Police at 16th and Valencia streets after a driver struck a pedestrian.
Police investigate the scene at 16th and Valencia streets following a traffic fatality on Jan. 11, 2023. (Photo by David Mamaril Horowitz.)

On the heels of yesterday’s traffic fatality at 16th and Valencia streets, the pedestrian rights advocacy organization Walk San Francisco called for a host of actions to improve pedestrian safety — among them, steps to address the pedestrian fatalities caused by drivers making left turns.

On Tuesday evening, a driver making a left turn from Valencia onto 16th Street struck a 64-year-old woman, Wan Mei Tan, as she crossed the eastern crosswalk, according to a preliminary report from the SFPD.  The victim died of her injuries. 

Tan’s fatality is the second traffic fatality this year. On New Year’s Day, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed Bess Chui at Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street . 

“Two tragedies in less than two weeks should be raising serious alarm bells for all city leaders,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director at Walk SF, said in a statement.

Last year, 19 people were killed while walking in San Francisco, and traffic crashes killed 37 people, making 2022 the deadliest year since San Francisco initiated its Vision Zero policy in 2014, according to Walk SF.

The organization added that although San Francisco adopted an aggressive Vision Zero Action Strategy in 2021, “the timeline for completing what’s in the strategy has fallen far behind on almost every front.”

One of the organization’s concerns is left-hand turns at intersections that are known to be dangerous.  

Tan was the third pedestrian in the past two years who has been struck by a driver making a left turn at Valencia and 16th streets, according to Walk SF. The others were a 32-year-old woman injured on March 14, 2021, and a 40-year-old man severely injured on March 27, 2021, according to Walk SF. 

The intersection is part of San Francisco’s designated High Injury Network, where around 75 percent of San Francisco’s severe and fatal traffic injuries occur.

Medeiros believes that left turns should be banned and turns on red should be restricted at the intersection.

She also advocated for the addition of “pedestrian safety zones” — either concrete sidewalk bulb-outs or posts — at the corners of the intersection, to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians.

The 16th Street Improvement Project, which is under construction, will bring numerous safety improvements to Valencia Street. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency proposed designs for the Valencia Bikeway Improvements Project last summer that would ban left turns, but this is still in the design phase, according to Walk SF.

Meanwhile, Walk SF found that, in 2019, about 40 percent of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco occurred in crosswalks with drivers making left turns. When drivers turn left, they’re more likely to move at a higher speed than with right turns, due to the left turn’s wider radius, the organization stated; visibility is generally reduced, as well, due to a cars’ frame blocking a driver’s view when turning left.

Solutions aren’t used nearly enough, Mederos said. The main ones are typically restricting left turns and “left-turn calming,” which places rubber speed bumps or posts at an intersection so drivers must navigate around them to make left turns.

Walk SF and San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets are calling for city leaders to expand left-turn calming beyond its 2020 pilot program, which installed calming measures at seven intersections.  

San Francisco’s 2021 Vision Zero Action Strategy states that the city plans to implement 35 left-turn calming areas by 2024. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency stated that it has seven left-turn calming locations planned for installation once the weather clears up, adding that a larger batch is planned for installation later in the year.

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David Mamaril Horowitz

David’s one of those San Francisco natives who gets excited whenever City College is mentioned. He has journalism degrees from there and San Francisco State University, graduating from the latter in May 2021. In college, David played five different roles as an editor at student news publications and reported as an intern for three local newspapers, mostly while waiting tables at the Alamo Drafthouse. His first job was at Mitchell's Ice Cream.

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  1. This is like confusing today’s weather with climate change. The longitudinal data show which street segments and intersections are dangerously engineered as evidenced by years of observation and the higher rates of injury/death.

    Reacting like this to the latest tragedy is the way that advocates who are unable to get the City to address all dangerously engineered conditions in any systematic and deliberate way to perform like they’re doing their advocacyjob.

    Generals always like to fight the last war.

  2. If only there were a police station close to that intersection staffed by law enforcement officers who got out of the station to enforce the law.

  3. In the old days it was illegal for a driver to even start to enter an intersection if there was a pedestrian who had stepped into an intersection but those days are long gone.

    Recently at this very intersection 16th and Valencia that I cross almost every day, a cop turned and was almost in the crosswalk that I was using to get across the street.

    Face it, if even a cop does this, there’s no hope but no, left turns should continue to be allowed at 16th and Valencia, banning them will only complicate and frustrate the traffic passing through it.

  4. Born / Raised in the Mission. San Francisco is famous for the city of no left turns, its a nightmare to just drive in the city alone yet walk it. It’s unfortunate that most drivers in the city are completely distracted and always in a hurry to get to nowhere.

  5. Great piece David — thanks for digging into the details on this dangerous intersection and the broader systemic issues in street safety. It would be good to see Supervisor Ronen and SFMTA work together on left turn calming for this and other dangerous intersections in the neighborhood.

  6. How about enforcing the rules that exist? Daily, rampant double parking in the area is stressing drivers and cyclist out, and signals that “anything goes”.

  7. As a driver, it’s nerve wracking turning left or right. With pedestrians scooter bikes popping Could we have “only pedestrian” lights? In other countries, everyone can cross any way. The lights would be only for cars

    1. No thanks. Pedestrian scrambles cause delays and make traffic worse via inducing demand. Intersections need to be redesigned for pedestrian safety and transit needs signal priority. In short, the safest way to design cities is to discourage amateurs from driving at all.

  8. I drive quite a bit, and I am fully in favor of left hand turn calming.

    Maybe it is my age and stage, but the more restrictions on drivers in this town, the better. We can all make the time.

    Is it the gig company lobby that makes meaningful change more difficult?

    1. Seems many gig drivers are unrestrained by traffic norms and are compelled to deliver a meal to a lazy techie above all else. No Left Turn signs are often ignored. There is one at westbound 16th and Guerrero that is so obscured by graffiti and a new pole related to the current 16th Street Traffic Project that it is now nearly invisible to even those who might obey it. After almost being run down there, I am now armed to defend myself against the metal weapons on wheels that killed the poor woman a block east yesterday. RIP.