With the U.S. surgeon general recently weighing in on the benefits of walking, and Chicago and New York City developing robust safety programs, local activists are wondering why The City is not doing more to bolster its long-awaited pedestrian action plan.
On Dec. 20, 2010, in one of his last acts before leaving office, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive directive to improve pedestrian safety conditions. He called for a 25 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries and fatalities by 2016 and a 50 percent drop by 2021. Newsom ordered the creation of a Pedestrian Safety Task Force, which would detail how to accomplish these goals.
Nearly two years later, the final action plan has not been publicly unveiled and has yet to be approved by any public agency. And the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees pedestrian safety policies, has not secured funding for the potential improvements.
Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, said San Francisco is lagging other cities when it should be leading the push for increased safety measures. While The City’s action plan has languished for two years, Chicago unveiled a detailed program to eliminate pedestrian fatalities within 10 years. New York also is working on an aggressive plan.
Stampe, who sits on the task force, said the preliminary action plan has strong goals — such as identifying 50 miles of streets that are in dire need of safety improvements. However, she has not seen a cohesive plan of action.
“We really need to see a commitment to funding and leadership from The City to fix the needs that have been identified,” Stampe said. “It’s frustrating to see really sensible plans arise out of other cities while we kind of stand idle.”
Pi Ra, chair of the citizen group Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, said the Transportation Agency circulated copies of a preliminary action plan months ago. He questioned why the agency has not moved forward with an official document for approval.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve known the plan has existed for months,” Ra said. “But this is typical of a city program. These things kind of go in fits and starts.”
Paul Rose, a spokesman for the Transportation Agency, said the plan is moving ahead as scheduled. Details will be presented when it’s up for approval at the agency’s board of directors meeting Jan. 29. After that, Mayor Ed Lee will get a chance to authorize the program, at which time the agency will begin actively pursuing funding sources, Rose said.