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Traffic deaths memorialized as ‘Vision Zero’ progress slides

Twenty-one seats with names, photos and flowers attached were left empty inside the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library to remember those who lost their lives this year in traffic collisions on The City’s streets.

Those names included Russell Franklin, who died in September while cycling near Howard Street and South Van Ness Avenue; Ying Yuan Kuang, who was hit by a truck while in the crosswalk at Powell and Vallejo streets earlier this month, and Kevin Manning, a pedicab operator struck by a vehicle that never stopped along The Embarcadero in August.

Many more who died on The City’s streets from traffic collisions were remembered on Sunday during the fourth annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Due to the unhealthy air, the event was held indoors this year.

Those who spoke at the day of remembrance wanted the public, city officials and the media to stop using the word accident. Many of the collisions, they say, were preventable.

Julie Mitchell, co-founder of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, which urges city officials and lawmakers to improve the safety of streets, said the event was to bring awareness to the impact these traffic collisions have on families and survivors.

Cathy DeLuca, policy and program director of Walk San Francisco, speaks at a press conference to honor road traffic victims and call for safe streets in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Ching Wong/SFBay

Five years ago, her son Dylan was cycling to work and was struck and killed by a garbage vehicle in The City.

Mitchell said:

“His death lives with my family every day. Dylan’s three younger brothers, who are here today, will never have the lifelong companionship of their amazing big brother.”

She added:

“Every milestone that Dylan should be doing is another harsh reminder that I will never get to see my son again.”

Supervisor Norman Yee, who survived a traffic collision 12 years ago, said it was not just victims impacted by the collisions, but also family members:

“It was my wife had to take off work. My kids have to come to the hospital for six months. After that they have to nurse me to health while I was at home.”

Neeti Chokshi, another survivor of a traffic collision in January of this year, said while she survived the collision, her dog Donut did not.

In tears, Chokshi said a car was making a left turn while she and her dog were crossing the street. The car went through the crosswalk, hitting her and her dog:

“I was rushed to S.F. General and was treated for several severe injuries, including my left arm which had been severely broken. This was the same arm I was holding onto the leash with.”

Chokshi said she will never forget the car accelerating towards her and Donut:

“But most painful of all, the part that aches deeper than bones, is the memory of opening my eyes, laying on the pavement, unable to move and seeing my sweet boy helplessly trapped underneath the car that hit us.”

Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, introduced legislation to pilot automated speed enforcement in 2017, but it was unable to get through a committee hearing. He said he will again work with advocates to assess if they can get a proposal through the state legislature.

The City has a goal of meeting zero traffic fatalities by 2024, called Vision Zero. In order to achieve the goal, city officials are using tools such as education, enforcement and street engineering to make the streets safer.

Last year, The City recorded its lowest number of traffic-related fatalities of 20, but has already surpassed that figure this year.

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