San Francisco to Make Citywide Street Safety Improvements in Wake of 4th & King Fatality

Mayor Breed’s direction calls for the SFMTA to improve street safety in key areas, including a plan to prioritize and install improvements at intersections where most severe and fatal collisions occur
August 21, 2023

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today directed the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to address immediate street safety improvements to the 4th and King intersection in the South of Market neighborhood following last week’s fatal crash that resulted in the death of a 4-year-old girl. The Mayor has also asked SFMTA to prioritize proven safety improvements on dangerous streets citywide.   

A woman was arrested on suspicion of striking a family with her car and killing a 4-year-old girl who was being pushed in a stroller in the crosswalk at the 4th and King intersection on Tuesday, August 15. The girl’s father was treated for life-threatening injuries, and, tragically, the child succumbed to her injuries shortly after her arrival to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.   

“This is a heartbreaking incident that took the life of an innocent child, leaving a family changed forever and our community deeply saddened. I know I speak for every San Franciscan in continuing to hold this family in our thoughts and prayers,” said Mayor London Breed. “Our streets and roads in San Francisco should be safe for everyone to enjoy without feeling their lives are in danger, which is why I have directed the SFMTA to take immediate action to prevent this from happening again. We will continue to invest in and prioritize improvements to help prevent anyone, especially our children, from being hit, injured, or killed by a driver.”   

As per City protocol, following the incident, the SFMTA convened a Rapid Response team with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) and the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), to review the details of the crash and fatality. Although the incident is still under investigation, the SFMTA has identified street changes that could help prevent a similar occurrence. Specifically, the SFMTA will:  

  • Remove one southbound right-turn lanes from 4th Street onto King Street, leaving only one lane of vehicles turning across the crosswalk instead of two. This will reduce the number of conflicts between turning cars and people in the crosswalk.   
  • Change the traffic signal so that drivers turning right from 4th Street onto King Street see a yellow arrow, instead of just a green light. The arrow reinforces the requirement for drivers to yield to pedestrians.     

“On behalf of myself and our entire agency, we are grieving for this family and their loss,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “SFMTA has the important and ongoing responsibility of managing a citywide street network that was originally built to prioritize vehicle speed and volumes, that should now better prioritize transit, walking and biking. This tragedy reminds us of the urgency needed to accelerate safety investments to this intersection and critical streets across the City.”   

According to the SFMTA, there are dozens of additional double-turn lanes in San Francisco, all of which will be assessed for similar treatments as directed by Mayor Breed. Last week’s crash occurred at an intersection that is on San Francisco’s High Injury Network, which are the 12% of streets where 68% of severe and fatal collisions occur. The High Injury Network guides the City’s investments in infrastructure and programs by prioritizing change where it is needed most.  

The Mayor has further directed the SFMTA to produce a plan and timeline for how the Agency will prioritize safety improvements on the rest of the High Injury Network streets by the end of 2024. The plan will include:   

  • Installing pedestrian improvements at intersections, including daylighting, more time to cross the street, upgraded crosswalks, and other features to slow turning cars on fifty miles of High Injury Network streets  
  • Detailed timelines to install seventeen Quick-Build projects that address systemic safety issues on High Injury Streets and prioritize mobility and safety for pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists  

“This family is suffering such an unfathomable loss that should never have happened,” said Jodi Medeiros, Executive Director, Walk SF. “Crossing the street should not be life-or-death. We applaud Mayor Breed in calling for a suite of actions that will make many dangerous intersections safer, and we need City agencies to deliver on these actions immediately.” 

San Francisco was the second city in the United States to adopt Vision Zero in 2014, an initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and reduce severe traffic-related injuries. Through data, evaluation, and critical assessments, the City has been a leader in using proven tools to reduce crashes, including installing pedestrian safety improvements at intersections, building protected bike lanes, and reducing vehicle speeds. However, San Francisco continues to see high numbers of people injured and killed on City streets.   

In 2022, San Francisco saw 39 traffic-related deaths – the highest fatality count since 2007, of which 28% were hit and run collisions.  The cities of San Jose and Oakland also experienced some of the highest traffic-related deaths in a decade: 65 in San Jose and 36 in Oakland. The trend isn’t limited to the Bay Area - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that traffic fatalities in 2021 reached a 16-year high across the United States.   

Because speed is the leading cause of serious and fatal crashes in San Francisco and a trend that is increasing across the United States, Mayor Breed, City leaders and State legislators have worked together to address local and statewide speed limit laws.    

San Francisco was the first City in the state to implement Assembly Bill 43, co-authored by then State Assemblymember David Chiu, which allows local jurisdictions to reduce speed limits in key areas. The first component of the Bill went into effect on January 1, 2022, authorizing cities to lower speed limits by 5 mph in districts with high business activity. San Francisco has since lowered speed limits from 25 mph to 20 mph on over 40 commercial corridors citywide, including Valencia Street, Polk Street, and Ocean Avenue. Starting this fall, the SFMTA has plans to lower speeds on another 23 streets in Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, and Union Square.   

Additionally, San Francisco is a sponsor of Assembly Bill 645, co-authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), which would implement a five-year speed safety pilot program in six California cities, including San Francisco. AB645 would enable the cities to install a limited number of speed cameras that would capture images of vehicle license plates traveling 11 mph more than the speed limit and send speeding tickets to the registered driver’s home. This technology has saved thousands of lives in the cities and states that have implemented it, but still remains illegal in California. The Bill would also help address the challenges of balancing limited policing resources and the equity concerns that have called for separating armed enforcement from non-violent violations. AB645 has passed the State Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the State Senate this month.   

Vision Zero is a key part of every SFMTA project, including the Geary Boulevard Improvement Project, recently approved at the SFMTA Board after hours of public debate. The Geary Project not only focuses on improving transit service, it is also intended to make Geary itself safer in an area where on average one person walking is injured in a traffic collision every month. The first phase of the Geary Project, which included similar improvements, has led to an 81% reduction in excessive speeding by private vehicles. These projects are critical to creating safer streets citywide.  

This work is just one part of San Francisco’s vision for transportation, which aspires to provide safe, sustainable, and affordable transportation options for everyone, including seamless transit connections to local and regional destination, efficient transit, walking and biking networks, and safe, clean and vibrant streets. San Francisco is striving to have at least 80% of all San Francisco trips taken by sustainable modes of travel, which means that City streets must accommodate growing numbers of people walking, biking, skateboarding, riding scooters, and taking transit.   

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and as part of the ongoing efforts to work towards a goal of zero traffic-related fatalities, Mayor Breed is calling on policy makers, advocates, and drivers to take part in creating a safer San Francisco. The Vision Zero initiative requires a total community approach which includes safer street designs, safer vehicles on roadways and streets, and equally, safer drivers.