Jul 26, 2023 - News

San Francisco's traffic fatalities increased during pandemic

Cyclists ride on Market Street in San Francisco. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

San Francisco had more traffic fatalities during the pandemic than the three years preceding it, according to a new city report.

Why it matters: San Francisco, in 2014, committed to eliminating traffic-related deaths by 2024 as part of its Vision Zero plan, but the latest report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA) board of directors shows that goal will take longer.

What they're saying: "We're focusing our immediate efforts on reducing dangerous speeds and protecting vulnerable people like pedestrians of all ages and abilities," Stephen Chun, a spokesperson with the SFMTA, told Axios via email.

By the numbers: San Francisco reported 96 fatal crashes in 2020–2022, a 33% increase from 2017–2019.

  • Almost all of that increase involved motorcycles and electric scooters, which rose to 30% of traffic fatalities in 2020–2022.
  • Yes, but: Injury-inducing accidents were down 22% during the pandemic versus pre-pandemic.

Luke Bornheimer, a sustainable transportation advocate in San Francisco, argues the solution is "redesigning streets to get people to shift trips to active modes," like walking or biking, he said in a written statement.

  • It's a sentiment that resonates with the SFMTA, which is "working on long-term changes to increase transit, biking, and other safe ways of getting around SF," Chun said.

Between the lines: The agency began construction on a new center-running bike lane on Valencia Street in April.

  • The agency's rollout of the bike lane, however, has caused confusion "for all the users of the road," Janelle Wong, director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, recently told the San Francisco Examiner.

What to watch: City officials are pushing the state Legislature to approve a speed pilot program, AB 645, that would automatically detect when cars are speeding.

  • San Francisco also aims to implement longer pedestrian walk times and require cars to stop farther back from crosswalks in areas with higher injury rates.
  • In the coming months, SFMTA plans to hold discussions with community members to create a longer-term vision to invest in safer infrastructure throughout the city.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show electric scooters and motorcycles were involved in roughly 30% (not 92%) of traffic fatalities in San Francisco in 2020–2022.

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