Officials to seek state law change to end San Francisco's 'culture of speeding'

San Francisco city officials are taking their effort to Sacramento to make roads safer and slow down drivers.

With some effective traffic measures such as 20 mph speed limits and automated speed enforcement cameras requiring changes to state law, city leaders say they will pursue the measures this legislative session. The focus comes as The City has adopted Vision Zero, a goal to end all pedestrian and bicyclist deaths by 2024.

“Speed matters. Speed is probably the most important driving behavior that we need to get under control if we are going to achieve Vision Zero,” said Tom Maguire, sustainable streets director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

A budget analyst's report requested by Supervisor Eric Mar illustrates how other locales with Vision Zero efforts are more aggressively striving toward the goal. Across the U.S., there are 136 other cities that are using automated speed enforcement cameras and numerous locations that have lowered speed limits to 20 mph, according to the report. These two measures have been proven effective in reducing speeds and decreasing collisions.

“San Francisco, I fear, has fallen behind New York, Portland and other cities in America and internationally also in places like Bristol, London and Paris that are taking more, bolder and faster actions than we are doing in our city,” Mar said during Thursday's Board of Supervisors committee hearing on the report.

State law won't let San Francisco lower its speed limits below 25 mph except in very few cases, and though The City can narrowly adjust speed limits within the range of 25 and 65 mph, the process isn't easy.

Maguire said getting authority to use speed enforcement cameras is “a legislative challenge that we are taking on this year.” He noted that a change to state law on speed limits would be even more challenging.

“It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to lower the speed limit, but I think we should just be realistic about what a challenge it would be,” Maguire said.

Mar said he supports the state-level efforts. “We need comprehensive solutions that will significantly alter this culture of speeding. The status quo is clearly not working,” he said.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk San Francisco, a nonprofit that advocates for pedestrian safety, emphasized the importance of San Francisco's politicians showing leadership on the issue in Sacramento. “These are preventable injuries. We don't need to put up with the fact that people are dying or losing limbs on the street,” Schneider said.

In 2011, there were 3,111 collisions in San Francisco causing injury, the report stated. Of those, 844 were between vehicles and pedestrians and 630 were between vehicles and bicyclists.

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