Our SF Bicycle Coalition community organizer Claire Amable, speaking at a rally to push for Slow Streets in the Tenderloin.
On April 3, in the early afternoon, a 78-year-old man was walking in the South of Market (SoMa) in the crosswalk at Folsom and Third streets when he was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver.
Less than one block away, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) had long been considering a loop of Slow Streets in a “senior village,” a quiet set of smaller, Tagalog (Filipinx) named streets connecting senior affordable housing to a community garden and a health center.
Once again, change was too slow, and once again, the price we paid was too high.
On April 6, the SFMTA Board was set to vote to approve these Slow Streets. But, for a moment, the SFMTA was poised to delay this project even further. We are relieved that the board unanimously decided to approve and implement SoMa’s first Slow Street. But the City denied approval of the whole package of nine Slow Streets that hundreds of our members wrote in to support, instead moving forward with only five in total.
Originally, the SFMTA Board had planned on approving all nine new Slow Streets. But as a shock to us and many who were tuned in, SFMTA staff announced during the meeting that they were directing their board to delay any action due to last-minute concerns that had arisen. We found this change of plan unacceptable, especially in light of Saturday’s fatal pedestrian crash.
The discussion around these Slow Streets in SoMa had been going on since the program launched a year ago. In July 2020 we penned a letter alongside several SoMa-based organizations that represent different communities of color and immigrant communities in the neighborhood. The letter called on SFMTA to expand Slow Streets to SoMa due to the lack of accessible open space, residents living in cramped living conditions and dire need for people to safely social distance when moving along crowded corridors.
Our community organizer, Claire Amable, directed these frustrations to the SFMTA when she gave public comment at the board meeting. “It shouldn’t have taken this long if equity was at the center of these conversations,” said Claire, who was born and raised in the Tenderloin and a longtime SoMa resident. “The loss of life is the cost of your delay and no one should have died.”
For these reasons, we are grateful that the SFMTA Board, led by Vice Chair Amanda Eaken, rejected the staff’s sudden and irresponsible direction. But this isn’t good enough, and your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is ready to fight for those additional four Slow Streets and for this program to be made permanent with high-quality designs that put people first on our streets.
We need you for this fight. We need to show up and hold the City accountable. We need to shape this program to make sure it’s the success we know it can be. We need the City to allocate resources to see this vision through. If you’re ready to join this fight, sign up for updates today so you’ll be the first to get invited to the committee meetings that we’ll be hosting in the coming weeks.