San Francisco, like many California cities, has state-owned highways that serve as surface streets in their communities such as 19th Avenue in The City.
To make those streets safer for the pedestrians and bicyclists who use those streets alongside motorists, Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation Monday that would require Caltrans to make safety improvements such as bike lanes and sidewalks when updating such streets.
“In San Francisco, we have six-lane, fast-moving highways that are disguised as neighborhood streets,” said Jodie Mederios, executive director of Walk San Francisco. “These roads are death traps and need to be designed for the safety of everyone, not just for moving traffic quickly.”
The Senate Bill 127, which Wiener discussed in a press conference on Monday, would require all major road projects to fulfill the requirement of a ‘complete street,’ which is designed to accommodate all road users, not just drivers. This would include well-lit facilities for bicycles and pedestrians along with a sidewalk that is physically separate from moving vehicles. It would also change Caltrans rules to make such improvements the default rather than the exception in its projects.
Despite adopting a ‘complete streets’ policy back in 2008, Caltrans has yet to deliver consistent safety improvements and continues to prioritize the movement of vehicle traffic through cities over all other modes of transportation, he said.
“For too long, Caltrans has talked about complete streets as a policy, but hasn’t actually delivered these improvements in its projects,” Wiener said.
Caltrans, which owns and maintains roughly 50,000 miles of state roads, is also responsible for three significant stretches of asphalt that cut through the city. Namely, Highway 101 on Van Ness and Lombard Avenue, Highway 1 on 19th Avenue and Highway 35 on Sloat Boulevard.
This bill, first perished in committee in 2017. San Francisco just ended 2018 with more traffic fatalities than the previous year. The City is struggling to meet it’s ‘Vision Zero’ goals of no traffic deaths by 2024.
San Francisco has already re-engineered over 80 percent of the roads to be safer since the ‘Vision Zero’ mandate. Wiener’s bill would complement the push for more inclusive transportation infrastructure.
Wiener also said that ensuring access to safe streets will encourage alternate methods of transportation that will in turn reduce congestion and help fight climate change.