Twenty-three people have died in traffic-related collisions throughout The City so far this year, which equals the total count for 2018. Transit agency officials hope to reduce risks that lead to rising fatality rates with several initiatives aimed at increasing public safety on city streets.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Thursday the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will begin a pilot program designed to reduce driver speeds when making left turns and will study the impact of restricting right turns on red lights, an idea some SFMTA board directors asked staff to look into.

Additionally, the mayor said the transit agency will install more pedestrian scrambles where all vehicle traffic stops and pedestrians cross in all directions with more time added to pedestrian countdown signals.

Breed said in a statement:

“This year we have been reminded far too often that we have so much more work to do to reduce traffic fatalities in our City and make our streets safe.

The mayor continued:

“That’s why we instituted our new ‘quick-build’ policy to make immediate changes to dangerous corridors, and why we’re creating 20 miles of new protected bike lanes in the next two years. But until our streets are safe we need to keep doing more, and this package of safety improvements is going to make a number of important improvements at dangerous intersections to keep people safe.”

Ching Wong/SFBay Pedestrians attend a rally asking for walking safety during seventh annual Walk to Work Day at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

According to the SFMTA, left-turning vehicles account for 20 percent of severe and fatal collisions in The City. Drawing from similar successful calming measures implemented by New York City’s Department of Transportation as an example, the left-turn calming pilot program is expected to be implemented at eight intersections by early 2020 with an educational campaign launch shortly after.

The SFMTA and Department of Public Health will look into red light right-turn restrictions and plan to present policy recommendations by Spring 2020, the mayor’s office said. There are currently more than 200 intersections in The City where right turns are already prohibited on red lights.

According to Breed, the San Francisco Police Department created a pilot program that enables the department’s traffic division to focus on the five most dangerous driver behaviors: speeding, violating pedestrian right-of-way inside crosswalks, running red lights, running stop signs and failing to yield to pedestrians while turning. The department will double the number of officers dedicated to the program for a total of eight officers.

Since the police department’s pilot began in June, officers have issued 400 traffic citations with 99 percent of those citations given for infractions related to one of the top five dangerous traffic behaviors, Breed said.

SFMTA Interim Director of Transportation Tom Maguire said a statement:

“To achieve Vision Zero, we need to use tools that work. The SFMTA has adopted a safe systems, data-driven approach to eliminating fatalities, including engineering improvements, enforcement and education, all of which work together to create safer streets and change behavior.”

Ching Wong/SFBay Jodie Medeiros, center, executive director of Walk SF, speaks at a rally for pedestrian and bicyclist safety outside City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Walk San Francisco Executive Director Jodie Medeiros applauded the mayor’s latest efforts to keep the streets safe for everyone.

Medeiros said in a statement:

“We are in a state of emergency for traffic safety and we are thankful Mayor Breed is pushing city agencies to do more — and to do it faster. The reality is if the City is going to prevent these tragedies, every tool and some serious enforcement is needed across the entire high-injury network.”

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to hear hear presentations related to some of the proposed safety measures during its Tuesday regular meeting. Additionally, directors will be provided an update on the status of The City’s Vision Zero goal, which would eliminate traffic deaths by 2024 if successful.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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