Safety Advocates Rip City’s Vision Zero Strategy

Without metrics, transit improvements, and rock-solid commitments, San Francisco's Vision Zero plan is destined to fail

The scene last Friday where Tess Rothstein was killed on Howard. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The scene last Friday where Tess Rothstein was killed on Howard. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

There will be another People Protected Bike Lane protest on Howard Street tonight, Friday, March 15, starting at Fremont. 5-6 p.m. 

Walk San Francisco reports that yet another senior was struck by a motorist. Details are still coming in, but the latest victim was hit Wednesday while “…walking to Kaiser; got hit on 6th Avenue and Geary,” and was seriously injured, according to the organization’s spokesperson, Marta Lindsey, in an email to Streetsblog.

As the carnage continues, The Vision Zero Coalition, fed up with rhetoric and empty promises, has delivered a scathing letter that tears into the city’s latest “Vision Zero” strategy document. Although they compliment the Mayor and other officials for their personal commitments to safety, they criticize the strategy for lacking performance metrics, specific goals, and for omitting transit improvements as a method for achieving safe streets.

From the letter, which is signed by eighteen advocacy groups:

We are five years into Vision Zero, with only five years left to reach our goal. Nevertheless, this Strategy does not include any mention of progress to date, except in one paragraph in the “Note from the Mayor.” There is no update on the actions and metrics from the previous two Strategies, which leaves the City completely unaccountable and leaves us with little faith in the current Strategy.

The letter, which is addressed to the mayor, SFMTA head Ed Reiskin, and other relevant officials, also takes the city to task for not committing to eliminating injuries. “Five hundred people are severely injured in traffic crashes every year in San Francisco, and yet the new Action Strategy doesn’t list the number of severe injuries as a metric. This is a missed opportunity to measure the City’s progress toward Vision Zero.”

The letter stresses that Muni improvements “…are needed for us to reach zero, since transit-robust cities have fewer crashes and most major Muni corridors are on the high-injury network.”

At yesterday’s Vision Zero Committee of San Francisco at City Hall, Walk S.F.’s Cathy DeLuca added this:

What’s the stuff that we can’t do or that we don’t have the money to do? That we need to find the money for? What’s the plan? What’s the roadmap? We’re not asking for miracles …We know that communities that use transit are much safer, so if we get more people riding transit, fewer people are going to get hit by cars. So what’s the City’s plan to improve transit to get us to Vision Zero?

It was late last month that Zhao Guan was hit and killed at the intersection of 18th and California, one of three older adults killed since the start of the year. And, as shown in the lead image, Tess Rothstein, 30, was killed cycling in SoMa last week.

Note: Streetsblog just confirmed that Wednesday’s victim on Geary, who is 79, will survive her injuries. “The Ped is doing good, out of ICU, and talking/eating. She is expected to be released shortly,” wrote a representative of the San Francisco police in an email.

  • crazyvag

    What’s also sad is that a death nets us 3 blocks of protected bike lanes adjacent to accident. What would it take to get more protected bike lanes on Folsom?

  • Flatlander

    I mean, yes it’s sad. Obviously it would be better to deal with these things before a death occurs. But if a death does occur, is it less sad for the city to do nothing afterward?

  • crazyvag

    I guess I was going to make the other point.

    In this case, 3 blocks the westbound bike lane are being protected. What about the corresponding 3 blocks of the eastbound lane that anyone will need totuse in the return trip?

  • runn3r85

    I think it’s more that they only put protected lanes at the site of the death. But we all know there should be complete protected lanes so people can safely bike in SF. How useful are protected lanes if they are piecemeal?

  • 66 City

    The City needs to ramp up enforcement of distracted driving, reckless driving, illegal U-turns in business districts (Valencia Street!), speeding, and not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk. And last but not least, honking their horn out of impatience or anger, instead of for an emergency.

    On a daily basis as I ride a bicycle or walk around town, I see drivers behaving dangerously; the consequences of their behavior can be life-destroying, and they need to be held accountable. We’re giving too much “freedom” to drivers, at the detriment of everyone on the road.

  • Flatlander

    I see. I didn’t hear the implied “only”

    For what it’s worth, I did that commute daily (albeit in the reverse direction – to work on Howard and home on Folsom) and found Howard about ten times as stressful as Folsom. It felt like there were always people turning right off Howard across my path. Never experienced anything like it on Folsom.

  • crazyvag

    Meh. Better to spend that money on protected bike lanes which are self-enforcing.

  • crazyvag

    I concur. I worked on Bryant, but found Howard bike lanes useless. Blocked, poorly timed and just too much out of the way. Of course, there’s complete lack of any lanes on Harrison, Bryant and Brannan, so you end up making big detours for lanes that are blocked.

