San Francisco considering red-light turn ban in much of downtown

San Francisco is considering expanding a ban on right turns at red lights. 

The city already has blocked right turns on red lights at some intersections, but now that ban could extend throughout the downtown.

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency is proposing a plan that would bar right turns on red lights at about 200 intersections in the South of Market and Financial Districts in the city's downtown.

The agency's executive director, Jeffrey Tumlin, says the plan is aimed at protecting pedestrians. "So, what we're trying to do is to figure out, how do we make traffic flow steadily and smoothly in San Francisco, so that motorists can get to where they need to go, but at the same time, pedestrians can also get safely across the street. 

The city has already implemented a similar plan in the Tenderloin District, which had some of the city's most dangerous corridors for pedestrians. The SFMTA says that the ban on right on red is saving lives. 

The problem, according to the SFMTA is that drivers at red lights are looking for cars not pedestrians. 

"If you imagine that you're driving up into an intersection, you are looking over your left shoulder to see if it's clear to turn and merge into that right-hand lane," Tumlin said. "You may not see the pedestrian that has started crossing the street in the crosswalk to your right."

Many drivers already waiting at red lights say the plan would just make getting around town even more difficult than it already is. "That's horrible. The traffic is crazy already, parking is crazy, everything is so crazy here," said one Sol Mercado.

Jodie Medeiros from Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, supports the plan, saying changing policy would save lives and have minimal impact on drivers. "It's seconds more, it's not really that long," said Medeiros. "When it comes to possibly saving your neighbor, it's definitely somebody's mother or grandmother of grandfather that you'll be saving, and just asking for a little more patience."

The SFMTA is hoping to open the idea up for public hearings this spring.

If the city adopts the plan, it wouldn't be the first. New York already has a ban in place and Washington D.C. will have a ban on red light turns next year. 


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