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San Francisco remembers lives lost in traffic collisions over past year

Hannah Ege’s husband went out for a jog in February, but never made it home. Sheria Musoka was just 26 years old when a driver, who was allegedly speeding, struck and killed him along Lake Merced Boulevard. Ege lost her husband that day, but her son also lost a father.

Musoka is one of 25 lives claimed by traffic incidents in The City so far this year. Sunday’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was dedicated to each one of them.

Ching Wong/SFBay Cards with words to victims are seen during annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Ching Wong / SFBay.ca)

Ege shared her husband’s life story to those gathered at the memorial, ensuring that he is remembered as more than a statistic. She said:

“Knowing people’s stories, listening to their trauma, and their development of worldview and perspective is where we learn compassion, and empathy. Listening to these stories is how things begin to change for the better.”

Ege said her husband was born in Nairobi, Kenya and supported himself through Dartmouth College, where he graduated in the top 2 percent of his class. He dreamed of providing resources for Black communities in the U.S. and in Kenya to “help break the generational cycle of poverty” and “build a more just and equitable world.”

Elizabeth Colomello is one of the fortunate traffic collision victims who live to tell the story in their own words. She said she was struck by a speeding driver who blew past a stop sign.

Colomello said she woke up in the trauma center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and didn’t know why she was there, adding:

“My neck and pelvis were fractured. I had a serious head injury. I could easily have been dead.”

She was lucky to survive the crash, but said luck wouldn’t be needed if more was done to prevent traffic collisions in the first place. 

She said:

“The streets of San Francisco and every city in town should be designed to protect us, not to endanger us. Would you be willing to sacrifice your child, your spouse, your neighbor, to make your commute five minutes faster?”

Andrew Ziemen, a beloved Sherman Elementary School educator, was killed earlier this month in a traffic collision near the school at Franklin and Union streets. Students, teachers and city officials at gathered at the school last week to honor his life. 

Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents the district where Zieman was killed, said her office is working with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to identify ways to slow traffic down in the area. They’ve discussed the possibility of changing traffic light timing.

Ching Wong/SFBay Supervisor Catherine Stefani speaks during annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Ching Wong / SFBay.ca)

The supervisors has called for a hearing with the SFMTA and Police Department to examine traffic safety around all schools in The City.

At the state level, City Attorney David Chiu, formerly an assemblymember, has twice tried to push legislation that would allow The City to pilot automated speed enforcement cameras. The bill moved further in the process on the second attempt, but eventually stalled in committee. If third time’s the charm, Chiu’s announcement Sunday could foretell good news for the bill.

He said:

“I will share one of the last things I did as I was resigning from the legislature… we are making sure that this bill is going to get reintroduced again.”

Chiu knows who will introduce the bill again, but said he is not ready to release that information just yet.

In another effort to improve safety, the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 43 as authored by Laura Friedman. The bill gives local jurisdictions control over speed limits in business districts and safety corridors.

The SFMTA is already preparing proposals to lower speed limits in seven business districts, including along a stretch of Ocean Avenue in District 7. The agency’s Board of Directors will take up the proposals at its Dec. 7 meeting.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who represents District 7, said her district has no time to waste.

Melgar said:

“We cannot wait for another 15 years before we do pedestrian improvements on Ocean Avenue, on Lake Merced Boulevard, on Seventh and Lawton.”

The SFMTA board also recently adopted the 2021 Vision Zero Strategy that not only leans on AB 43, but commits to completing quick-build projects on approximately 80 miles of roadway in The City’s high-injury network.

Ching Wong/SFBay A man puts flowers on the ground during annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, November 21, 2021. (Ching Wong / SFBay.ca)

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin thanked advocacy organizations, city leaders and those who have suffered losses for their continued fight for pedestrian safety improvements.

Tumin said:

“With a very heavy heart, I have to say that I’m grateful that those of you who have lost loved ones to traffic violence and, in your grief, are convening us and reminding us of the essential nature of our work and that it is worth it to fight tirelessly to eliminate traffic violence on our streets.”

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