday.
    http://sfist.com/2015/09/17/pedestrian_killed_on_sf_streets_hou.php

  • City Resident

    there are plenty of crosswalks on Fulton that lack traffic signals; as a pedestrian, you’re often at the mercy of law-abiding and attentive motorists (who seem to often be lacking)

  • Rascal_Face
  • Andy Chow

    The equivalent of grade separating rail to roads is either building freeways, overpasses or underpasses (like the one at Geary and Fillmore), or just pedestrian overpasses/underpasses.

    I don’t think that SF wants more of those, but certainly 20 is far from plenty if the desire is to have more red lanes for Muni, and to have more of the AX/BX express routes. The compromise would be better street designs and smarter traffic control devices.

    No one disputes the benefits of grade separation for Caltrain in general, but when it comes to money, and specific impacts to each crossing, there’s no simple answer. And you can’t expect Caltrain to slow down or stop running until most if not all the grade separations are in place.

    A lot of smaller communities, such as Willits, where it has the main highway through town, is building grade separated bypass. The regional traffic would go around town and the old main highway would be re-purposed for local traffic.

  • caryl

    My only point was that we design for human error all the time. But somehow, when we discuss ways to make the streets safer, the answer always seems to be to just stop making human errors. This is especially true when those errors are made by pedestrians or cyclists or when the solution (such as slower speeds) might be an inconvenience to drivers. Designing our streets with no tolerance for human error has proven to be a completely ineffective way to make our streets less deadly.

  • Andy Chow

    You seem to make the “human error” similar to errors in baseball, where someone is supposed to catch the ball but didn’t. The roads are built in a way that accounts those errors. That’s why the lanes must be wider than vehicles (rather than exact width) and that traffic lights are timed that when one light goes red the other light is not instantly turn to green. But then most instance people are not wild animals.

    The issue is that some people are making poor decisions due to laziness or not knowing the danger. In some environments we may decide that it is okay that people can cross the streets wherever they want and that cars have to slow down to accommodate them. On the other hand railings are place so that people know that it is not permitted to cross and that it would be a hassle to leap over the railing.

    For rail crossings, improved grade crossing designs force people to turn to see oncoming trains, and that they cannot go around the gate or somehow miss the warning. Does it prevent every instances of trespassing? No, but is it effective in preventing deaths due to people believing that it is safe to cross but actually isn’t? Yes.

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