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Safe space for walking coming to the Tenderloin

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Jones Street will get expanded pedestrian space 

Finally. The Tenderloin is getting a tailored version of Slow Streets to create safe space for people to walk with social distancing. On Jones Street, from O’Farrell to Golden Gate, one vehicle travel lane and the adjacent parking lane starting will become additional pedestrian space in the upcoming weeks. 

I want to share a huge thanks to everyone and every organization that’s been fighting for pedestrian space in the Tenderloin during the pandemic. 

Neighborhood activists have been tireless in their efforts, and are working in so many creative ways to get the Tenderloin what it needs.  Many Walk SF members also joined in pushing for pedestrian space in the Tenderloin, sending emails to their Supervisors and making public comments at the recent SFMTA Board meeting. I’m also grateful to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Livable City; we’ve been working together to push for an equitable Slow Streets program since this started to roll out. And without a doubt, SFMTA has been working hard to design a workable solution for residents and other city agencies including the SF Fire Department.   

The urgent need for safe street space for social distancing in the Tenderloin has been painfully clear since the start of shelter in place. And this need is layered on top of a traffic safety crisis. 

Traffic violence is a daily reality for the nearly 40,000 people who live in the Tenderloin. Every single street in the Tenderloin is designated as “high-injury” in terms of traffic crashes. Four pedestrians were hit and killed in the Tenderloin in 2019. Hundreds were injured, including a 12-year-old boy walking home from school. Ask someone who lives or works in the Tenderloin if they’ve ever witnessed someone get hit while walking, and they usually have more than one story. 

Tenderloin streets were fundamentally designed for fast-moving vehicle traffic, not the people who live there. It’s unjust and unfair and maddening when the neighborhood has been begging for changes for years. This is why Walk SF continues to make our work in the neighborhood a priority. 

SFMTA must invest in and prioritize traffic safety in the Tenderloin: from redesigning the too-fast, one-way streets to equitable traffic enforcement like red light cameras. Leavenworth Street is slated for a ‘quick build’ safety improvements by year’s end, but there are still so many more streets in urgent need of traffic calming, like Hyde, Larkin and Golden Gate. These are at the top of the list for the Tenderloin Traffic Safety Task Force, which has been instrumental in elevating the need to fix Tenderloin streets (Walk SF is an active member of the group). 

Meanwhile, Jones Street is only a first step for what the Tenderloin needs during the pandemic. Community advocates want another street like Turk to get a version of Slow Streets. The Tenderloin Community Benefit District, residents, and  Livable City plan to bring ‘Play Streets’ to the neighborhood’s children and families this summer. Merchants have applied for outdoor dining on the 300 block of Golden Gate and in Little Saigon on Larkin Street to help small businesses recover. 

So stay tuned for how you can lend a hand or lift your voice in support of the Tenderloin neighborhood efforts.  

Do you love Slow Streets? Take action now to support bringing Slow Streets quickly to neighborhoods still waiting (like SOMA) and as a long-term solution for safer streets in San Francisco.