Skip to main content

After deadly West Portal crash, a call to urgently address street safety

The San Francisco supervisor argues that bureaucracy has impeded urgent action on our Vision Zero goals and promises to enforce traffic laws.

A man in a suit looks to the side, seated with interlocked hands in a formal setting. Black and white tones enhance the solemn mood.
Isaac Ceja/The Standard

By Ahsha Safaí

Following the deadly crash in West Portal last weekend, the Standard asked the leading candidates for mayor what they would do to make city streets safer and reach the goal of zero traffic fatalities. Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, former mayor and supervisor Mark Farrell and non-profit executive Daniel Lurie submitted responses. 

The tragedy of last weekend’s horrific and deadly crash is heartbreaking. 

As a father of two children, I can’t even begin to comprehend this tragic crash in West Portal. My heart breaks for this family. A father, mother and two children lost their lives and a deep sense of outrage has spread across the community. 

While the police are still collecting information about what caused this crash, we already know that San Francisco has a long way to go before we can achieve our Vision Zero goals set a decade ago. After reaching an all-time low of 20 traffic fatalities in 2017, a steady increase in the years since has led to a decade-high of 39 traffic fatalities in 2023. Vision Zero set a goal of zero traffic deaths by 2024, yet seven people have already lost their lives in traffic collisions this year. 

But that doesn’t mean we should abandon our goal of zero traffic deaths. Instead, we must acknowledge that the trend is going in the wrong direction, and we must work to overcome the persistent bureaucratic delays and lack of leadership that have blocked progress for too long. 

The goal of Vision Zero should be to push us to act without delay to create safer streets and intersections, protect pedestrians and bicyclists, and enforce traffic laws. 

Cutting bureaucratic safety delays

As a San Francisco supervisor, I have relentlessly pressed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to install traffic safety measures in my district, which historically had many streets notorious for high-injury incidents and crashes. 

Starting in 2017, my office has personally requested and funded targeted traffic studies and various pervasive traffic-calming measures. Finally, in 2024, we have successfully coordinated the installation of hundreds of speed cushions, speed bumps, raised crosswalks and anti-sideshow deterrents—with more traffic lights, bulb-outs and crosswalk installations on the way. These traffic-calming interventions have proven effective and should be a citywide priority. 

Yet, too often, our reforms and policy changes come in the wake of tragedy. Bureaucratic delays in activating a new traffic light at Alemany Boulevard and Rousseau Street are at fault for a tragic pedestrian death. West Portal Avenue has been a known hot spot for pedestrian injuries for over a decade. In 2013, the district's then-supervisor, Norman Yee, held a hearing on pedestrian safety and the site of this latest tragedy in West Portal was identified then as an intersection with a high number of pedestrian injuries. Current Supervisor Myrna Melgar has continued to push for safety measures. 

It shouldn’t take years to implement a traffic signal, a stop sign or any other traffic calming measure that could save lives. I’m outraged at the inefficiency of all agencies involved that have been mired in bureaucratic delays rather than accelerating and implementing life-saving measures.

This is why leadership matters. As supervisor, I demanded action from SFMTA for my district. As mayor, I would demand that the SFMTA conduct a rapid review of all high-injury networks and accelerate plans to immediately implement changes that will help save lives. Public safety is at risk. There is no excuse for further bureaucratic delay. 

Speed humps, delineators or barriers may not prevent a collision altogether, but they can slow the speed of a car and give pedestrians a split-second advantage, potentially saving a life. 

Unfortunately, we also know that traffic calming isn’t enough by itself. Traffic enforcement is at an all-time low in San Francisco, despite data that shows moving violations—including speeding, violating pedestrian right-of-way in a crosswalk, running red lights, running stop signs and failing to yield while turning—are the most likely to cause harm or injury. 

That is why, along with traffic calming, the San Francisco Police Department must step up enforcement in high-injury corridors and enforce our traffic laws. We also need to educate and inform the public about traffic safety while building trust and faith between the police and our communities. 

We have to continue to strive for Vision Zero, which will require urgent action from the SFMTA—and leadership from the mayor—to expedite the installation of proven safety measures and more consistent enforcement of traffic laws to prevent future tragedies on our streets. 

We can’t afford to wait any longer. This trend of increased traffic deaths isn’t new. Lives are at stake, and every moment of delay is a risk we cannot take. 

Ahsha Safaí has served on the Board of Supervisors since 2017. He is a 2024 candidate for San Francisco mayor.

We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our opinion articles. You can email us at Interested in submitting an opinion piece of your own? Review our submission guidelines.