Skip links

20 MPH in the Tenderloin is a major win for the neighborhood and beyond

 In Uncategorized

You may have read some of the recent stories about SFMTA’s proposal to set the speed limit in the entire Tenderloin neighborhood 20 MPH. Last week, the SFMTA Board of Directors enthusiastically discussed the proposal.

20 MPH in the Tenderloin is something we’ve been pushing for hard – and if approved on March 16 is a major win. It’s fantastic news for everyone who lives and walks in the Tenderloin. It’s also a big step in the right direction for our City in acting aggressively to slow our streets in support of Vision Zero.

The Tenderloin, just a quarter-square-mile, is home to the city’s largest concentration of children, seniors, immigrants, and people of color. Few people in the Tenderloin even own cars. But starting in the 1950s, the streets were designed to be speedy cut-throughs for drivers to other parts of the city. Residents have paid the price. Every single street in the Tenderloin is designated as “high-injury” in terms of the number of severe and fatal traffic crashes.

Adopting 20MPH speed limits is one of the top ways to bring significantly safer streets to the Tenderloin ASAP. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Addressing speed is the most effective way to reduce both the likelihood of a crash occurring in the first place and its severity. The faster the driver of a vehicle is going, the more limited their scope of vision and ability to quickly stop is. A person hit by the driver of a vehicle traveling 25MPH vs. 20MPH is twice as likely to be killed.
  • Other leading Vision Zero cities are showing the power of reduced speed limits, both in bringing down average speeds and high-risk speeds. Residential streets in Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis are now 20 MPH. A recent study of Seattle shows that lowering speed limits and increasing sign density (with no additional education, enforcement, or additional engineering changes) resulted in lower speeds and fewer crashes. A study of Boston’s lowered speed limits shows how speeds 10+ miles above the limit notably drop.
  • The cost of installing new speed limit signs across the whole neighborhood is less than $100,000. That’s about as cheap as it gets for a traffic safety improvement being applied at a meaningful scale. If approved in March, SFMTA says 20 MPH signs would be installed by mid-April.

There are a lot of people who have been part of pushing for ‘20 is Plenty’ to come to the Tenderloin. I want to thank all the Walk SF members for making our advocacy on this possible. I’m also so proud to work with the tenacious members of Tenderloin Traffic Safety Task Force. And a HUGE thanks to Supervisor Haney for prioritizing this change and encouraging the Tenderloin to be a model for other neighborhoods. And of course big thanks to SFMTA staff and Board for seeing the need, making the move, and doing the hard work to make it happen.

I’m especially excited that what’s going to happen in the Tenderloin could become a model for other neighborhoods. Every neighborhood deserves streets where drivers travel at safe speeds, and this must be at the forefront of the City’s approach to Vision Zero.

Speaking of which, the City’s next Vision Zero Action Strategy is a huge opportunity to win changes to slow our streets. I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday, February 24 at 5:30PM when Walk SF will do an online briefing and discussion. RSVP here.

Read more about 20 MPH in the Tenderloin in The Frisc, the San Francisco Examiner, and at SFGate.

Banner image by Jeffrey Gray from the 2019 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims