Voters Approve Funding for Traffic Safety Improvements as Pedestrian Fatalities Surge

Pedestrian safety advocates held a rally today to mourn 28 people killed on city streets this year and to urge city officials to step up bicycle and pedestrian safety efforts.

San Francisco residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in support of Proposition A that injects $500 million into pedestrian and bicycle safety measures, but safety advocates said they are still waiting on city leaders to step up engineering, enforcement and education efforts that could decrease pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries.

The rally comes after a series of traffic fatalities in recent weeks, including the death of 51-year-old Lori Helmer, who was struck by a Golden Gate Transit bus while jogging in Russian Hill on Thursday.

Advocates and members of the Vision Zero Coalition, which is compromised of numerous city organizations including Walk San Francisco, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Lighthouse for the Blind, Livable City, Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee,, and SPUR, among others, held the rally just a couple feet from the pedestrian crosswalk where 68-year-old city hall employee Priscila “Precy” Moreto was struck and killed by a tour bus on Oct. 23.

The goal of the Vision Zero Coalition is to reduce all traffic-related deaths by 2024, according to its mission statement.

The crosswalk where Moreto was killed will have a traffic light and other changes in place by June 2015, at the latest, according to the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition stood at the intersection today and pointed to major issues with street design, including a lack of street signals and too many lanes designated for vehicular traffic.

She said the city should “put roads on a diet,” even if it does mean that drivers will have to spend 30 seconds to a minute longer in their vehicles to get to their destinations.

Shahum, along with other pedestrian and bicycle advocates asked city leaders to take a leadership role to meet the Vision Zero goal.

Among the city departments and officials who have committed to Vision Zero are Mayor Ed Lee’s Office, the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA and San Francisco police.

Voters overwhelmingly endorsing propositions A and B on Tuesday, so the mayor shouldn’t worry that he will alienate residents if he takes a stronger stand on slowing streets and removing parking spots to make the streets safer, Shahum said.

She described the streets as in a “state of emergency” and urged the mayor not to allow the “perception of parking convenience” to take precedence over traffic safety.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF said far too many people have been needlessly killed in preventable crashes, especially among seniors, low-income communities and communities of color.

On-street safety projects have “stalled” and she said enforcement goals to target the most dangerous traffic behaviors have not been met.

Walk SF wants to see mandates that require professional drivers to take pedestrian and bicycle safety classes, Schneider said.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said $142 million of Proposition A would go towards the first phase of traffic safety projects, which will begin as the revenue bonds go out.

He said that since April 2014, six Vision Zero projects have already been completed, but that historically, funding has been an issue.

With funding now secured for safety investments through Proposition A, the SFMTA will be able to implement more projects, including $68 million earmarked to improve the 6 percent of city streets where 60 percent of traffic injuries occur, Rose said.

Proposition A will also put an initial $40 million toward building 30 miles of bicycle network upgrades and 35 miles of bicycle network expansion.

He said $22 million will go directly to upgrade and replace traffic signals and that $12 million will go toward upgrading various dangerous traffic corridors in select neighborhoods.

Some 40 pedestrian and bicycle projects are estimated to be completed by the end of 2017, including a $2.5 million project on Market Street and a $1.7 million project that will convert a number of streets in the Tenderloin to two-way streets and add pedestrian signals, Rose said.

Additionally, Rose said a project on Potrero Avenue, estimated to cost $4.1 million and be completed by the end of 2016, will widen sidewalks, add bulb-outs to make pedestrians more visible at crosswalks and add buffers to existing bike lanes.

“We’re doing everything we can to increase pedestrian safety throughout the city,” Rose said today.

Shahum said she hopes the passage of Proposition A will convince city leaders to move forward on safety issues, but she is still waiting to see city leaders follow through on residents’ demands for safe streets.

“This means acting on the many street safety plans that have sat languishing for years on shelves due to a lack of political will,” she said.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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