Standing on Howard Street in the South of Market on Monday afternoon, her pink bike leaned against a row of other two-wheelers, Supervisor Jane Kim grasped a pair of scissors for that all-too-cliche political event: a ribbon cutting.
The event marked the completion of a parking-protected bike lane and pedestrian improvements that will make Howard Street — where 308 people were injured and three killed in traffic collisions in the last five years — safer for all. But it also marked Kim’s last full day serving on the Board of Supervisors.
It was appropriate, then, that the ribbon-cutting was one of Kim’s last official acts — Kim has ushered in the construction of more protected bike lanes than any other supervisor in The City during her time in office, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
All told, Kim’s district saw 18.6 miles of bike lanes of all types — protected by safety barriers or not — created or upgraded during her tenure. Her district includes the Tenderloin, South of Market, South Beach, and Treasure Island neighborhoods.
For context, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition told its members that it politically pushed for 5.3 miles of bike lanes to be built in all of San Francisco during 2018.
And Kim not only fought for bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements in her own district, but authored San Francisco’s Vision Zero ordinance, which commited The City to reducing traffic-related deaths to zero by 2024.
That effort started early, Kim recalled.
When she first took office, the newly minted supervisor asked for two public hearings — one on bedbugs, and another on traffic safety.
“When I started on the board, the district didn’t have a single protected bike lane,” she said Monday.
Kim still recalls her first meeting with the late Mayor Ed Lee in 2011 on street safety, seeking his support. She sat in his office, and brought in a “huge binder” with statistics about street deaths and how engineering, enforcement, and education could save lives. Kim noted that Lee was a “data person,” and to him, the numbers told the tale.
“He said ‘you convinced me,’” she remembered.
Despite that support, back then street safety was considered a “lightweight issue,” Kim said. But things changed quickly.
Kim credited a “seismic shift” in local attitudes toward pedestrian safety improvements and bike lanes to a spate of street deaths in 2013, including that of Amelie Le Moullac, who was bicycling on Folsom Street when she was struck and killed by a driver. That New Year’s Eve, 6-year-old Sofia Liu was also struck and killed by an Uber driver, spurring both intense scrutiny of Uber and a call by advocates for Vision Zero.
“She capped it off,” Kim said.
Those traffic deaths and others, including the 2016 death of Katherine Slattery nearby at Seventh and Howard streets, were in Kim’s district. They galvanized the street safety movement locally, from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to neighborhood groups like United Playaz and SOMCAN.
“It was [an issue] that really united the district” more than any other, Kim said. More well-heeled neighbors started volunteering at United Playaz, and neighborhood groups cross-pollinated like she’d rarely seen before, she said.
Back at the press conference on Monday, standing behind Kim and the bright red ribbon were representatives from the South of Market Community Action Network, United Playaz, the bike coalition and SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin.
The Folsom-Howard Streetscape Improvement Project will see the installation of pedestrian and bike improvements from Third to 11th streets on Howard, and on Folsom Street between Second and 11th, including bike lanes protected by parked cars, new pedestrian safety improvements, and more.
The newly minted bike lane on Howard is just one step in the overall project, which is expected to be completed in 2022.
Angelica Cabande, organizational director of SOMCAN, reminded the crowd “South of Market is a neighborhood full of children and seniors, but to many it’s an entrance to five freeways.”
“We work with youth” who “walk up and down the streets,” said Will Ramirez, a staffer with the violence prevention group United Playaz. The homies of all genders wore their iconic hoodies and jackets, and nodded as Ramirez spoke.
“If these lights weren’t here here, the statistics of casualties would be much higher,” he said.
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier looked around at the people gathered and noted, “Bike lanes don’t just build themselves.”