Fast-moving traffic, wide corridors and high population density have made the Tenderloin the home of some of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists.
Every one of the streets in this neighborhood, among the city’s densest, belongs to the “high injury network” of roads that account for most of San Francisco’s traffic deaths and injuries.
So, in March the city made subtle but significant changes on 17 corridors crossing through the Tenderloin when it reduced speed limits from 25 to 20 mph.
“Five miles per hour makes a huge difference,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of the nonprofit Walk San Francisco, “It means the difference from somebody dying to somebody surviving” a crash.
More of the city’s streets could see reduced speed limits if state lawmakers pass legislation that would effectively give California cities more control to set speeds based on safety. The state largely has authority over speed limits and sets them based on the movement speed of 85% of traffic on any given street.
AB43, which will receive its final floor vote in the last days of the current legislative session, would allow cities to reduce speeds by increments of 5 mph by letting local officials factor the safety of pedestrians and cyclists when conducting the speed traffic surveys California uses to determine streets’ speed limits.
Nears its self-imposed deadline to meet the Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities within a decade. Though traffic deaths went down in the years after the city set its goal in 2014, fatalities rose from 29 in 2019 to 30 in 2020 despite a year of shelter-in-place restrictions. san francisco The city had 14 fatalities as of July, according to city data.
But while the city has made some traffic safety improvements on high-risk streets, officials have frequently said the state control prevents them from reducing speeds on streets. While San Francisco reduced speed limits across the Tenderloin, the city’s top transportation official, Jeffrey Tumlin, said it was able to do so only by using “every trick in the book” after a traffic survey by the city traffic engineer supported making speed reductions.
Reducing traffic speeds has helped decrease pedestrian deaths and injuries in other cities.
New York, for example, saw a roughly 30% decrease in traffic deaths prior to the pandemic after it reduced speed limits citywide from 30 to 25 mph, added speed cameras and redesigned several streets, said Leah Shahum, founder and director of the Vision Zero Network.
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