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Supervisors call for transparency, town hall after every traffic fatality

In the wake of several traffic fatalities last month, San Francisco supervisors are calling on city departments to meet with the community every time someone dies in a traffic incident.

Supervisors Dean Preston and Gordon Mar Tuesday introduced a resolution that asks the Department of Public Health, Police Department and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to amend Vision Zero protocol to include town hall meetings within two weeks of a traffic fatality.

Preston said:

“The city does a lot of work behind the scenes when it comes to traffic fatalities and it’s important to acknowledge that hard work, but the public is really left out of these conversations.”

He added:

“A town hall will not only raise public awareness about traffic fatalities, but will help us toward our Vision Zero goals.”

The Board of Supervisors in 2014 adopted the Vision Zero plan, a goal to end traffic fatalities by 2024. Since then, the traffic fatality rate has mostly remained flat, averaging around 30 per year, though that number dropped to 20 in 2017.

May was a particularly tragic month on The City’s streets with seven people killed in traffic incidents. 

Both Prestron and Mar said town halls allow city officials to transparently communicate details of each fatal incident and what they plan to do in response. Currently, the public is left somewhat out of the loop.

SFMTA Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin provides monthly Vision Zero status reports to directors and the public monthly, often including circumstances of recent traffic fatalities.

Still, information given to Tumlin about the incident can be limited, especially if police are still investigating the cause of the crash.

Additionally, the SFMTA protocol calls for a rapid response team at each fatal traffic collision. The team goes to the crash scene to ensure traffic and pedestrian signals are working properly, signage is properly posted and that ground markings, including crosswalks, are visible. The team then recommends intersection improvements that be done quickly or as part of a larger project.

Pedestrian advocates applaud the movement toward transparency, especially after  the recent crash at Mission and Third streets where a taxi struck and killed two women and injured another man.

Ching Wong/SFBay Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco, holds a victim’s portrait 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)

Walk San Francisco Executive Director Jodie Medeiros issued the following statement:

“​​The aftermath of a fatal crash leaves many questions, including details on the circumstances of the crash and what type of street design changes could have prevented the crash. Town halls would be a way to create a feedback loop for the public and for reaching Vision Zero.”

Claire Amable, movement building manager with the San Francisco Bike Coalition, echoed the same sentiment, saying town halls will provide “clarity to community members” and allow them to suggest solutions.

The resolution additionally requests that city departments report back to the board within 30 days following a town hall meeting.

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