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Bicycle Safety

More Promises to Do Better at Breed’s Vision Zero Political Rally

Advocate Tim Courtney demanding concrete action on Polk Street next to the rally. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Mayor London Breed, transportation officials, and advocates held a rally Thursday afternoon on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the city's Vision Zero pledge and to promise to do better on safety in the wake of the West Portal tragedy. The mayor said the city is now "prepared to be aggressive" to make changes to San Francisco streets so "it doesn't happen again."

"This has to fire us up to do the hard work," said City Attorney David Chiu, who also spoke at the rally. "Great cities save lives."

Most of the speeches, including those from SFMTA's Amanda Eaken and Jeffrey Tumlin, contained familiar platitudes about safety and the city's supposedly past focus as a car-first city. They also talked about bringing "joy" to streets. The mayor and others boasted about the imaginary 41 miles of protected bike lanes constructed in the city. In reality, of course, most of the "protected" bike lanes are actually just marked by paint and plastic posts, with mixing-zone intersections.

As the event progressed, Streetsblog watched cyclists struggling to get around double-parked cars on Polk Street's unprotected bike lane, right in front of the speakers. Even as lawmakers and officials went on about the need to prioritize safety, they were literally looking at Polk's compromised bike lane. Polk was supposed to have protected bike lanes as part of a street redesign. But the protected lanes were removed from the designs to preserve parking in 2013 by merchants and David Chiu when he was a Supervisor.

Even as officials promised more enforcement of bike lanes, this was the scene right before their eyes. There was an SFPD officer just to the left chit-chatting with someone.

"What are you saying when this is the road literally in front of city hall?" remarked District 3 Supervisorial candidate Danny Sauter, who also attended the rally. "Protecting this bike lane would say a lot."

There were some "specifics" listed in a follow-up release from the mayor's office, such as a call to daylight the entire high-injury network by the end of the year. However, most of the list deals with things that were already in progress or should have been done all along, such as citing drivers for parking on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin spoke about support for "converting plastic straws to concrete and trees" and the funding needed to do so. He connected that to the need for advocate support in passing ballot measures.

The mayor also discussed an idea that's been in the works for some time to ban right turns on red at selected intersections. And advocates and politicos praised the mayor's help in securing JFK in Golden Gate Park and Shelley Drive in McLaren Park as car-free areas. And they talked about the success, at long last, of legalizing automated speed enforcement cameras.

But mostly, the presentation sounded familiar and would be hard to distinguish from previous rounds of promises and commitments. In Streetsblog's view, the only appropriate statement at this political rally, given the horror of what happened in West Portal, should have gone something like: "We fucked up. And we fucked up badly, for ten years, by compromising on safety and allowing parking and car throughput to trump life. And now it has destroyed an entire family, including two small children. From now on, we're going to follow the example of Mayor Hidalgo in Paris. We're going to start right here in front of City Hall, on Polk Street. There will be Jersey barriers protecting the bike lanes installed by tomorrow. We're also going to ban through traffic on Ulloa in West Portal where it blocks Muni trains. And there will be more concrete dropped every day on other streets after that."

If readers want an alternate viewpoint, they can read Mayor Breed's Medium Post

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