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Speed cameras one step closer to being on our streets, and not a moment too soon

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I have been experiencing many emotions this week. One has been a feeling of overwhelming desperation.

Every small detail I learn about the people whose lives were cut short in West Portal makes them more real, and traffic deaths even more senseless. And I feel more desperate for change.

So much has to change. From the way streets are designed, to driver behavior, to the vehicles themselves – which are increasingly good at protecting passengers, but also at harming those outside the vehicle.

I have been clinging to the recent news that New York City had its lowest pedestrian deaths on record in 2023. New York City was the first city in the United States to adopt Vision Zero, and has brought a layered, comprehensive, and aggressive approach to traffic safety since.

One of New York City’s solutions is speed cameras. This meant that heading to City Hall on Tuesday to the public hearing about proposed speed camera locations felt productive. I’m grateful to other folks who joined me there.

One was Richard Zieman.

Richard Zieman is the father of Andrew Zieman, the 30-year-old beloved paraeducator who was hit and killed by a speeding driver on Franklin Street. This was right outside Sherman Elementary School, where Zieman worked, on November 10, 2021.

What Richard said to the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday said it all.

“The sad part is that the speeding driver wasn’t going that much faster than anyone else. The other upsetting thing is that nobody was surprised, every interview on the street, every politician – ‘Oh, it’s Franklin Street.’ I’m glad they’re putting a [speed] camera there, but I hope you understand that this is just one thing…. I’m just going to end with this: what we saw in West Portal, as horrible as that was… it told us one thing: speeding is deadly. Those people had no chance with a speeding SUV. And these cameras are great… but that’s not all that needs to be done.”

Walk SF strongly supports the data-based approach that SFMTA has taken in speed camera placement. The SFMTA staff are clearly working very hard to get cameras on the ground ASAP. San Francisco is far ahead of the other five California cities allowed to pilot speed cameras. We are grateful.

But we need the SFMTA to not just launch these 33 speed cameras, but to take key actions to max out their potential.

The speed cameras are an opportunity for a broader reset of driver norms if they are paired with three key actions, which are detailed here.

We’ll continue to ask for these actions, and hope you will echo this with us at City Hall on Tuesday, April 16, when the SFMTA Board will vote on the final speed camera locations.

Nothing matters more than speed when it comes to protecting all of us.

Do you support Walk SF’s #SlowOurStreets campaign? Chip in now.