Streets where two cyclists were killed to net major safety overhaul

The two streets where two cyclists were recently killed in car crashes will undergo major safety improvements.

Heather Miller, 41, was fatally struck in Golden Gate Park the evening of June 22. Hours later, Katherine Slattery, 26, was killed at Howard and Seventh streets in a separate collision.

On Thursday, Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive directive to bolster safety on The City’s bicycle network and other streets in what transportation advocates are calling his strongest move to prevent traffic deaths while in office.

Lee said his directive is a response to those deaths.

“Recently, we have had tragedies on our streets as a result of criminal behavior on behalf of motorists,” Lee said in a statement. “We cannot control the behavior of a few, we can make our streets safer through engineering, education and enforcement.”

Those three efforts are the tent poles of Vision Zero, The City’s stated directive to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024, which was spearheaded by Supervisor Jane Kim.

Lee’s directive tasks the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to deliver “near-term safety improvements” within the next six months at Seventh and Eighth streets, where Slattery was killed, and on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, where Miller was killed.

Lee directed the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the SFMTA to study traffic calming and traffic restriction measures in Golden Gate Park within the next three months.

The Mayor’s Office also committed to advocating for Automated Speed Enforcement legislation at the state level, a major effort to curb speeding drivers.

Lee’s directive promises to implement vehicle-tracking technology in all city vehicles by January 2017, a concept long pushed for by Supervisor Norman Yee.

It also promises the San Francisco Police Department will reach its “Focus on Five” goals to issue traffic citations for the most dangerous driving behaviors, like speeding.

As the San Francisco Examiner previously reported, the SFPD still has not met those goals.

Perhaps the weakest element of the mayor’s directive is the plan to introduce a “comprehensive Vision Zero” campaign to expand public awareness, some transit advocates said.

“Education is, ‘Tell the public not to kill people,’” said Tom Radulovich, head of the advocacy group Livable City. “The research shows it’s not very effective,” he said, “but it makes governments feel like” they’re doing something.

The promises toward bicycle safety are seen as a stark reversal from the mayor’s statements after the cyclists’ deaths, when he cited drivers’ “irresponsible speeds” as the cause of the deaths without calling for new street engineering to prevent deaths.

In another reversal, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is now lauding the mayor.

In a statement, the coalition’s executive director, Brian Wiedenmeier, called Lee’s plan a “bold commitment” to eliminating traffic deaths.

Two months ago, the coalition accused Lee of showing a lack of leadership. They mounted a public campaign to lobby Lee to speed up the creation of safer streets.

More than 1,700 people wrote the mayor to demand change, coalition spokesperson Chris Cassidy told the Examiner. “It took an unprecedented night of tragedy” to gain safer streets, Cassidy said.

“The result,” he added, “is maybe the strongest move Mayor Ed Lee has made in his five years in office to deliver safe streets.”

The executive directive takes effect immediately, according to the Mayor’s Office.

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