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SFMTA reduces speed limit on major city streets

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SFPD Officer Leroy Thomas radar enforces cars driving on Howard Street near 6th Street in San Francisco, Calif. Thursday, September 29, 2016. San Francisco police along with public health and transportation agencies recently announced the next phase of the Safe Speeds SF campaign aimed to eliminate all traffic deaths. (Jessica Christian/S.F Examiner)

San Francisco’s transit agency is reducing the speed limit along major thoroughfares on the west side of The City, as well as other neighborhoods, as part of its plan to eliminate traffic deaths.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reduced the limit from 35 to 30 mph on sections of Fulton Street and Sunset Boulevard, as well as from 30 to 25 mph in various locations in South of Market, Haight Ashbury, Parkmerced, Dogpatch and Westwood Highlands neighborhoods, according to the SFMTA.

The Sunset Boulevard speed limit was reduced between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Lake Merced Boulevard, and on Fulton Street between Arguello Boulevard and the Great Highway.

The changes were implemented between 2012 and 2016, and were authorized Tuesday in the Transportation Code by the SFMTA Board of Directors.

“People don’t realize how much impact speeding has,” said John Knox White, a transportation planner for the SFMTA. “You are twice as likely to kill someone if you drive 35 mph instead of 30.”

The reduction supports the Vision Zero plan, a campaign that aims to eliminate crashes leading to fatalities and severe injuries by 2024.

“We have been focused on improving pedestrian, bike and traffic safety on The City’s High Injury Network, the 12 percent of San Francisco streets where 70 percent of our severe and fatal traffic injuries occur,” Rose said.

To achieve the goal, city officials and community members are working on improving the streets, campaigning for new traffic safety laws and educating the public, said Cathy DeLuca, the program manager for advocacy group Walk San Francisco.

The Vision Zero plan “exists because you shouldn’t have to die if someone makes a mistake,” DeLuca said.

To measure the danger of a street and choose where to implement changes, the Department of Public Health analyzes the number of collisions there that led to injuries, said Knox White of the SFMTA.

The locations where the speed limit was reduced are considered dangerous by The City, meaning more people are injured in crashes on those streets, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said.

At one of the locations where the speed limit was reduced, an 87-year-old man died in a car crash at Sunset Boulevard in 2016, according to the Vision Zero Map.

A 64-year-old woman died while walking near the part of Monterey Boulevard that is also seeing a speed reduction.

In total, around 30 people die in San Francisco car crashes each year, according to The City’s Performance Scorecards website.

The speed reduction won’t affect The City’s budget and is exempted from environmental review, according to the SFMTA.

John Zwolinski, a Sunset District resident, said he welcomes the lower speed limit along Sunset Boulevard, where he has witnessed speeding cars on multiple occasions.

“If reducing the posted speed limit is what it takes to bring speeds down on the Sunset … then I am for it,” said Zwolinski. “The new reduction might have a calming effect.”

“If you want folks to go 35 [mph], post the speed limit at 30 [mph],” Zwolinski said. “Folks frequently hit 50 [mph] on Sunset, even though the lights are kinda-sorta timed.”

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the SFMTA had reduced speed limits earlier this year. In fact, the speed limits were reduced between 2012 and 2016. Additionally, the original story incorrectly reported that around 30 pedestrians die in San Francisco car crashes each year, but that number actually refers to drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders.

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