New pedestrian safety banners in SoMa (Source: Davi Lang, Twitter)

New pedestrian safety banners in SoMa (Source: Davi Lang, Twitter)

As of yesterday, pedestrian safety banners are now flying in SoMa. The banners, proclaiming “Slow Down!” and followed with either “We live here” or “I live here” are part of the Vision Zero safety measure that hopes to eliminate all traffic related deaths in San Francisco by 2024.

With about 60 percent of all pedestrian and bike related deaths taking place on only 6 percent of San Francisco’s streets, the banners have been setup to target some of the city’s most dangerous roads. It’s one component of the “Three E’s”: education, enforcement and engineering.

Although no amount of educational banners is ever going to compensate for poor street design, a recent report does suggest safety campaigns like this have drivers yielding to pedestrians in greater numbers. When coupled with increased enforcement, drivers are 3-4 percent more likely to yield to pedestrians.

As StreetsBlog SF points out, “redesigning streets has been shown to be far more effective at reducing injuries.” However, even the modest benefits of an educational campaign are worth applauding.

The new “Slow Down!” banners were created by District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who unveiled them Wednesday at a press event. They span 150 street poles in the South of Market and Tenderloin districts. As Kim said in her statement, “These banners portray real residents and small business owners uniting across neighborhood lines for a common goal — zero pedestrian deaths by 2024.”

Sadly, SFPD has already reported 15 bike and pedestrian deaths in the city this year, proving Vision Zero still has a long way to go. The silver lining seems to be that, as Kim says, “It feels like everyone is on board,” and Vision Zero continues to build momentum. Then, acknowledging the long road ahead, she adds, “But for a full cultural shift, I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

Sure, the banners might not be the tipping point in shifting the way people think about driving, but it’s certainly a compelling and clever piece of the puzzle.