Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
Vision Zero

Commentary: Poor Leadership is the Through Line of the West Portal/Vision Zero Stories

SFMTA removing safe hit posts on Franklin. Photo: Rudick/Streetsblog

In the wake of the West Portal crash, San Francisco media is echoing the alarms that Streetsblog has long sounded. Street safety is on the front pages of all the major newspapers.

I want to highlight a few through-lines in the reporting that I hope readers haven't missed, both in professional and social media.

First, the lead image: that's a picture from Thursday, March 14 on Franklin Street, where 30-year-old educator Andrew Zieman was killed on the sidewalk in 2021 by a reckless driver. After SFMTA's engineers vetoed a promised lane reduction on Franklin, vigilante safe-streets activists did it for them on one block with safe hit posts and paint. Traffic moved just fine. But SFMTA, the same city organization that director Jeffrey Tumlin and chief engineer Ricardo Olea claim doesn't have the resources to make streets safe, ripped it all out the same morning.

If that isn't enough to convince you of the degree of the failure of SFMTA's leadership to address traffic violence, watch the testimony of Zieman's father at Tuesday's SFMTA board meeting:

Thank you Annie Fryman for posting this.

I also hope readers didn't miss that the SF Standard carried statements on the West Portal tragedy and Vision Zero from four mayoral candidates, current Mayor London Breed, former Mayor Mark Farrell, Daniel Lurie, and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. I'll let the candidates speak for themselves, but I want to call out a line from Breed's essay that, as with her earlier statements on West Portal, left me furious: "San Francisco in 2023 had fewer bicycle, pedestrian and overall fatalities compared with 2013, the year prior to the adoption of Vision Zero."

Mayor Breed is deceitfully cherry picking 2013 and 2023 data. As advocate Jake Moffatt points out in his Tweet below showcasing the city's data across the same period, the city is clearly failing on Vision Zero, especially considering there have been eight traffic deaths in San Francisco already in 2024:

Lastly, the Chronicle had an editorial Friday urging San Francisco's lawmakers to emulate Mayor Anne Hidalgo's leadership in Paris, a city that has successfully increased bike mode share and safety over the same period when San Francisco has spent millions on studies and committees and paint and plastic but essentially accomplished nothing. The editorial was similar to several Streetsblog stories.

A Paris school street Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Do people really think Hidalgo and mayors in other cities that are successfully transforming had it easy? Do people think the same challenges faced by San Francisco don't exist in New York and New Jersey?

The takeaway is that people are dying on San Francisco's streets for one reason: failed leadership. And that comes down to the mayor, the SFMTA board directors she appoints, certainly the engineers at SFMTA, and Jeffrey Tumlin. One can only hope the horror of what happened in West Portal will finally get them to change—or step aside.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter