Within a single week, three crashes devastated the lives of four people and shattered their families and our community. On Oct. 30, a driver plowed through a crosswalk, hitting a stroller and 3-year-old Taeun Kim, who remains in critical care. Then on Nov. 3, a jogger was thrown 25 feet by a speeding car at Hyde and Post streets and is now on life support. Finally, on Nov. 4, two 12-year-old boys were hit when a driver didn’t yield as the boys were walking to school, flinging both across the large intersection at Bay Street into the opposite crosswalk.
Make no mistake: While these crashes were tragic and life-changing for the people hit and their families, none were a surprise, nor were they simply “accidents.” The culprit? In each case, it was speed — and poor street design which encourages speeding — to blame.
Speed kills because the impact that two tons of steel have on our fragile flesh and bones is exponential. A person hit by a car at 20 mph has a 9 in 10 chance of surviving; at 40 mph, that person has only a 1 in 10 chance of surviving.
Speed kills because the faster a car is moving, the more time and distance it takes to stop. Drivers traveling at 20 mph can stop in three car lengths; a driver traveling at 40 mph takes as much as nine car lengths to stop.
Speed kills because a driver’s peripheral vision shrinks the faster he or she drives. As speeds increase, drivers get “tunnel vision,” and are less able to see people as they step into approaching crosswalks.
Meeting the Vision Zero goal to end all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024 demands The City design a safe transportation system in the first place that addresses deadly speeding.
Solutions like more targeted enforcement of speeders, and more streets designed to look and feel like the speed that is appropriate for that street, can and do, save lives.
There’s clear data that these solutions work. Perhaps the strongest examples of success comes from putting our roads on a “diet” — an easy, low-cost engineering solution that redistributes space and narrows traffic lanes for safer, more efficient use. Road diets generally convert four lanes of two-way vehicle traffic into two lanes of vehicle traffic with a center turning lane and outside bicycle lanes.
Road diets can also include wider sidewalks, pedestrian refuges (medians), red transit-only lanes or other such strategies to reallocate the excess road space to create safe places for people traveling on foot, bike, vehicle and transit. Road diets not only slows speeds, they have been shown to reduce all crashes by as much as 53 percent.
Another street design solution is a bulb-out — when the sidewalk extends at one or more corners of an intersection. Bulb-outs have multiple benefits: First, people driving can see people waiting to cross much sooner because they are no longer hidden behind parked cars. Second, the crossing distance is much shorter, meaning that slower walkers will have an easier time getting across the street. Third, the wider corners naturally slow drivers down as they make turns through the intersection; the reduced width of the turning lane makes speeding during turns less likely, protecting people walking from one of the top five causes of serious injury and death.
Show your support for street designs that prioritize safety over speed and save lives. Join Walk San Francisco and the Vision Zero Coalition to stand with families and community members at San Francisco’s first World Day of Remembrance Event for Road Traffic Victims on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Together, by calling for life-saving changes , we can honor the memory of 21-year-old Arman Lester, a college student with huge aspirations, 78-year-old Pui Fong Yim Lee, a mother and grandmother of eight and too many others who have been lost.
Nicole Ferrara is the executive director of Walk SF.