Ocean Avenue Speed Limit Reduction Approved But How Well Will It Work?

Ingleside's stretch of Ocean Avenue will have its speed limit reduced in 2022. Courtesy photo

The speed limit along Ingleside’s stretch of Ocean Avenue will drop from 25 to 20 miles per hour next year as part of a state and San Francisco effort to reduce the number of fatal and severe traffic crashes on city streets.

Directors on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board last week approved reducing the speed limit on Ocean Avenue from Geneva Avenue to Victoria Street and from Junipero Serra Boulevard to 19th Avenue along with six other corridors. The move is part of the city’s Vision Zero Action Strategy, a plan that commits to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

The Ingleside Light queried dozens of merchants for their thoughts about the change of Ocean Avenue’s speed limit and interviewed Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich about speed limit reduction.

“Cars are going too fast and there are lots of car accidents on Ocean,” Copy Edge Printing owner Mark Gin told the Ingleside Light.

The owners of Little Oceanauts on the 1900 block and Dazzling Lashes on the 1500 block agreed.

“Strictly speaking from a business standpoint, I think the slowdown will end up helping businesses through improved pedestrian safety and increased visibility of business frontages due to people driving slower,” Loc Tham Real Estate Group partner Peter Tham said.

Others agreed with Tham’s view that slower traffic would make Ocean Avenue a more inviting street for people to shop, eat and recreate.

“I spent the past year working at a bar and restaurant on Ocean Avenue, and I can tell you from many hours of observation that it is far more pleasant to eat, drink and socialize outdoors when street traffic is calmer,” former SFMTA Citizens’ Advisory Council chair Neil Ballard said. “Slower commercial corridors are better for business.”

A number of merchants said they did not think motorists would abide by the lower speed limit.

“I think this will not change anything unless there are actual design changes to the street,” Julie Chin of Win Long Ocean Hardware said. “People are going to go at whatever speed they want on Ocean.”

Chin may be right. 

“The most effective way to lower a speed limit on a street is to change the design of the street,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said. “Posting new signs with a lower speed limit has a limited effect.”

Radulovich said there are three ways to improve safety: enforcement, education and engineering.

Policing the speed limit will have to be continuous for there to be an effect. Educating drivers to obey the speed limit is important but too has a minimal impact.

“I think we are going to learn, as a city, which streets on which streets lowering the posted speed limit is going to work, and we’re going to learn what streets need a redesign in order to make them safe,” Radulovich said.

The speed limit reduction is one significant step in the SFMTA’s plan for the corridor. There will be other projects in the near future such as Muni Forward that involve changing the street layout to improve K Ingleside light rail service.

Next Steps

SFMTA will be able to reduce the speed limit thanks to Assemblymember Laura Friedman, who introduced Assembly Bill 43 to allow local jurisdictions more control over speed limits but only in business districts for now. Under the bill, business districts are defined as where at least 50% of the properties in the corridor are for commercial use or dining. 

A second component of the bill allows cities control of the speed limit over “safety corridors.” However, that portion of the bill will not go into effect until June 2024 to give the state time to define the term safety corridor.

AB43 does not take effect until January of next year. The SFMTA will not begin to post new speed limit signage until at least 30 days after the board’s approval given that the bill will not go into effect until January 2022, according to a staff report.

Ingleside Light Publisher Alex Mullaney contributed reporting.