September 6, 2016 Ariel Prince

John Alex Lowell Pushes for Safer San Francisco Streets

John Alex LowellAfter getting struck by a driver who ran a red light, John Alex Lowell decided he wanted to prevent the same collision from happening to others. He since has joined the San Francisco Pedestrian and Safety Advisory Committee and has been a strong advocate for Vision Zero, an initiative SFHAC has signed onto. We caught up with John to hear his story and how ge got involved in this work.

You’ve spent the past decade working to increase pedestrian safety. What initially brought you to that field?
On a Friday in March of 2001, I sustained polytrauma injuries which includes a traumatic brain injury when a vehicle collided with me as I attempted to proceed across Mission Street within the crosswalk as a pedestrian. I saw a white walk signal at the traffic signals at Mission Street that day as I was out for a lunchtime jog going westward on the sidewalk of 14th Street. The driver decided to not stop at a red light, and was charged with reckless driving and driving over the speed limit.

Upon my release from inpatient medical care after over a year, I decided I wanted to prevent this collision from happening to others. I learned of the Board of Supervisor’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, as well as a Pedestrian Safety Committee at the Senior Action Network. My activism began as a Voice for Injury Prevention (VIP) testimonial speaker to children in elementary schools. This year, I created the first support group for people who face the trauma of a pedestrian collision, called the Bay Area Walk Trauma Support (BAWTS).

Tell me more about Vision Zero (VZ). What is its goal and how can we help make it a reality?
VZ’s goal is to reduce all traffic fatalities stemming from traffic collisions in San Francisco to zero by 2024; it started in 2014. It involves prioritizing improvement projects by different city agencies to first address where traffic collisions are known to occur in San Francisco. Then we are trying to address why the collisions happen and to whom traffic collisions occur. SFHAC can help with educating citizens to lobby for changes being made to street safety through VZ.

How do you think the issues around transportation, housing and safe streets relate to one another?
Vision Zero has three “E” components regarding street safety, and I feel they are important ways to implement and maintain changes for the greater good in transportation and housing. These are Education, Engineering and Enforcement. These need to be in all campaigns of transportation, housing and safe streets, coupled with a belief in accountability.

What are your favorite aspects of living in SF, and where do you see the city heading in 5 or 10 years?
As a Christian minister, I love that San Francisco is named after Saint Francis of Assisi. I feel San Francisco can be more engaged to view people from diverse demographic groups as equals. As I am a specialist in accessibility ministry to people with disabilities, I focus on supporting their legal and moral right to worship. I hope that in a few years, we will begin to realize the mistakes that have been made regarding transportation safety, and work towards a better future for the next generation of San Franciscans.  


Ariel Prince

Ariel is a volunteer at SFHAC. She graduated with a Political Science degree from UC Berkeley, and is incredibly passionate about urban planning and housing policy in San Francisco. In her free time, Ariel enjoys trying new restaurants with friends, photographing the world around her, and cheering on the Cal Golden Bears. She can be reached at

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