Last year, the 21 people killed while walking or biking in San Francisco represented the highest count since 2007, as noted a statement from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco. In response, the SF Bicycle Coalition, WalkSF, and over twenty community groups are calling on the Board of Supervisors, the SFMTA and Mayor Ed Lee to follow New York’s lead adopt one of the most progressive road traffic safety projects in the world: Vision Zero.
The Vision Zero initiative started in Sweden in 1997 (yes, we’re 17 years behind). Its basic premise? No loss of life is acceptable.
The Swedish Vision Zero is based on four principles:
- Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.”
Specifically, Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition are demanding the following:
- Fix the known dangerous locations where people are being injured on our streets — the majority of which are in the South of Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods — by empowering a Strategic Street Action Team to deliver on-the-ground improvements quickly;
- Ensure full and fair enforcement of traffic laws, with a focus on the most problematic dangerous behaviors and locations;
- Invest in training and education programs for all road users, with a focus on frequent drivers, who spend the most hours on the road and are involved in a disproportionate number of fatalities and serious collisions.
San Francisco’s “Street Action Team” is expected to redesign streets for slower speeds, which is one of the most effective ways to save lives, but one tool not available to them is lower speed limits. Portland, whose traffic safety record is exemplary, added an abundance of 15 and 20 mph zones. California law makes these changes impossible. The only place where speeds can be that low is in some school zone and alleys. Enforcement by speed camera, the most efficient method of enforcing the law, is not an option.
Attempts to change speed limit laws have met regular resistance in Sacramento but CalBike is committed to building the coalition that will enable local leaders to implement these crucial aspects of a Vision Zero campaign. An essential part of that will be a coalition of cities calling for the freedom to lower their speed limits and create livable cities. We join with the SF Bicycle Coalition in calling on Mayor Lee to take action for safer streets beyond a public relations campaign to “be nice, look twice,” which has rubbed some folks the wrong way.
We encourage every city in California to join the Vision Zero movement. We encourage every Californian to demand livable streets for our elderly, our children, the daily commuters. We deserve more from our Departments of Transportation. Now is the time when the movement to have livable communities, where not a single death is tolerable, will reform our communities. Make your voice heard. Join your local advocacy group, vote for bikes, join public demonstrations, and help your community thrive.