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Pandemic decongestion

If it felt like you were able to get around the city a bit easier last year than in previous years, here’s some data to back you up. Automobile speeds on city streets increased an average of 33–36 percent, reversing a trend of declining speeds over the past decade, according to a report in December from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. 

In other findings, public transit speeds also increased, up from the last monitoring cycle in 2019 between 15 and 24 percent. The increased speeds were attributed to a combination of new transit measures in the city and the reduction in overall traffic due to the pandemic, which saw business closures and thousands of locals working from home. The impact was even more visible in the count of transit ridership, which plunged 90 percent.

Fewer people on the streets in any mode of transportation also drove a drop in pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths. Citing 2020, the most recent year for which data are available, SFCTA reported that “Pedestrian and bicycle injury collisions dropped a collective 33 percent and fatalities dropped a collective 20 percent. However, non-motorized trips declined even more significantly, with pedestrian volumes declining about 70 percent, and bicycle volumes dropping up to 50 percent. This troubling trend suggests that the rate of pedestrian and bicycle collisions may have increased during the pandemic, potentially due to faster vehicle speeds.”

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