Case Studies

San Francisco: Executive Directive

For being such a compact, walkable city, San Francisco was surprisingly dangerous for pedestrians. More than 3,500 pedestrians were injured in the city between the years of 2005 and 2008. The figure amounted to more than 800 annual average pedestrian injuries a year—more than 100 of which were severe or fatal injuries.

San Francisco’s city agencies had been trying to address this mounting problem, but individual agencies focused on the quality of the pedestrian infrastructure while others addressed safety concerns on an intersection-by-intersection basis; the agencies lacked concerted coordination and clear common goals to focus their efforts on bringing down the numbers of pedestrian injuries.

Then Mayor Gavin Newsom delivered a Mayoral Executive Directive in December 2010. The executive directive focused agency efforts on improving pedestrian safety in San Francisco. Not only did the directive provide a clear, unifying goal for city agencies and bring political support for addressing pedestrian safety, but it also provided a clear framework for systematically implementing solutions. The directive focused on severe and fatal injuries; set clear numerical targets for severe and fatal injury reductions; focused on vehicle speeds; defined achievable near-term actions; and established a citywide Pedestrian Safety Task Force to facilitate interagency coordination and community engagement.

In the months following the mayoral executive directive, the mayor’s office attended the monthly Pedestrian Safety Task Force meetings to reinforce the ongoing commitment of elected officials and encourage city agencies to prioritize pedestrian safety in their projects and policies. Additional subcommittees, each led by specific city agencies, worked through how they would address pedestrian safety through different approaches, including engineering, enforcement, and data collection. The directive asked subcommittees to orient their efforts toward understanding local contexts and achieving near-term actions in order to inform longer-range goals to be added into a Pedestrian Strategic Action Plan.

Near-term actions included implementing 15 mph school zones; identifying “high injury corridors,” which were the 5% of streets where 55% of severe or fatal pedestrian injuries occurred; targeting enforcement on those high-injury corridors; expanding the traffic-engineering toolkit to better address high speed and risk factors on high-traffic streets; piloting “home zones”; and developing data-driven computer models to analyze high-risk locations and the quality of pedestrian infrastructure.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.