  • Maureen Rowland

    If they are turning right you are no longer in a bike lane! Dotted lines indicate this. Also it is illegal for any vehicle to pass on the right at an intersection. Streets slowed by times lights to discourage motor vehicle traffic would lessen this deadly interaction. But then traffic is already so slow on major streets in soma. Stay safe out there trucks have poor visibility on their right. I’m betting the electric bike rental company did not provide a helmet and the young woman died from a head injury.

  • heynow

    Ed Reiskin and SFMTA are tasked with the job of keeping the traffic flowing and making MUNI as fast and efficient as possible. Their goal is entirely at odds with pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Why are we asking the fox to design the henhouse?

  • spragmatic

    It’s time for Vision Zero to adopt a “Zero Rideshare” strategy. In a time when traffic is supposed to be slowing and more aware of other road users, San Francisco continues to allow the unrestricted operation of Uber and Lyft which are directly impacting every aspect of making the streets safer in every way. The studies now show 1) that Uber and Lyft take riders from public transit, not out of their own cars, 2) they spend more of their miles empty than with a fare and 3) they a responsible for 50% of the traffic increase since the recession. Let’s add that they are, as a group, the worst driver on the road. They’re constantly distracted by the mobile phones. They’re hanging u-turns in the middle of the block. They’re making right turns from the left lane of one-way streets. And the worst, they stop RIGHT. IN. THE. MIDDLE. OF. THE. STREET. for every fare.

    The cumulative effect is this; transit is slow. Nobody is safe near them. Drivers are frustrated by their shenanigans. Traffic is a complete mess. There is no order on the street. This directly impacts the safety of those most vulnerable on our streets; pedestrians and bicyclists.

    Eliminate the ride sharing company. Instant safer streets. Instant less traffic. Instant increased ridership on public transportation. Instant increase in pedestrians and bicycle use. Instant decrease in traffic incidents, injuries and fatalities.

  • Stuart

    > If they are turning right you are no longer in a bike lane! Dotted lines indicate this.

    You are incorrect; the dotted lines indicate that drivers are allowed—and in fact, required—to enter the bike lane to turn right, it doesn’t mean the bike lane doesn’t exist. See https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/hdbk/turns and CVC 21209.

    Flatlander is describing drivers who are illegally turning across a bike line instead of merging into it as required by law.

    I’m betting the electric bike rental company did not provide a helmet and the young woman died from a head injury.

    She was wearing a helmet, as has been widely reported. It turns out that there are many ways to be killed when struck by a car or truck that helmets provide absolutely no protection against.

    Which is why bike safety advocates take a dim view of comments like yours that imply that helmets are the be-all end-all of bike safety.

  • joechoj

    Which “City”? Please let your readers know in the headlines.

  • thielges

    In the SF Bay area an unqualified reference to “The City” refers to San Francisco.

  • joechoj

    Cyclists, including myself, complain when street signs & laws aren’t designed with them in mind. I’m complaining that this website isn’t designed with much of its own readership in mind.
    sf.streetsblog’s editorial approach to the geography of the Bay Area is just as exclusionary of non-SF readers as today’s roads are of vulnerable users.
    The assumption that “it’s SF unless stated” sends a message to the rest of the Bay Area that “this website is not for you” – which I’m certain is not Streetsblog’s intent.
    And “The City” was not used. There’s simply reference to a generic “City”; this headline could originate from any number of local papers.

  • thielges

    Yeah I agree that SF Streetsblog is very SF and Oakland centric, probably a product of where the staff lives. While there’s still room to improve the situation in the denser parts of the (SF) Bay Area, conditions are really appalling in other parts of the Bay Area, particularly in southern Alameda County.

    As for “The City”: that moniker is familiar all over the Bay Area and isn’t exclusive to SF residents.

  • joechoj

    Again, it didn’t say “The City”.

  • Maureen Rowland

    mea culpa I didnt know this situation but I do see many without helmets. I do know it can not save every situation having worked in the brain injury unit at Laguna Honda. I have had a car pull around me at a 90 degree angle to enter their driveway when I was going downhill and leave me bloody in the street and enter their garage. I was grateful that i had a helmet on.

  • Flatlander

    Yeah, but you often can’t tell they’re turning right until they’ve already started turning (sometimes I’m not sure the motorists know they are turning right until the last second). Or there’s a mix of right-turning and through traffic in the same lane, or people turn right from the second-to-right lane. Even as a confident bicyclist, it’s very stressful.

  • Richard Rothman

    First SFMTA needs to change the way it does business If residents want safety improvement in there neighborhood they should have.

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