Transit officials tour SF pedestrian, bike projects

National and state transportation officials visited San Francisco Tuesday to tour and learn about some of The City’s pedestrian and bike safety projects.

Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California Office of Traffic Safety, Federal Highway Administration and California State Transportation Agency got a glimpse of how the City is tackling pedestrian and bike safety.

California Office of Traffic Safety Director Rhonda Craft said in a statement that the state recognizes how popular walking and bicycling has become as alternative transportation choice. She also recognized the City’s efforts in keeping the streets safe for pedestrians:

“We also recognize the innovative and proactive steps San Francisco’s Vision Zero has made in making safety preeminent in that future. Their efforts can stand as a model for others who are trying to make their communities safer for all roadway users.”

The visit included a tour of the Tenderloin neighborhood where “daylighting” was implemented near crosswalks to give drivers more visibility of pedestrians crossing the street

At the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency discussed how it’s improving the design and engineering process of implementing pedestrian and bike projects faster, which has sometimes caused projects to take longer execute.

The transit agency so far has completed 12 of the 24 pedestrian and bike safety projects, which focuses on high-injury corridors as part of the City’s Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024.

The SFMTA said between January and March, there were four traffic fatalities, which include one pedestrian, one cyclist and two people on a motorcycle.

SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said the transit agency is doing more in training project managers and hiring up to complete projects more quickly.

Maguire said one of the key factors in completing projects is coordination with other city agencies. One example he said was the coordination between city agencies was for the Polk Street project:

“I think we did a good job in making sure that the public works repaving, the PUC’s sewer replacement project and the traffic and pedestrian and bike safety projects that MTA scoped are being managed and well be delivered in a coordinated as a single package. We’ll be ripping up Polk Street, but only being doing it once.”

Maguire also said that it was important to get the design right the first time to avoid delays:

“We need get to the scope and design right up front, get all the people at the table.”

Supervisor Jane Kim questioned how some projects get done faster after pedestrian is killed compared to other projects that could take more than year to implement.

One example she gave was how quickly a scramble traffic signal was placed at Sacramento and Stockton streets after a pedestrian was fatally hit at the intersection:

“I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing MTA of this, but it feels like from a general publics perspective that doesn’t work in the department, that it takes a fatality to get a project in place faster.”

She added:

“I’m not saying that it is true. How can we ensure that we’re moving swiftly on all projects and we’re not waiting for a fatality to motivate something put into place.”

Maguire said that some projects have to go through lengthy environmental process before the project is implemented.

The traffic signal scramble on Stockton and Sacramento streets did not require a lengthy environmental review process, said Maguire.

Maguire added that the transit agency is meeting bi-weekly with the Department of Public Works to hash details of projects and scheduling:

“I want to get to a point where we’re moving much faster through the design, legislation and environment processes.”