SF explores banning right turns at red lights

Transportation officials are considering exploring eliminating right turns at red lights. (Cindy Chew/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Transportation officials are considering exploring eliminating right turns at red lights. (Cindy Chew/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Turning right on red in San Francisco may soon be a thing of the past in the name of safety.

Transportation officials this week discussed exploring eliminating rights on red, citing The City’s 14th traffic fatality this year as a call to action.

At Tuesday’s regular San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors regular meeting, board director Amanda Eaken expressed an interest in the agency exploring the ban, citing similar actions in Washington D.C. and in New York City.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about Vision Zero recently,” she said, citing San Francisco’s pledge to end traffic deaths locally by 2024.

When “you’re waiting across the street and see a walk sign that says ‘go’ it’s a signal that says it’s safe to be here,” she said. But, “the truth is it’s not always safe to be a pedestrian in that place and that time when you have left moving turns or right moving turns in that space.”

Drivers failing to yield to pedestrians is one of the leading causes of pedestrian fatalities, and is part of the reason for the San Francisco Police deparment’s focus on ticketing scofflaws.

Eaken also mentioned that Washington D.C. officials this year moved to ban right turns at 101 red lights there in response to a rise in fatal traffic crashes. Local D.C. advocates want a district-wide ban on red light right turns, but Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said they want to test the ban’s effectiveness first, according to Curbed.

“I wonder if we’re thinking of that kind of bold move to reach Vision Zero like the mayor has challenged us to do,” Eaken said.

Requests by the SFMTA’s Board of Directors are functionally orders that must be carried out by SFMTA staff. Responding to Eaken’s request, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said “the idea of banning rights on red citywide is not something I’ve really discussed, but I think would be great for us to look at.”

He added, “presumably, we have the authority. I’ll bring that back to staff.”

Reiskin confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner that he would direct staff to explore the issue and bring more information back to the SFMTA Board of Directors at a future meeting.

Notably, San Francisco has had 14 traffic deaths this year, roughly equivalent to the number of homicides in The City.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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