Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, February 13, 2015

Report: S.F. Is One of the Few Cities Where Cyclist Deaths Are Increasing

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 4:53 PM

click to enlarge spokesman.jpg

It’s hard to argue with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths, but it’s much harder to actually eliminate fatal accidents.

Vision Zero is an initiative that was adopted a year ago by the mayor and the board of supervisors with the ambitious goal to cut pedestrian deaths to zero within 10 years. In the last year, nine other city organizations have pledged support. The goal is zero traffic deaths by 2024, so we’ve given ourselves a decade. How did the first year go? The Vision Zero Coalition, a working group of 35 different community based organizations, has released a report card to let us know.

In 2013, 34 people died in traffic-related accidents in San Francisco. In 2014, that number was down to 29. On the surface that might look like a nice improvement, but most of those deaths were pedestrians or cyclists. To be exact,  59 percent of people killed in traffic accidents that year were pedestrians and half of those were seniors. About 10 percent  of traffic deaths were cyclists, and according to the Vision Zero Coalition, “San Francisco is one of the few cities in the country where the rate of people dying while riding bicycles has increased.”


Luckily, the Vision Zero Coalition believes there are some relatively simple solutions, starting with improving the most dangerous streets. Apparently 70 percent of severe and fatal accidents happen on 12 percent of total streets in the city. That’s only about 125 miles out of 1,200 miles of total road in the city of San Francisco.

According to the Coalition, the city gets middling marks on dangerous roadway improvements so far – 24 roadway safety projects were promised in by 2016, and nine have been completed.

Another big way to boost traffic safety for vulnerable roadway users is to enforce dangerous driving behaviors. The SFPD pledged to hand out half of the traffic citations  for the five most dangerous traffic behaviors: speeding, red lights, stop signs, failure to yield, and unsafe turning. Unfortunately, the SFPD has only increased the total citations for these crimes by 24 percent, which is just a 1 percent increase over 2013.

Only one in the city has achieved the 50 percent goal, and that's the Richmond station.

One way to enforce speeding might be an automated system. According to the Vision Zero Coalition, “Automated safety enforcement has reduced traffic deaths by up to 70 percent in cities such as London and Portland, Oregon.” 

Vision Zero, and traffic safety are both problems that require comprehensive solutions – regulation, education, infrastructure, and enforcement, are all necessary. One aspect of pedestrian and cyclist safety that doesn’t come up in the Vision Zero Coalition report is pedestrian and cyclist safety through vehicle design. There aren’t any regulations about pedestrian or cyclist safety in the United States like there are in the Euro Zone, Japan, and other countries. Simply redesigning the hood of a car to be higher and offer a crumple zone can prevent serious injuries in the event of a collision.

More serious smart technology, like this “Bike Sense” system from Land Rover, maker of ridiculously opulent SUVs, could even help prevent dooring, in addition to other kinds of common car on bike collisions. If California required better pedestrian-friendly design and smart anti-collision features, the auto industry would have to ante up, just like they already do for CARB.

  • Pin It

Tags: , ,

About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"