Deaths serve as grim statement on bicyclist safety

Bicyclist and pedestrian advocates called for action Thursday in the wake of the deaths of two cyclists on city streets last week.

A midday meeting of the city’s Vision Zero committee, tasked with implementing a Vision Zero policy seeking to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024, drew a number of cyclists and residents responding to the June 22 collisions, which killed San Francisco residents Katherine Slattery, 26, and Heather Miller, 41.

Both women were riding legally when they were struck by hit and run drivers, hours apart, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood and in Golden Gate Park. One man, Farrukh Mushtak, 32, was arrested in connection with Slattery’s death a short distance from the scene, while the driver in Miller’s death, who was driving a stolen car, remains at large.

Sunset District resident Elisabeth Snider told the committee she regularly rides with her three children by the place where Miller was killed and worries about her own safety.

Snider said, referring to the white bicycles placed as memorials at the scene of cyclist deaths:

“My kids know what a ghost bike is now.”

Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk San Francisco, said The City was several years closer to its Vision Zero goal and had yet to reduce any deaths or injuries:

“There were 19 people killed on city streets this year, and each of those crashes were preventable and never should have happened. … It’s depressing but it has to be a call for action.”

Shortly before the start of today’s meeting, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Mayor Ed Lee released a list of 57 high-priority Vision Zero projects and programs set to start this year.

The list includes 43 capital construction projects expected to be completed or reach major milestones by the end of 2017, including projects on Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street, Second Street and Masonic Avenue. It also includes 13 non-construction initiatives including a policy push to legalize automated speed enforcement cameras and an anti-speeding and enforcement campaign.

Lee said in a statement:

“Any traffic death or injury is not acceptable, they are preventable. … This is a real public health issue. … We are working quickly to build safer, better streets, educate the public about traffic safety and increase enforcement to make our streets safe for everyone – whether they are walking, biking, driving or taking transit.”

Last November, city officials announced they had completed 30 previous projects identified as high priority ahead of schedule.

Tom Maguire, director of sustainable streets for the SFMTA, today said the city had completed 13 miles of protected bike lanes since 2010, and has 20 funded bike safety projects totaling $90 million planned for the next five years.

However, the new list was greeted with skepticism by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with interim executive director Margaret McCarthy noting that while the projects on it were all excellent, none of them were new.

“This is not the urgent action the city of San Francisco needs,” McCarthy said. “We demand real action from the mayor’s office and we demand it now.”