San Francisco officials will have to push for changes at the state level if they want to lower the minimum speed limit of 25 mph on City streets.
A report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office said that The City has limited authority over changing local speed limits. The state has jurisdiction over local speed limits, which allows for speeds between 25 to 65 miles per hour.
There are a few exceptions, which include schools within 500 feet or near a senior center. Also, a city can demonstrate through a traffic and engineer survey that 85 percent of traffic is traveling above or below the posted speed limit. If there is no speed limit posted — like in residential areas — the minimum speed is 25 mph.
The report requested by Supervisor Eric Mar was heard at a Board of Supervisors hearing at the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee Thursday. Mar said The City needs solutions to change the way drivers behave on the streets in order to meet the City’s goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024:
“As San Francisco advances toward our Vision Zero goals, which are stronger policies and stronger funding to reduce traffic deaths to zero in the upcoming years, we need comprehensive solutions that will significantly alter this culture of speeding and culture of dangerous driving in our City.”
The report said that there were 3,111 vehicle collisions in 2011, 844 were between vehicles and pedestrians and 630 were between vehicles and bicyclists in San Francisco. The collisions resulted in 28 fatalities in 2011.
The report also said at least 21 percent of drivers exceeded the speed limit by 5 mph on a number of city streets.
In 2014, that number of collision fatalities increased to 40, 18 of those fatalities were between vehicles and pedestrians and three between vehicles and bicyclists.
Mar also requested the report include how other cities have fared since lowering speed limits:
“San Francisco I fear is falling behind New York, Portland and other cities in America, according to our report. And internationally also in places like Bristol, London and Paris that are taking more bolder and faster actions than we are doing in our City.”
He said though that the silver lining is that the City can learn from other jurisdictions.
International cities like Paris and Zurich have speed reduction programs in place, the report said. At least 400 areas in London have 20 mph “slow zones” in residential areas and no more than 30 mph on main streets.
The report found that London saw a 40 percent decrease in collisions.
Portland, Oregon implemented automated speed enforcement cameras to help reduce number of speeders, but that will again require California lawmakers to amend the law if San Francisco officials if wanted to implement speed cameras.
The report recommended advocating changes in state law, enhancing speed limit enforcement limit and implementing traffic calming measures would be the most effective way of reducing vehicle speeds and collisions in The City.