Vision Zero: Moving Beyond an Inspiring Idea

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of our quarterly magazine, the Tube Times. For this story and more, download the Spring 2015 PDF.


When the SF Bicycle Coalition and our partners successfully advocated for City leaders to commit to Vision Zero — eliminating all traffic deaths and severe injuries by 2024 — it was unclear how much traction this bold, new idea would get.

We believe Vision Zero is far more than an inspiring idea. It’s absolutely achievable. When you start digging into what contributes to traffic violence in San Francisco, you see how true this is. First, there’s the fact that more than two-thirds of deadly or serious traffic collisions occur on just 12% of the city’s streets. How these streets are designed plays a huge role in how dangerous they are for people biking and walking. This means they can be fixed.

Next, we know the five dangerous traffic behaviors most likely to result in serious injury or death. They are speeding, red light running, failure to yield, unsafe turning behavior and not stopping at stop signs. So if police strongly focus on citing these five behaviors, it will save lives — especially when it comes to enforcing speed, as traffic speed is the strongest predictor of whether a person is seriously injured or killed when hit by a car.

Another reason we know Vision Zero is possible is the broad and significant public support for it. In the 2014 elections, San Franciscans voted on three transportation-related ballot propositions and showed their overwhelming support for better transit, bike lanes and safety improvements that support the goals of Vision Zero.

So a little more than one year after its adoption, where does San Francisco stand in achieving Vision Zero?

We are happy to report that Vision Zero has become an important part of our civic conversation. It is fundamentally changing the policies that prevent death and injury on our streets, whether biking, walking or driving.

Ten agencies have publicly committed to Vision Zero goals and supportive actions. The City has identified the High Injury Corridors that need on-street safety improvements, and launched a public awareness traffic safety campaign. Police enforcement of the most dangerous traffic behaviors increased by a small amount.

San Francisco is moving in the right direction but not nearly fast enough. Your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, in partnership with Walk San Francisco and more than 35 community-based organizations that make up the Vision Zero Coalition, released a report in February detailing the progress so far and highlighting top priorities for the City in 2015. These include:

  • Expediting implementation of at least 18 miles of street safety improvements on the city’s High Injury Corridors, prioritizing locations in communities of concern.
  • Advocating for a change in state laws to allow for more effective enforcement of illegal and dangerous speeding behavior.
  • Ensuring the SF Police Department increases the percentage of citations on the five most dangerous traffic behaviors and locations to at least 37% in 2015 and 50% in 2016.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the Vision Zero Coalition stand ready to partner with and support community and City leaders to advance Vision Zero. And we will continue to hold the City accountable by tracking San Francisco’s progress in making our streets truly safe and welcoming for everyone.

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