New York’s Vision Zero campaign turns one this month. In the year since Mayor Bill de Blasio held an inaugural press conference, officials have installed more than 40 safety cameras, drafted harsher penalties for drivers who fail to yield and reduced citywide speed limits to 25 mph.
But New York isn’t the only city celebrating an anniversary: San Francisco’s version of the same campaign also launched a year ago this month. Because eliminating traffic fatalities will only work through a series of cultural shifts (on top of policy and design changes), I spoke with advocates about the wildly different cultures that define each city, and how — or if — they’re beginning to see change.
In San Francisco, Vision Zero looks very different. After all, the West Coast city’s most famous song features light piano chords and Tony Bennett’s silky voice — all cable cars, morning fog and nostalgia. It’s certainly not about speed.
Still, as in New York, 2013 was a particularly deadly year for S.F. pedestrians, with 21 walkers and four cyclists killed. Following a rally in January, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) adopted a vision to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2024. (New York City’s target year is also 2024.)
Instead of targeting speed limits, however, the city set goals that fit its tech-hub status: data-driven design change. And according to Nicole Schneider, of pedestrian advocacy organization Walk SF, applying real numbers to San Francisco’s streets is creating a cultural shift in how — and for whom — safer infrastructure gets built.