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Mayor Breed pushes ‘traffic calming’ in bid to reduce traffic deaths

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Another life-saving idea—restricting right turns at red lights

An orange “don’t walk” signal above a street sign indicating First Street. Via Shutterstock

San Francisco Mayor London Breed will send a new package of traffic reforms to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFTMA) next week in the city’s latest effort to prevent pedestrian traffic deaths, a goal that, so far, has proven elusive.

According to a Thursday announcement: “The projects include expanded enforcement, piloting left-turn traffic calming to reduce turn speeds, analyzing and developing policy recommendations to restrict right turns at red lights, updating walk signals to extend time for pedestrians to cross the street, and adding new diagonal pedestrian crossings at busy intersections.”

The Mayor’s Office adds, “Over the past five years, 27 percent of severe and fatal crashes involved a turning vehicle, with the majority of these involving a left turn.”

The phrase “left-turn traffic calming” means “reducing left turn speeds and enforcing safe turning behavior,” as the New York Department of Transportation defines it, usually with various types of street installations that make speedy or hazardous turns harder.

More specific details of the mayoral traffic plan will come at Tuesday’s SFMTA board meeting, when Breed’s office formally introduces the projects.

In Thursday’s statement, Breed touted several city programs that are already supposed to turn back the tide of accidental deaths on city-owned streets, including “our new ‘quick-build’ policy to make immediate changes to dangerous corridors, and [...] 20 miles of new protected bike lanes in the next two years.”

Despite an increase in public discussion and resources paid to the problem, traffic deaths on city streets have climbed to 21 as of July 2019. Including several deaths that happened in August, the count reached 23—exactly as many in all of 2018, with more than a third of the year still ahead.

Note that these figures do not include deaths that occur on state-controlled streets.

The city’s Vision Zero plan calls eliminating traffic deaths on city-owned streets by 2024. According to City Hall’s own Vision Zero performance scorecard, SF is “not meeting target.”