Several streets in Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, and Union Square just got their speed limits lowered from 25 to 20 mph, despite arguments that drivers ignore city speed limits and police don’t enforce them anyway.
It used to be that the default speed limit in California cities’ “business activity districts” was generally 25 miles per hour. But a new state law passed in 2021 allowed cities to lower that speed limit to 20 miles per hour. And San Francisco wasted no time in lowering those speed limits, notably issuing a blanket 20 mile-per-hour speed limit across the Tenderloin,
Another batch of 25-mph streets were proposed to be lowered to 20 MPH streets at the SFMTA board of directors meeting Tuesday. And the board did unanimously vote to lower speed limits to 23 streets in Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and Union Square. But there was still some blowback that just posting signs of the lowered speed limits was ineffective at reducing speeds.
Transit activist Luke Bornheimer cited the “agency’s own data” on similar speed limit downgrades, seen above from a June 2022 follow-up report after speed limits were lowered. Note how “typical vehicle speed” did not go down, and in some cases actually went up.
“It sounds really great, but we’re actually not seeing any improvement in the data,” Bornheimer told the board, advocating instead for more bike lanes and awareness campaigns.
But that was not the consensus of everyone who spoke up before the vote. “There is proof that reducing speed limits by putting up signs does change behavior,” Walk SF executive director Jodie Medeiros told the board. “We know that reducing speed limits by five miles per hour does make a huge difference in whether a person lives or dies if they get hit by a car. Ninety percent of people will survive if they’re hit by a vehicle traveling 20 miles per hour.”
SFMTA Streets director Tom Maguire insisted the agency would do more than just post new signs. “We would never pretend that only signs reduce speeds,” Maguire said Tuesday, adding that, “Surprisingly, many of the streets on which we’ve lowered the speed limit to 20 (MPH) already have an average speed below 20. But not all of them, and those are the streets we need to focus on.”
Per SFMTA, the streets whose speed limits are being lowered from 25 to 20 mph are listed below:
- Broadway, between Montgomery Street and Powell Street
- Bush Street, between Montgomery Street and Grant Avenue
- Clay Street, between Montgomery Street and Stockton Street
- Cyril Magnin Street, between Market Street and O’Farrell Street
- Eddy Street, between Cyril Magnin Street and Mason Street
- Ellis Street, between Market Street and Mason Street
- Green Street, between Grant Avenue and Powell Street
- Jackson Street, between Kearny Street and Powell Street
- Jones Street, between Beach Street and Jefferson Street
- Kearny Street, between Market Street and Pine Street
- Larkin Street, between North Point Street and Beach Street
- Leavenworth Street, between Beach Street and Jefferson Street
- Mason Street, between Beach Street and Jefferson Street
- O’Farrell Street, between Market Street and Mason Street
- Pacific Avenue, between Kearny Street and Powell Street
- Powell Street, between Beach Street and Jefferson Street
- Sacramento Street, between Kearny Street and Stockton Street
- Sutter Street, between Market Street and Mason Street
- Taylor Street, between Bay Street and Jefferson Street
- Union Street, between Stockton Street and Powell Street
- Vallejo Street, between Grant Avenue and Powell Street
- Washington Street, between Kearny Street and Stockton Street