San Francisco Mayor Issues Safe Streets Directive Following Criticism From Advocates

A bicyclist crosses the intersection of Eighth and Folsom streets in San Francisco on Aug. 4, 2016. Behind him a car obstructs the bike lane. (Bryan Goebel/KQED)

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive directive Thursday calling on the city's transportation agency to speed up and enhance some projects to make streets safer to walk and bike, including improvements to streets where two bicyclists were killed on the same day in June.

The directive calls on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make "all infrastructure implemented on the city-designated high-injury network to be the highest achievable quality," including protected bike lanes, which physically separate cars and bikes.

More than 125 miles of streets have been identified as high-injury corridors under the city's Vision Zero program, which has the goal of ending all traffic deaths by 2024. Lee is calling on the SFMTA to increase the goal of annual Vision Zero projects from 13 to 18 miles a year.

Bike advocates have been arguing that protected bike lanes should be the new standard, which studies have shown draw more people to bicycling because they are safer and more pleasant to ride on. They say standard bike lanes, especially on busy streets, are often filled with double parkers and delivery trucks, creating conflicts and sometimes forcing bike riders into speeding traffic.

The directive calls on the SFMTA to implement three protected bike lane projects within nine months, including on Eighth Street and on Seventh Street, where 26-year-old Kate Slattery was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bike June 22.

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The directive also calls on the agency to deliver "near-term improvements" within six months on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park, where 41-year-old Heather Miller was killed on her bike by a hit-and-run driver, also on June 22. In addition, Lee wants the Recreation and Park Department to study "expanded traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park."

"Recently, we have had tragedies on our streets as a result of criminal behavior on behalf of motorists. While we cannot control the criminal behavior of a few, we can make our streets safer through engineering, education and enforcement," Lee wrote in a press release. "I am directing our city departments to accelerate our Vision Zero goal immediately."

Biking advocates had criticized the mayor for speaking "hollow words" following the deaths of the two cyclists. More than 1,500 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition members sent emails to the mayor, urging him to take stronger action on safe streets.

Other safe streets advocates have also been critical of the mayor for not doing more, especially since overall traffic deaths have not declined despite the city's Vision Zero goal.

Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, called the mayor's directive "a bold commitment demonstrating the city's resolve to eliminate traffic deaths." It was also praised by the city's pedestrian advocacy organization, Walk San Francisco.

The directive also calls on the Health Department to "identify areas where target safety investments can improve safety for youth, seniors and people with disabilities," and asks the Police Department to expand traffic enforcement efforts, as part of its campaign to focus on the top five violations cited for causing the most collisions.

City departments involved in the safety improvements will also be required to "track and report progress" on the actions Lee has ordered by submitting quarterly reports.

It's not the first time a mayor has issued an executive directive on street safety. In one of his last acts as mayor in 2010, Gavin Newsom issued an executive directive calling for the implementation of a pedestrian safety action plan.

Executive Directive - Vision Zero

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