Media Too Often Blame the Victim in Pedestrian Crashes

Geary_crosswalk.jpgAt-grade pedestrian crossing on Geary Blvd
The SF Examiner published an excellent editorial from Walk San Francisco Director Manish Champsee today that calls on the city and the media to improve conditions for pedestrians and not immediately blame the victim in crashes.  When a vehicle killed 87-year-old Victor Cinti in mid-December, the Examiner ran a front-page headline "Jaywalker Killed."  Sells papers, sure, but the headline and the article missed the details of the story and found culpability where they shouldn't, argues Champsee.

The solution to avoid this kind of tragedy at intersections with a pedestrian bridge is not to crack down on “jaywalkers,” but rather to allow people to cross at street level. We also need to calm the traffic in this area and make it more inviting to people walking at street level, rather than trying to separate people from the street.

Though papers like the Examiner aren't likely to be sensitive to subtleties, it added insult to death by running an online poll with the article asking readers whether the police should crack down on jaywalkers. 

The jaywalker in question was an elderly man who used a walker, both of which were strewn in the middle of the street in the original grisly photo run by the paper.  No attention was paid to why Cinti would have calculated that the risk of crossing the busy street was preferable to using the pedestrian bridge over Geary Boulevard at the scene of the crash.

Cinti was killed on the west side of the street, while the bridge is on east side. This means that in order for Cinti to have used the bridge he would have had to cross Webster Street twice just to cross Geary Boulevard on the bridge, in addition to climbing up to cross. That’s a lot of extra effort for someone using a walker.

If the intersection of Geary and Webster allowed crossing at the street level, city standards would dictate more time to cross than what is currently the case. They would also dictate pedestrian countdown signals, along with pedestrian refuge islands in the medians, so someone who couldn’t cross the entire length of the street in one light cycle could continue at the next cycle.

Flickr photo: awcole72