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.