Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona is asking his fellow councilmembers to follow San Francisco’s lead and adopt the international Vision Zero campaign, which seeks to eliminate traffic fatalities.
At least one automotive expert is skeptical about some aspects of the program, and state law might prevent Daly City from implementing the lower speed limits requested by Vision Zero. But Guingona said he would only advocate changes that are reasonable and supported by a majority of residents.
Growing outcry over pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities prompted San Francisco supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee and John Avalos to introduce The City’s Vision Zero plan in 2014. In 2013, there were reportedly 25 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths within San Francisco city limits.
San Francisco reportedly saw 31 traffic fatalities — vehicle occupants included — in both 2014 and 2015, but proponents claim Sweden has seen a fifty percent reduction in pedestrian deaths since launching its Vision Zero program.
Guingona said the need for safety improvements on the Peninsula became apparent when he viewed a San Mateo County traffic fatality map.
“The map showed red dots where people had died,” Guingona said. “There were lots of red dots in the north and south ends of the county, and almost nothing in between.”
Noting how the deaths seemed to cluster around less affluent cities, including Daly City and East Palo Alto, Guingona said he suspects socioeconomic factors play a role in the death tolls because low-income residents are more likely to commute on foot or bicycle, which makes them more vulnerable.
The California Office of Traffic Safety’s online collision ranking tool provides injury and fatality data from 2008 to 2013. According to the site, Daly City’s injury accidents peaked at 257 in 2011, and have been on a downward trend since then, with 240 injuries or deaths reported in 2013.
San Francisco, which has more than eight times Daly City’s population, reported 3,900 traffic injuries or deaths in 2011. In 2013, that figure dipped to 2,571. The state website tool does not list injuries and deaths separately.
Aaron Robinson, executive editor of Car and Driver magazine, takes a lukewarm view of some components of Vision Zero. Among the international project’s stated principles is the idea that cost-benefit analyses attaching monetary values to human life and health should have no bearing on transportation planning, and that human life is so paramount, it should always trump mobility needs. “This is clearly an extremist position,” Robinson noted.
Last year, San Francisco supervisors began to talk seriously about lowering the speed limit on some streets to 20 mph. This is consistent with Vision Zero proponents’ claims that car-pedestrian collisions are more survivable at that speed, and that wherever pedestrians cannot be isolated from roadways, 20 mph should be the maximum speed limit.
Reducing speed limits to 20 mph might result in more traffic citations being issued, but probably wouldn’t yield a tangible safety benefit, Robinson said, because compliance would be low.
“One way to drive up crime stats dramatically is to pass laws no reasonable person can comply with,” Robinson said, adding that speed limits in California are controlled by state law that generally cannot be superseded by individual cities.
Guingona downplayed the notion he might introduce measures that could make life more difficult for motorists. The councilman said the Vision Zero resolution he’s currently crafting would not require any specific action on the part of Daly City’s government. Instead, it would be a values statement that guides how the town’s police, public works and land use regulators approach various issues.
“Once you have a policy on the books, your departments are empowered to go forward,” Guingona said. “You’re telling them, ‘It’s really, really, really important to me that nobody dies.’”Brendan BartholomewDaly CitydeathsMike GuingonaSan Franciscotransportationvehicle crashesVision Zero