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Walk SF Win: Safer speeds around schools citywide!

Great news on a central Walk San Francisco campaign! San Francisco is the state’s first big city to do this — who will be next?

Hot off the presses:

Putting up the first new 15-mph sign! Photo courtesy Bryan Goebel, Streetsblog

Mayor Lee, SFMTA and Walk SF Announce New Safer Speed Zones Completed around 181 San Francisco Schools

San Francisco becomes California’s first large city to establish 15-mph school zones citywide

San Francisco—Mayor Edwin M. Lee, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees all surface transportation in the city, and Walk San Francisco today announced the completion of new 15-mile-per-hour speed zones around 181 schools. The project, which began last August at a ceremony where Mayor Lee oversaw the installation of the first sign, is part of a comprehensive approach to improving pedestrian safety citywide.

“The children of San Francisco are our most precious resource, and we need to make sure that they feel safe traveling to and from school,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “To help ensure this, I have asked city departments to prioritize actions, such as the new 15 miles per hour school speed limit zones that will have a direct and immediate effect on making our streets safer and more livable for all pedestrians.”

“Walking in San Francisco should be inviting and safe for all residents,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Edward D. Reiskin. “The SFMTA is committed to working with our city partners to ensure that kids can get to their schools safely. We will continue to seek out comprehensive and innovative street improvements for everyone.”

“These school zones will help kids walk to school safely,” said Elizabeth Stampe, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco. “They’ll also calm traffic in neighborhoods throughout the city, making streets more inviting for walking. This is a big step forward for everyone who walks in San Francisco. We applaud the Mayor’s leadership on this, the SFMTA’s quick action to establish the zones, and the Police Department’s commitment to enforcing these new safer speeds.”

Photo by Adrienne Johnson

The 15-mph speed limit signs have gone up around all public and private K-12 schools that are eligible under a 2008 state law, which allows the 15-mph zones on two-lane streets for 500 feet around a school.

“The San Francisco Police Department is committed to making our city’s streets safer, and we’ll be enforcing these 15-mile-per-hour speed zones to do just that,” said Captain Denis F. O’Leary of the San Francisco Police Department.

The Mayor’s Pedestrian Safety Directive, issued in December 2010 under former Mayor Gavin Newsom, includes a specific near-term action item to implement 15 mile-per-hour speed limits at all schools in San Francisco. The change in speed limit is allowed under the California Vehicle Code and a state law, AB 321, which allows local authorities to implement 15 mph speed limit zones within 500 feet of schools when children are present. This will help meet the establish targets for the reduction of pedestrian injuries, a 25 percent reduction in serious and fatal pedestrian injuries by 2016, and a 50 percent reduction by 2021.

“Calming the streets around our schools reduces congestion by making it safer for our students and their parents to choose environmentally friendly ways to get to school,” said Nik Kaestner, SFUSD Director of Sustainability.

Walk SF executive director Elizabeth Stampe talks to kids at Walk to School Day 2011. Photo by Marianne Szeto

One of the most important steps to reducing fatal and serious injuries is designing streets so that motor vehicles travel at speeds that are safe for everyone, including pedestrians. When vehicles are traveling at 30 mph, studies show that pedestrians are six times more likely to die than in collisions with vehicles traveling at 20 mph or less. The prima facie speed limit on San Francisco streets is 25 mph, unless signs are posted to dictate otherwise.

The 15 mph school zone program includes 181 San Francisco schools from K-12 public and private schools and approximately 803 signs. The total cost of the program, $361,700, is covered by local Proposition K sales tax funds and SFMTA operating funds.

The Mayor’s Office and city agencies have undertaken many efforts to reduce driving speed to posted speed limits. These efforts include the installation of speed humps, traffic circles, median islands, curb bulbs, edge lines, road diets, and traffic signal modifications.