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San Francisco supe calls for banning right turns on red citywide

San Francisco activist supporting ban on cars turning right on red
San Francisco activist supporting ban on cars turning right on red 03:46

SAN FRANCISCO – Looking to reduce traffic fatalities, a proposal being introduced in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would ban drivers from making right turns at red lights throughout the city.

Supervisor Dean Preston is introducing a proposal calling for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to ban the turns citywide. Currently, No Turn On Red (NTOR) has been implemented at more than 50 intersections in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood.

"With the successful NTOR implementation in the Tenderloin, and the tragic increases citywide in traffic fatalities, we should be expanding NTOR to every neighborhood, particularly every street on the High Injury Network," Preston said, referencing the 12% of city streets where more than 68% of severe and fatal crashes occur.

"We have the tools, and we should be using these tools in a coordinated way, with urgency, to ensure we are doing everything possible to prevent serious traffic injuries and fatalities," the supervisor went on to say.

Preston said banning the practice reduces traffic collisions and increases safety for pedestrians. The supervisor cited SFMTA data finding that turn-on-red crashes account for 20% of pedestrian or bicycle-related injury crashes at signals.

Meanwhile, a SFMTA study on No Turn on Red in the Tenderloin found that 92% of drivers complied with the rule and that there was an 80% in "close calls" and a 70% decrease in vehicles blocking or encroaching crosswalks during red lights, according to the supervisor.

Despite having a stated "Vision Zero" goal of eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024, roadway safety in San Francisco continues to be a concern. So far this year, at least 16 people have died in traffic collisions in the city.

Born out of the Oil Crisis as a potential way to save fuel, the federal government legalized the practice of allowing right turns on red nationwide in the 1970s. The practice is banned throughout New York City and in parts of several other cities, including Seattle and Washington, DC.

The proposal also has support from residents. 

Luke Bornheimer has been involved with a lot of different campaigns over the years, from getting protected bike lanes throughout the city, to reducing parking near intersections to improve visibility. But the campaign Bornheimer is focused on right now is the push to get a city-wide ban on cars making right turns on red lights.

"When I'm crossing the street there is not a single time where I'm not looking to see if a car approaching the intersection is actually stopping or if they're taking a right or if they're going to roll through the cross walk and I've heard from countless people who feel the same way," said Bornheimer.

He said safety concerns over cars turning right on red is nothing new, but when a 4-year-old child was killed in a crosswalk earlier this year, he knew he had to step up and pressure the city to make significant changes now.

"That actually is the reason why I started this campaign because I saw that the city wasn't going to do this themselves and that they needed the people to say this is what we want you to do," said Bornheimer.

So far he said close to 5,000 letters have been sent to city officials asking for a city-wide no turn on red policy.

Kelsi Thorud contributed to this report.

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