Building Safer Streets Faster: Our New “Quick Build” Policy

London Breed
3 min readJun 5, 2019


Earlier this year, I directed the SFMTA to implement near-term policies to make our streets safer and prevent the injuries and loss of life that all-too-frequently remind us of the work we still have to do. This week the SFTMA Board of Directors responded by approving its “quick build” policy to allow the Agency to cut through the layers of bureaucracy that have historically slowed progress toward achieving the City’s Vision Zero goal.

Riding on the Valencia Street Bike Lane on Valencia Street, which will soon have a protected bike lane all the way to Cesar Chavez

This is an important step forward that will allow the SFMTA to make temporary safety improvements as pilot projects, without having to go through the normal, exhaustive approval processes that takes years and is incredibly costly. The old process was slow and often resulted in projects being scaled back to the point where they ceased being effective. In short, the process was standing in the way of efforts to improve traffic safety and save lives.

You are going to start seeing the difference immediately. The SFMTA is moving forward on a number of critical safety projects this year.

Let’s highlight one project to give an example of what this means:

The stretch of 7th Street between 16th Street and Townsend is an important corridor connecting people on bikes between Mission Bay and the 4th and King Street Caltrain Station.

7th Street has a mixture of unprotected bike lanes and fast moving traffic, directly next to parked cars. This puts bicyclists at risk of being hit by a moving car or by a door being opened on a parked vehicle. The City just finished repaving this section of street, so there is an opportunity to make cost-effective street safety improvements right now while staff is on-site.

Prior to this week’s policy change, the SFMTA would have gone through months, or even years, of outreach and legislative process before deciding to install a protected bike lane, which means we would have lost this opportunity to take advantage of this construction to immediately make our streets safer. That level of outreach makes sense for multimillion-dollar projects, involving tons of concrete and years of construction. But it doesn’t make sense for simple, reversible actions like painting lanes, reorganizing existing parking spaces or adding plastic posts to separate cars and people.

The “quick-build” approach means the that SFMTA will use materials that can last for up to 24 months, bringing safety benefits to high-crash streets immediately. And there will still be accountability — SFMTA engineers will report back to the public about the efficacy of these “quick-build” projects. City crews can then modify or even remove road treatments that don’t prove effective.

Seeing the “quick-build” treatments on the street will advance the public conversation about safety on our streets in a very real and tangible way. No longer will we need to wait through a long legislative process when we can make common sense changes that can use a proven palette of inexpensive tools already at the SFMTA’s disposal. These quick turn fixes will save lives and make our streets safer for everyone who walks, bikes, drives or rides Muni.

Here are the projects on the City’s high-injury network that will start implementation this year under the new SFMTA policy:

Alemany Blvd. (Congdon St. to Putnam St.) — Protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements
7th St. (Folsom St. to 16th St.) — Protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements
Golden Gate Ave. (Polk St. to Market St.) — Protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements
Howard St. (The Embarcadero to 3rd St.) — Protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements
Valencia St. (19th St. to Cesar Chavez Ave.) — Protected bike lane and pedestrian safety improvements
California St. (Arguello Blvd. to 18th Ave.) — Pedestrian safety improvements, including pedestrian islands, painted safety zones, and signal timing
Leavenworth St. (McAllister St. to O’Farrell St.) — Pedestrian safety improvements, including pedestrian islands, painted safety zones, and signal timing

These projects (separate from others already underway) will add up to five more miles of protected bike lanes and will complement the numerous other safety enhancements. We will continue to work with the SFMTA to ensure these projects are delivered as quickly as possible, and bring the safety benefits that everyone on our streets deserve..