Imagining Traffic Calming in San Francsico

Here at the Brod Law Firm, we are big fans of Streetfilms.org, the video segment of the Livable Streets Initiative. Streetfilms produce short on-line videos, covering a range of topics from traffic calming in Paris to Sunday Streets in Bogata, also known as Ciclovia (an event after which San Francisco modeled its Sundaystreets). There is also video posted on Streetsblog that capture street confrontations, such as that between a New York City driver with a serious case of road rage and a pedicab simply trying to make his way through the congested city streets. We find all their videos entertaining and educational, giving us insight, while also keeping us in loop, into how our city compares to other cities in terms of the different ways a city can transform its streets into safe and sustainable places, for both vehicles and non-vehicles, as well as livable, vibrant places for social interaction.
The video on traffic calming in Paris we found especially interesting and inspiring. Some examples of their traffic calming strategies are: curbs are removed so that bikes, pedistrians and cars coexist; on the wider roads, bikes share lanes with buses and taxis; some crosswalks are raised, and cobblestone streets and neckdowns are implemented to slow oncomoing or turning traffic. Street calming is a powerful tool for changing behavior and improving safety, as it forces vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians to tolerate each other. And it is not just Paris, other cities, like Copenhagen, Demark, have been implemented extensive traffic calming techniques. Some cities go further to promote non-vehicle transportation, such as Curitiba, Brazil, where, on Rua XV de Novembro (15th of November Street), all vehicle traffic is blocked and only pedestrians are allowed.
Whenever we take on a new case where a cyclist or pedestrian has been injured by a vehicle, we are reminded that these accidents only reinforce San Francisco’s need for street transformation and street calming. In order for San Francisco to maintain a competitive edge in the global economy and its status as a world class city, it must implement, through education and marketing, strategies that place people over cars and reduce the convenience of driving a car. Advertising campaigns that show the burdens of owning a car in the city often outweigh the benefits can be an effective impetus for change. And we need not look to cities overseas for inspiration; cities here in the U.S., like Portland and Cincinnati, have done an excellent job developing and implementing techniques for traffic calming. If they can do it, then San Francisco can do it. These traffic calming techniques would not only benefit pedestrians and cyclists here in our beautiful city, they would also benefit the entire planet by reducing green house gas emissions.