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To end traffic fatalities, we need smarter streets and more cops in uniform

Mayoral Candidate Daniel Lurie in Chinatown
Source: Philip Pacheco for The Standard

By Daniel Lurie

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. 

A decade ago, San Francisco committed to Vision Zero—zero traffic-related deaths by 2024. It’s now March 2024, and already 11 people have died this year due to a traffic crash. 

Four of those deaths happened last week in West Portal. A couple and their two young children were struck by a driver, who was allegedly speeding and driving the wrong way. As a husband and a father of two, I struggle to comprehend the sudden loss of a young family. There are no words to express the sorrow I feel for their loved ones. 

We must fundamentally change how we solve problems in San Francisco, including our unsafe streets. A decade into Vision Zero, it is clear that we must be more innovative with our ideas and more effective in implementing them. We need more than a vision for zero traffic deaths—we need bold action. 

As with many challenges in San Francisco, our system holds us back. Instead of making evidence-based decisions, leaders back politically motivated projects or block critically needed ones for the same reasons. So-called “quick builds” take years to implement. When I’m mayor, that will change. 

I will bring together people who take transit, bike, walk and drive. Instead of demonizing one another, we will make a comprehensive plan and apply safety fixes throughout the city. The West Portal intersection was a known problem area but not an official “high injury network” to be prioritized for fixes. The high injury networks are concentrated downtown, but neighborhoods must be safe for our kids, too. 

As I’ve done throughout my career, we will look to evidence and metrics and invest in proven ideas. On road safety, evidence points to two solutions: infrastructure and automated enforcement. 

We know from other countries what type of infrastructure works, including prioritized transit corridors, connected networks of truly protected bike lanes and safer spaces for walking. Instead of posting plastic sticks, we’ll do things right and install concrete and strong bollards. 

Public transit is an integral part of the solution. Transit must be fast, reliable and safe. Everyone who takes public transportation should feel safe riding. I have robust plans to recruit and retain law enforcement, shut down open-air drug markets and get people off our streets and into treatment. This focus on public safety will also ensure that more workers, families and elders feel comfortable walking on our streets and riding Muni or BART. 

We must also enforce our traffic laws. Last month, I wrote an opinion piece, highlighting that people don’t fear consequences in San Francisco. The rise in traffic fatalities is symptomatic of a broader issue of lawlessness that permeates our streets. Too frequently, drivers recklessly tear through red lights and flout traffic laws with impunity. 

From 2014 to 2022, there was a 96.87% decline in traffic citations issued by SFPD. One key part of reversing this trend is fully staffing our police department, which I have promised to do as mayor. Another strategy is prioritizing enforcement for safety infractions such as speeding or parking violations that create hazards. In addition to staffing up our law enforcement, we must employ a comprehensive plan for automated enforcement, such as speed and red light cameras. 

These are just a few solutions. Yet even the best ideas mean nothing without proper implementation. Under our current leadership and bureaucracy, well-intended ideas get watered down, implemented years late and run massively over budget—if they’re implemented at all. All of my opponents come from a system defined by delays, corruption and small thinking. 

As mayor, I will prioritize transparency and coordination in all aspects of city governance, including road safety initiatives. We must ensure that taxpayer-funded projects are completed efficiently and effectively and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is held accountable to the residents and small businesses they’re meant to serve. This also means engaging and truly listening to the communities these projects impact. 

Nearly all San Franciscans use multiple modes of transportation. We are not just pedestrians or motorists; we are both and more. Since launching my campaign, I've begun to take trips by bike and experienced both the benefits of this greener option and the current safety challenges.  

We must prioritize the safety of all people, whether they are walking, on transit, on a bike or in a car. The streets of San Francisco are for everyone. Anything less than zero traffic deaths means the loss of a mother, father, child, brother or sister. 

I am committed to leading San Francisco toward a future where lives are protected, accountability means something and we provide an example to the world. Together, we’ll lead again. 

Daniel Lurie is a candidate for mayor and the founder and longtime chief executive of Tipping Point Community.

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