Walk San Francisco Marks Year of Progress
During Woonerven party, advocates celebrate milestones for safer, more walkable streets
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Walk San Francisco, at its annual ‘Woonerven’* party Tuesday evening, marked a host of accomplishments towards making San Francisco safer and more pedestrian friendly in 2019. “I want to toast everyone who went to a meeting at City Hall to speak. Or attended a vigil. Or emailed or called an elected official,” said Walk SF director Jodie Medeiros to the room of 200 supporters at the event in the Mission. Their work, she said, helped bring seminal victories including “the biggest win of 2019, private vehicles off Market Street.”
To drive the point home (or maybe ‘walk the point home’ would be a better expression), the organization’s communications director, Marta Lindsey, had Walk SF staff, directors and volunteers hold signs (seen in the lead image) which they lifted up as she listed each victory.
Other big wins: a new crosstown trail opened, 10,000 kids participated in ‘walk to school‘ day, a car-free space was created in Hayes Valley, and Measure ‘D’ passed, which will levy a tax on Uber and Lyft to help pay for better transit and safer streets. Those in the audience cheered and blew kazoos each time a sign was held up.
Lindsey also thanked journalists for covering these issues and policies and helping draw attention to unsafe streets (you’re welcome).
Also counted as a major victory is the announcement that Jeffrey Tumlin will take the reigns at SFMTA, which advocates called a sign that “times are changing” and that staff at city agencies are now “in it to win it,” Medeiros told the audience.
“I’m thrilled about Tumlin,” said SFMTA Planning Director Sarah Jones, who was also at the celebration. She was especially happy about Tumlin’s work on reforming ‘Level of Service.’ She sees his appointment as enabling staff to make bolder, more definitive changes to streets, including banning private cars on streets beyond Market. “We don’t have the luxury of not being bold.”
“I’m excited to see where he takes the MTA,” said SFMTA Livable Streets Director Jaime Parks, who also said he sees real hope in the ongoing ‘quick build’ program to set up more protected bike lanes. However, “It’s frustrating that despite all the work and effort we put into Vision Zero, the count still hasn’t gone down.”
Parks is talking about the 25 traffic fatalities that have occurred this year–well over last year’s count.
That failure is all too real for Alvin Lester with Bay Area Families for Safe Streets. His son Arman was killed in the Bayview by an SUV driver in 2014. He said the memory of his son still makes it hard for him to visit relatives in the Bayview–but he does see some progress in making streets safer there. “I see painted lines,” he said, adding that the real challenges are now at the state level. “Automated Speed Enforcement. We need red-light cameras.”
For all the hard-working advocates and city officials at the event, that means 2020 will require even more advocacy and commitment, around the city, at the state level, and beyond.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Parks.
*Woonerven is an idea born in the Netherlands: a “living street” traffic-calmed with shared space and slow speeds: all traffic goes at the pace of a person on foot.