As People Die, Mayor Talks Up Campaign to “Be Nice”

While it is encouraging to see the Mayor acknowledge the crisis on our streets — with traffic crimes outnumbering other violent crimes two-to-one  — we are distressed to see such a passive response from our city’s top leader.

Telling people to “Be Nice, Look Twice” is not a substitute for meaningful change on our streets. We urge Mayor Lee to step up his commitment to stemming the tide of violence by committing to Vision Zero — zero traffic deaths in ten years — and to start taking action today for public safety.

While the leading component of Mayor Lee’s response yesterday to the rising tide of traffic deaths was a focus on a new public awareness campaign, the new Mayor of New York City took a different approach: action.

Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to a similar spate of traffic deaths there by holding a press conference alongside victims’ families, acknowledging the epidemic, and announcing a plan for meaningful actions — immediately and more to be shared in one month — as part of his public commitment to Vision Zero.

We ask Mayor Lee to show this kind of leadership in San Francisco by re-designing streets where injury collisions happen most often. We ask him to focus specifically on the two dozen most problematic locations, which need attention as soon as possible. The Mayor’s announcement yesterday that the City is planning to improve a handful of locations along two streets (Polk & S. Van Ness) by 2017 is a shockingly weak response in the face of the death and destruction people are experiencing today in the city’s public realm.

“Where is the urgency?” asked Leah Shahum, of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Where is the commitment to use the power of the Mayor’s office to make the streets of San Francisco less deadly for our sons and daughters and grandparents and friends?”

Ironically, the Mayor suggested ending the Sunday parking meter program because the revenue is not needed, while, at the same time, his team claims funding is not available to act more decisively for on-street safety improvements.

The SF Bicycle Coalition asks the Mayor and SFMTA to dedicate this existing funding stream to deliver at least two dozen on-the-ground improvement at high-injury locations within the next two years, particularly in SOMA and the Tenderloin. We call on the Mayor to daylight intersections and add safer crossings for pedestrian safety and adding protected bikeways for the growing number of people bicycling.

We also call on the SF Police Department to follow through on Focus on Five, the SFPD’s own data-driven strategy to focus enforcement on the five most dangerous intersections and locations in each police district. This policy was announced by Chief Suhr a year ago and cheered by safety advocates, but the SFPD has been unable to show clear evidence of this focus happening.

According to the SFPD’s own data, shared with the Police Commission, only 22% of their traffic work has been Focus on Five.

The Mayor and Chief Suhr should commit to at least 75% of the traffic enforcement prioritizing Focus on Five locations and behaviors, reporting back regularly on progress.

San Francisco leaders’ response so far is a far cry from the decisive action taken in New York City, where Police Chief Bill Bratton committed to decisive action from the police force. As he said yesterday at the site of the death of an 8-year-old boy: “A lost life is a lost life, whether to murder or a traffic accident.”

We agree. Mayor Lee? Chief Suhr? Director Reiskin?

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