Author: Rachel Liu | Category: Education | Environment | Date: 08-12-2020
Imagine being able to walk through the streets of a city instead of being forced to take a cab, car, or public transportation because the streets were too crowded or unsafe for you to walk in. Safe streets (also known as open streets, cyclovia, cycleways, and street eats) aim to make cities more walkable and accommodating for pedestrians and bikers by making the streets more safe. Therefore, there are increased opportunities for recreation while physical distancing, which is extremely important to this COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. In San Francisco, this is part of Vision Zero, an initiative to prioritize street safety and eliminate traffic deaths in the city. Sierra Club also promotes the program “green walkable streets - slow streets” and it is one of the main programs in the Loma Prieta chapter. This initiative would also empower seniors and people with disabilities to access cities.
According to SFPD, 64% of all collisions between people walking and cars were due to motorists failing to yield to pedestrians. Moreover, seniors are five times more likely to be killed in traffic and make up at least 50% of all pedestrians killed each year, even though they are only 15% of San Francisco’s population. These statistics reveal an obvious problem that needs to be solved.
San Francisco’s safe streets campaign was started by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and its campaign focuses on grassroots outreach efforts through street teams and outreach training to community-based organizations. Through SFMTA increasing and bettering the public relations and press coverage regarding pedestrian safety through freeways bulletins, wallboards and posters, ads, etc, the public is able to learn more about this pressing issue. Additionally, the Sierra Club is currently working with officials of some cities in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to promote their program of green walkable streets through safe streets. The city of San Mateo is an example of a city that is working on building safer streets, which would be implemented into long-term policy and will meet many of the goals in the city’s climate action plans.
Safe streets would benefit the environment in numerous ways. The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States; in 2018, transportation made up 28.2% of the US’ overall greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of having to use cars, safe streets allow pedestrians to feel safer when walking on the streets of cities. When city residents are more encouraged to walk through the implementation of these safer streets, there are fewer emissions from transportation. Ultimately, walking is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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