Mayor bumps safety efforts after bicyclist deaths

Responding to recent bicyclist and pedestrian deaths, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive directive committing to accelerated safety improvements to The City’s streets and bike network over the next nine months.

The directive includes a commitment to safety improvements in the South of Market neighborhood and in Golden Gate Park, where two bicyclists were killed within hours of each other on a single day in June, over the next six to nine months.

Mayor Lee said:

“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.”

San Francisco publicly committed to a Vision Zero policy in 2014 calling for traffic deaths to be reduced to zero by 2024.

However, Lee has been the subject of public pressure from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to step up efforts to increase bicycle safety since the June 22 deaths of bicyclists 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. Suspects have been arrested and charged in both of those incidents.

Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Brian Wiedenmeier Thursday praised the executive directive as a:

“… bold commitment demonstrating The City’s resolve to eliminate traffic deaths. … There is nothing that can bring back the lives of two people died biking in San Francisco on June 22.”

Wiedenmeier added:

 “We still feel their losses and can only imagine what their family and friends have gone through.”

The directive calls for safety improvements on Seventh and Eighth streets to be made over the next nine months and changes that will reduce speeds and vehicular through-traffic on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park within the next six months.

In addition, it calls for the launch of a study of traffic calming and traffic restrictions in Golden Gate Park within the next three months, a commitment to continued advocacy for the legalization of automated speed enforcement cameras at the state level, the implementation of a “Vision Zero” awareness campaign within the next 30 days and the implementation of safety features on city fleet and contracted vehicles include telematics tracking devices by January 2017.

It also commits the San Francisco Police Department to meeting its enforcement goals targeting dangerous driver behaviors, and all involved departments, including police, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Recreation and Parks, to tracking and regularly reporting on their progress.

According to the bicycle coalition, at least 20 people have died on San Francisco streets this year, 10 of them seniors and three of them bicyclists.

Nicole Ferrara, executive director of pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, said The City has yet to achieve reductions in serious and fatal pedestrian injuries and must “go farther and work faster to build a safe transportation system”:

“Every 18 hours in San Francisco, someone is killed or seriously injured on our streets. … And low-income communities, communities of color, seniors and people with disabilities are twice as likely as others to suffer that fate.”