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The moral imperative for city leaders to act boldly in support of Vision Zero

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On October 20, members of Walk SF urged SFMTA to refocus on Vision Zero to put an end to severe and fatal crashes on our streets. You can read coverage of the SFMTA Board meeting in the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner

One of Walk SF’s board members, Dr. Olivia Gamboa, made clear the moral imperative to prioritize Vision Zero as a city. Olivia is a hospitalist and palliative care physician at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. I asked her if I could share her public comment from the meeting. You can read it below.

As a physician, the failure of our city to make progress on Vision Zero is very real to me. When I get paged in the middle of the night about a transfer from San Francisco General, my heart drops. Because I know that it will be another senior citizen who has been hit by a car driver and is severely injured. Skull fractures, brain bleeds, broken ribs, punctured lungs, vertebral fractures, liver lacerations, massive hemorrhages. Our city’s failure to protect vulnerable pedestrians has had very real and very painful consequences. 

Up to now, SFMTA has been treating Vision Zero as an afterthought, when in reality people being able to walk safely in our city is central to the physical, social, and economic health of San Franciscans. Everyone walks. This is not a special interest. This is about building a city around human well-being. 

I hear a lot about this strategy or that strategy, but the outcomes we care about decreasing deaths and serious injuries are going the wrong way. We need a paradigm change and we’re just tinkering around the edges. So I want to urge you to be bold. 

San Franciscans deserve a detailed plan with specific actions that the SFMTA will take that will actually get us to Vision Zero. We need left turn calming at more than six intersections. We need universal daylighting. We need a timeline. We need to see that you are going to act on a scale that is commensurate with the crisis. As a parent, I’d like to see a safer city before my kids are grown. 

I know that you know how to make our streets safer. This is not a technical puzzle. This is a moral imperative. You say that red light cameras cost $250,000. I have patients on cancer drugs that cost $20,000 a month. Saving lives is worth it. This is a matter of being courageous and pushing forward with the changes that so many other cities have implemented successfully.

As long as we are valuing providing free parking for people to store their second and third cars over protecting vulnerable pedestrians, we are not going to get there. We need to be re-allocating space away from motor vehicles and towards uses that promote greater safety and serve a higher social good. So I wish you courage in moving forward in creating the better, safer city that San Franciscans deserve.

– Dr. Olivia Gamboa

Walk San Francisco helped lead the charge to San Francisco’s adoption of Vision Zero in 2014. Vision Zero continues to be our best hope for making our streets safe for everyone, of every age and ability. But for Vision Zero to reach its potential, we believe our city leaders must prioritize and invest in it with the utmost urgency… and think much bigger and more strategically. This is at the heart of Walk SF’s advocacy. If you support this work, please become a member of Walk SF today.

This photo is from the intersection where Mark Berman was hit and killed crossing the street by a reckless, speeding driver on August 11, 2020 at Geary and Gough.