San Francisco Introduces "Vision Zero" Fire Trucks

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CC BY 2.0. Seen in Copenhagen: cute little fire engines/ Lloyd Alter

Finally, fire departments are buying equipment designed for the city instead of designing the city to fit the equipment.

For some time I have wondered why North American fire trucks are so big, and why our cities are now designed around their dimensions instead of the trucks designed around our cities, like they do in Denmark, where I recently saw these cute little fire engines that could. I wrote about it on MNN two years ago after the fire department in San Francisco fought pedestrian infrastructure that they said was slowing them down.

San francisco fire truck

© Roger Rudick/ StreetsblogBut now, San Fransisco is in the news again with their new rigs. Roger Rudick of Streetsblog quotes the chief:

“This fire engine is narrower, not as long, and has a better turning radius,” said San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “It’s a beautiful piece of equipment.” The new engine, one of eight that will be deployed in the city, is ten inches shorter than the old trucks it is replacing, and can make a u-turn in just 25 feet, explained Hayes-White. According to a release from Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s office, it was built to adapt to San Francisco’s evolving urban streetscape and Vision Zero goals.

The great thing about this is that it apparently happened after discussions with Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“Safety is a value and a priority the SFBC and the SFFD share,” said the Bicycle Coalition’s Brian Wiedenmeier, who also spoke at the event. He added that he hopes the truck will help the city “build the safe streets we need.”
Danish ladder truck

Danish aerial ladder apparatus/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Rudick describes how they are also looking to replace their ladder trucks. Of course they can't just buy a European one off the rack.

The department, [Deputy Chief Anthony Rivera] said, is also looking to buy more versatile aerial ladder trucks to accommodate parking-protected bike lanes and other street safety improvements. “We’re working on a new spec for an aerial ladder truck ... a redesigned outrigger system will go from sixteen feet to fourteen feet.”

San Francisco is not the only city that has this problem, and it is great that they have started addressing it. In my first post I wrote:

In North America, fire departments drive new urban design with their criteria for curb radii, lengths and widths of streets, giant bulbs at dead ends to turn around because they are incapable of driving in reverse. So what we get is urban design by road engineers and firemen instead of planners and architects. No wonder our cities look like they do.
Strong towns

© Strong Towns

This got picked up by a lot of other writers, and apparently it all adds up to a small victory for urbanists. Perhaps the fire department servicing Celebration, Florida will consider buying them instead of destroying the community.