Pedestrian Safety: Plans v Reality

by Randy Shaw on January 16, 2014

On January 16 at 5pm at Room 250 in San Francisco City Hall, the Board’s Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee and Police Commission will hold a hearing on the Vision Zero plan to reduce pedestrian and bicycle traffic deaths to zero in10-years. For all the talk about pedestrian safety, the city’s actions often say otherwise. In 2005, forums and surveys of Tenderloin residents found that one-way streets were far and away the biggest pedestrian threat. The Tenderloin-Little Saigon transit calming plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2007—and was then only partially implemented in 2010. Supervisor Jane Kim ensured that the two-way streets on Ellis and Eddy will finally be completed—but it will be ten years after residents backed the plan.

Everyone is upset about pedestrian deaths, and I assume that the Board will unanimously pass Vision Zero, as it did the Tenderloin-Little Saigon Plan. But nobody should walk away claiming victory.

To the contrary, all of the groups involved with pedestrian safety need to be constantly monitoring SFMTA and SFCTA progress on planned measures to reduce deaths.

And that’s easier said than done.

Like other activists, I am used to facing specific challenges/adversaries. But when it comes to pedestrian safety, there are no adversaries. Everyone wants measures to happen, yet progress is glacial.

I’ve heard a lot of explanations for why, which include overlapping agencies, funding shortfalls, and higher priorities.

But I think there’s a bigger reason. As with the long troubled SF Housing Authority, transit/pedestrian plans fall into a black hole of agencies that elected officials have a tough time monitoring.

Supervisors have a hard time determining which SFMTA/SFCTA/PUC/ staffer is doing work on the specific pedestrian safety project, and on what schedule. To my knowledge these projects rarely have a true deadline, so continually get pushed back for work on more pressing priorities.

On the Tenderloin-Little Saigon plan, a project begun in September 2010 and whose signs said would be completed October 28, 2010 suddenly stopped prior to completion. It did not resume until well into 2012, and then only because I kept complaining about in in Beyond Chron and Supervisor Kim was doing everything she could to move it forward.

It even took SFMTA head Ed Reiskin a long time to figure out what stalled the project, which was begun under his predecessor.

I hope all the past problems with delaying pedestrian safety measures have been cured. But perhaps the Supervisors can commit to hold quarterly hearings on the progress of Vision Zero, so the type of delays that still jeopardize Tenderloin pedestrian safety can be avoided.

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