(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Reopening The City could make the streets more dangerous

Pedestrian advocates call for increased safe measures as business activity returns

Street safety advocates on Thursday warned City officials that without action, a surge in traffic collisions could come as coronavirus restrictions loosen.

Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian safety advocacy group, called on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to quickly install safety measures to prepare for a return to higher traffic levels. Most San Francisco retailers will be allowed to operate curbside pick-ups starting Monday, bringing more people onto the roads.

“As people are walking and biking more, potentially more people are going to hop in their cars,” said Walk SF Executive Director Jodie Medeiros. “We just want to make sure that SFMTA is thinking about these low-cost, proven solutions that we can put out quickly and is going to people safe as we move around.”

In a letter sent to SFTMA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin on Thursday, Walk SF requested traffic calming measures, expanded red-light cameras, and more speed radar signs to collect data within the year.

Calming measures include barring turns on red lights, installing bumpers to reduce speeds on left turns, and painting guiding lines for vehicles and pedestrians at intersections through the City’s high-injury corridor network. Streets like South Van Ness Avenue are among the 13 percent of streets that make up 75 percent of injury collisions.

Walk SF also seeks to add 10 red-light cameras to the high-injury network, adding to the City’s total of 13. An SFMTA spokesperson said the agency has $2.9 million in funding dedicated to red light upgrades through 2023 but did not clarify to the Examiner how it would be rolled out.

Lastly, the group is calling for a network of speed radar signs, for which SFMTA has $707,000 set aside, to help reduce speeds and help track them in real-time. Though data on April speeding violations was not immediately available, Chief Bill Scott and other SFPD leadership have repeatedly asked the public to slow down after observing vehicles traveling at high speeds on empty streets.

“We have seen an increase in vehicles speeding down our streets and through neighborhoods,” wrote Taraval Station Capt. Nicholas Rainsford in a May newsletter. “We need to remember to follow the traffic laws at all times even when traffic is light. It is important to remember to slow down, make complete stops at stops signs, and yield the right of way to pedestrians.”

While San Francisco has struggled with its Vision Zero effort to eliminate street traffic fatalities, Walk SF has not tracked any such deaths during the shelter-in-place. The group acknowledged that SFMTA has been overwhelmed with the coronavirus response but worries that without preparation now, a surge of critical collisions will occur as vehicles get back on the roads.

“What we want to make sure is this goal does not slip out of sight for this City,” Medieros said. “We feel that it’s our City’s obligation to put in some simple, cost-effective, prudent solutions that we’ve seen work in other cities to make sure that we keep people safe.”

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