Report recommends that the Fire Department adopt policies and procedures to better guide the purchase of new vehicles to ensure that both emergency response and road safety interests of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists are advanced.
San Francisco, CA – Today, the Board of Supervisor’s Budget and Legislative Analyst released a report requested by Supervisor Scott Wiener evaluating whether San Francisco’s fire trucks are too large for our narrow streets. A key finding in that report is that the Fire Department lacks protocols to consider street design and pedestrian safety when it procures new vehicles.
Recent policy directives from the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and voters that streets are to be walkable and safe, consistent with smart urban design standards, often conflicts with the Fire Department’s desire for streets to be as wide as possible. Wide streets, while they may facilitate maneuverability of large fire trucks, are also the most dangerous for road users, including drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Wider streets are directly related to increased speed, and collisions at increased speed are exponentially more fatal. Today’s report analyzed the Fire Department’s vehicle procurement processes to identify other strategies that may facilitate both vehicle maneuverability and advance road safety for all users.
“Elected policymakers and the voters have repeatedly adopted a policy of safer streets through effective street design, yet not all agencies are doing all they can to make these policies a reality." said Supervisor Wiener. "Wider streets create longer crossing distances and faster speeds. Wider streets divide our neighborhoods. We need to be clear in our policy priorities, and consistent in our delivery of these projects. If the Fire Department is concerned that its trucks cannot effectively navigate San Francisco's enormous number of narrow streets, the solution is for the department to consider more maneuverable vehicles, not to insist on street designs that are unsafe for our residents.”
Last year, the Board of Supervisors reiterated this policy directive by adopting "Vision Zero," which envisions the elimination of street fatalities through the "Three E's": education, enforcement, and engineering. That last "E" - safe street engineering - requires streets that are not overly wide. Overly wide streets lead to faster traffic and longer crossing distances for pedestrians. Overly wide streets directly contradict city policy.
Supervisor Wiener and transit and pedestrian advocates have been engaged in an ongoing discussion with the San Francisco Fire Department, which has repeatedly opposed pedestrian safety design changes, such as bulbouts, due to the large size of its trucks and their alleged challenges navigating streets that aren't wide. While Supervisor Wiener applauds the Fire Department for engaging proactively on street design, he encourages the Department to adopt policies and procedures guiding the procurement of new vehicles in order to ensure that both emergency response and street safety needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists are advanced.