Demonstrators on Jan. 20 blocked 16th and Valencia at rush hour — 5 p.m. — to mark the death of pedestrian Wan Mei Tan

Ten days after 64-year-old Wan Mei Tan was struck by a driver and died from her injuries, Mission residents and advocates on Friday blocked the intersection of 16th and Valencia Streets to honor Tan and call for improved pedestrian safety.

During rush hour at 5 p.m., with the help of a couple of police officers, two dozen participants cut off all traffic passing through the intersection where Tan took her final fall.

Caught off guard, vehicles honked their horns and some impatient drivers threw middle fingers at them. One of the demonstrators faced the vehicles driving west, holding up a poster that said “Slow Down.” 

The rest of the group chanted “Say out loud her name! Wan Mei Tan!” and “No more pedestrian deaths! No more senior deaths!”

“So real quick, I know we’re blocking traffic right here at five o’clock on a Friday,” Kevin Ortiz, organizer and co-founder of Mission Destino, told the upset drivers over a megaphone. “It’s inconvenient by having to take a different route, but pedestrians get killed and injured every single day in San Francisco. Thirty-five last year. Two deaths already this year.”

“Think about the inconvenience that you’re experiencing now. And think about the families who are breathing, mourning at this time,” he continued. 

While the Friday event was a vigil for Tan, multiple attempts by the organizers to get in contact with her family failed, and no one present knew anything  about Tan’s life other than scant details from SFPD reports and the media.

Much of the time, providing services that families may desperately need is the onus of the police department, which may not have the best training to help with financial support or grief counseling services.

After a short period of hubbub, a press conference was also held in the middle of the street.

Rosa Chen, community planning manager of Chinatown Community Development Center, mentioned that many elderly Asian women have been fatally killed by pedestrian collisions, and urged the city to get a jump on its Vision Zero plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

The plan is nine years into its implementation, yet we still see so many fatalities affecting our communities, she said. To reach the goal of Vision Zero, she suggested the city put more funding and efforts to “listen to communities and work directly with the communities,” rather than “coming up with their own plan to fix a neighborhood pedestrian fatality rate,” she said.  

Aditya Bhumbla, a volunteer with Safe Street Rebel, spoke about the importance for the city to invest in public transportation and make the streets safe for cycling. “Make it easy to take the bus and people will do that and we can have a safe street we can walk and roll with safety.”

As darkness fell, the protesters marched down Valencia Street, flanked by police cars, “Driving is a privilege! Walking is a right!” they shouted.

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. I’m sure there are plenty of short-sighted and out-of-touch suggestions to go around, but wouldn’t one, low resource ($$$) key approach be to add bulb-outs (not plastic soft-hit posts and paint) and get rid of those huge turn radius corners at the intersection? I know SFFD is probably a pain in the ass to deal with on issues like this, but really, we just need these wider intersections to require a bit more discretion while making turns (ie. no being able to take a corner at 35MPH).

  2. RIP Wan Mei Tan.
    Until the muni requires everyone the bus to pay for this journey, many San Franciscans will not be taking public transportation. I will walk or drive my car.
    Muni is too dangerous and unpredictable to be inside the bus if you have to take the 22, or the 14 or anything going down market. Too many unstable people and people committing crimes (knives, thief’s, and all the fare evaders)..
    Have 2 muni staff per bus, the driver and the fare collector. When no one pays, this ‘free service’ is not respected.
    Until then I’ll be driving.
    To free up this intersection:
    – Reroute the bus lane to 18th where there are 2 lanes of traffic. People live off 16th so that single lane eastbound needs to be open for vehicles.
    – Get rid of the red lanes on Mission to free up the congestion.

    1. I have seen people smoking who knows what kind of drugs on public transit. If it’s fentanyl, everyone on a bus or train car could O.D. ! San Francisco has entered a very dark place.

    1. Piss them off more. The perhaps not-so-true legend of the start of the French Revolution was when a bourgeoise carriage ran over a young child in Paris and drove off. People couldn’t take it anymore. Drivers are attacking humans, the violent driving is intentional, the human killing may not be intentional, but wholly predictable and inevitable.