San Francisco has had a devastating year in terms of traffic fatalities, and the year is not yet over.
So far in 2019, 26 people have died on The City’s streets in traffic-related collisions, in contrast to the 23 traffic fatalities in all of 2018. Of this year’s total, 15 people killed were pedestrians and one was a cyclist. San Francisco gathered Sunday to honor the lives of those lost.
The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims drew pedestrian safety advocates, victims’ family and friends and survivors who all stood together to demand city leaders do more to keep streets safe for all people.
Ally Geller, the Vision Zero engagement manager for Walk San Francisco, said she was deeply humbled by those who stood behind her during the rally on the steps of City Hall.
“They channel their unimaginable loss to action by raising awareness of the devastation of traffic violence and they demand change.”
This year’s day of remembrance, the fifth of its kind, focused on people who have survived collisions or have had family members severely injured in crashes. The group reflected on how their lives have changed since those incidents.
The City reports that 592 people were severely injured in a traffic crash and 130 people were critically injured in traffic collisions last year.
Jenny Yu’s mother was struck by a motorist while in a crosswalk Feb. 22, 2011, resulting in a ruptured spleen, fractured ribs and brain injury. Yu said her mother has not been the same since the crash, that she cannot enjoy the same daily activities she once did.
Yu, who is a member of San Francisco Bay Area Families For Safer Streets, said:
“This our mom, Judy, now. No longer are her days full of coffee dates she enjoyed so much with her friends and my father when he was still alive.”
“No longer does she spend her workdays with co-workers enjoying their lunches and discussing how to make their hotel rooms even cleanlier.”
Yu said her mother suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairment and has suicidal tendencies.
Nancy Harrison, a San Francisco resident and crash survivor, was walking with groceries in her backpack when a left turning vehicle struck her at 18th and Guerrero streets last year.
“I replay that bumper coming at me endlessly in my head many days and nights.”
Harrison said that while the bruises and cuts have disappeared, the emotional impact lingers.
City officials present at the memorial echoed the call to double down on efforts to increase street safety.
Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, also a crash survivor, has been working with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to daylight more crosswalk intersections citywide.
Daylighting is explained as the removal of parking spaces near crosswalks in order to increase the visibility of pedestrians crossing streets.
Yee is also asking the SFMTA to add more pedestrian scrambles at intersections.
“To me, that’s probably the safest way to keep these left, right-hand turners from running into pedestrians like Nancy and myself.”
Yee recognizes the expense of adding pedestrian scrambles, but asked:
“What’s the value of the cost of changing one of these corners versus somebody getting hurt or somebody dying?”
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman thanked people who came out Sunday to share their stories.
“Those stories are the most effective argument that we have to build the political will that is so necessary to make these necessary changes.”
Mayor London Breed in September ordered the SFMTA to study ways to reduce driver speeds while making left turns and the impact of restricting motorists from making right turns at red lights. The City hopes to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.
The SFMTA has implemented a “quick-build” policy to install near-term measures for pedestrian and bike safety projects, which significantly cuts back the project approval and construction timeline.
After the City Hall rally Sunday, dozens took a 1.25-mile walk around the Tenderloin neighborhood, an area plagued this year by traffic collisions and related fatalities.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation and occasionally City Hall and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.