A newly installed raised crosswalk on Adair Street. Image courtesy of SFMTA

A study of traffic data around Marshall Elementary declared the city’s first “home zone,” established there in 2014 to calm traffic, a resounding success.

“This home zone project is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when streets are designed to be family-friendly. Not only was the most dangerous driving behavior addressed — speed — but walking, wheelchair rolling and bicycling to school skyrocketed,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk San Francisco in a statement issued by the SFMTA.

The raised crosswalks, of which eight were installed, force drivers to slow down when they mount and then cross an intersection. Sidewalk bulbouts shorten the distance pedestrians need to travel to cross a street – three of them were installed at Capp and 15th streets.

“Two things that made this a good place to pilot SF’s first home zone was documented speeding and documented cut-through traffic that we were seeing,” said Jose, referring to drivers who cut through residential neighborhoods to avoid main thoroughfares.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority established the zone partly as the result of frequent complaints about speeding cars and data that indicated a high rate of collisions. The zone, from 14th to 16th streets along South Van Ness and Mission streets, includes portions of Capp, Minna, Natoma, and Adair streets.

Since the traffic calming measures were implemented, the transit authority has found that average speeds have dropped to less than 20 miles per hour throughout the area, people report feeling safer, and pedestrian traffic is up 20 percent. Both before and after the measures were implemented, the city set up tube counters across the road and sent staffers to count pedestrians.

The last five-year collision report, measured from 2004 to 2009, indicates that 35 vehicle collisions occurred in the treated area. Thirty of those resulted in an injury, three involved a pedestrian, and three involved a bicyclist.

‘Home zones’ were originated in the Netherlands and have been implemented in the UK as well as in New York City, said Ben Jose, an SFMTA spokesperson, as areas in which infrastructure is designed to encourage pedestrian use and safety.

“You have visual cues that make you slow down while you’re driving, which is really valuable when you’re driving near Marshall Elementary or near an area where there’s a lot of families and residents,” Jose said.

But the measures in this area go beyond the visual, physically forcing drivers to slow down.

Using $300,000 of Proposition K funding, the city installed three speed bumps, painted ‘edgelines’, which are painted on the street to narrow travel lanes to encourage drivers to reduce speeds, reduced lanes on 15th Street, added raised crosswalks, and constructed three bulbouts.

The city is also at work in the high collision corridor that is South Van Ness, having already installed painted safety zones, limit lines, and upgraded crosswalks between 17th and 22nd streets, as well as installing pedestrian countdown signals at 21st and 22nd streets. In 2016, the agency will add countdown signals along South Van Ness between 15th and 20th streets.

For those who notice dangerous behaviors on their street and would like to see similar measures implemented in their neighborhood, Jose suggested applying with the city for calming measures. Though this year’s round is closed, information about the application process can be found online. An an application requires signatures from 20 neighbors.   

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