Skip links

‘Left turn calming’ should be a widespread safety solution in San Francisco

 In Uncategorized

Smart street design can save lives and prevent injuries

Our streets can be designed in ways that reduce the likelihood of a traffic crash happening in the first place – plus reduce the severity of crashes that do occur. Cities around the world have changed streets in big and small ways with proven, life-saving results. 

One of the street design solutions that Walk SF wants to see used across the entire high-injury network (the 13% of San Francisco streets where 75% of crashes occur) is left turn calming. This is one of the top priorities in our recent letter to SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin

Why is left turn calming one of our top recommendations to SFMTA? 

  • It’s inexpensive and easy to install. 
  • It’s proven. At intersections in New York City with left turn calming, pedestrian injuries have decreased by 20%. 
  • It tackles a situation that’s particularly dangerous for pedestrians. When a driver makes a left turn, they’re more likely to make it at a higher speed and cut corners because they have a wider radius than a right turn. Visibility is reduced for drivers, too, because the car’s frame blocks a driver’s view when they’re making a left turn.

How ‘left turn calming’ works

Here’s how left turn calming works: rubber bumpers (and sometimes posts) are strategically placed in an intersection, which reduces the speed that drivers go as they take the turn plus gives drivers better visibility of the crosswalk. It works especially well at intersections where drivers turn left from a one-way street onto a wide, two-way street.

New York City started testing out left turn calming in 2017 as a proactive safety solution… and it worked. New York City now has left turn calming installed at 300+ intersections. Watch this video to see left turn calming in action.

What’s the status of ‘left turn calming’ in San Francisco?

SFMTA plans to pilot left turn calming at seven intersections on the high-injury network in the Sunset, Tenderloin, SOMA, and North Beach starting in August. 

But given the success this approach has had in New York City and the fact that Portland launched its pilot program at 41 intersections last year, we think this solution needs to go bigger a lot faster. There’s no time to waste in protecting people in the crosswalk. 

If you agree that left turn calming is a solution San Francisco should embrace in a big way ASAP, send an email to SFMTA Director Tumlin now. 

We need every voice possible echoing the call for quick action to prevent a surge in traffic crashes. Thanks for adding yours. And if you stand for safe streets for all, support Walk SF’s advocacy today.

Banner image: SFMTA Photo Dept.