As Advocates Await Pedestrian Action Plan, SF’s 18th Victim Killed This Year

A man his 40s was killed by a pickup truck driver in a crosswalk at Market and Beale Streets yesterday at about 2:30 p.m, as reported by ABC 7. Police say they’re investigating the crash to determine whether the driver will be cited or charged. The victim has not been identified yet by police.

The story is all too common in San Francisco — the victim is the 18th pedestrian killed this year so far, surpassing last year’s 17, and 14 in 2010.

The victim of yesterday's pedestrian crash lies near Market and Beale Streets. Photo: Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner

The SF Municipal Transportation Agency expects to finalize its Pedestrian Action Plan in January, though it was originally expected by late summer, to reduce pedestrian crashes and injuries with targeted street improvements, education and enforcement efforts. The plan is intended to reduce pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016, and 50 percent by 2020, as set out in former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Directive on Pedestrian Safety.

“We want to see a plan that will actually meet the goals that the mayor set out to reduce injuries, reduce inequities in pedestrian safety, and increase walking,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “Having clear metrics and timelines in the plan is critical.”

Ambitious pedestrian safety plans have recently been adopted in Chicago and New York City, which set out to re-engineer 60 miles of streets each year, including 20 miles of “intensive safety redesign.” Chicago, which sees an average of 50 pedestrian deaths per year, aims to bring that number down to zero by 2022.

Stampe, who sits on the task force for San Francisco’s developing plan, said the draft plan does lay out mileage targets, but that its goals are somewhat muddled in technical language that could be made clearer to the public. Some community groups who have reviewed the draft plan have complained that it’s difficult to understand, she said.

“I think if it’s unclear what it it’s saying it will do, then it’s hard to have accountability,” said Stampe. “It’s really important to have something that clearly states exactly what the city will do when, and why, and how that will meet the goals.”

Pedestrian deaths in past years, from the SFMTA's 2010-2011 Traffic Collision Report.

Meanwhile, District Attorney George Gascón coincidentally announced the launch of a new ad campaign on street safety just hours before yesterday’s crash, though the messaging missed the target in calling out the most dangerous behaviors on the streets. Instead, it seems to imply that drivers who violate the pedestrian right-of-way are no more dangerous than pedestrians who cross against a traffic light.

Although Gascón has said he intends to prosecute drivers responsible for killing pedestrians — even those who aren’t intoxicated or flee the scene – he has not announced plans to charge drivers in two recent pedestrian deaths. In August, taxi driver Reza Eslaminia ran a red light at Eddy and Larkin Streets, causing a crash that killed 38-year-old Edmund Capalla in a crosswalk. The next month, driver Caitlin Rea ran over and killed 31-year-old Francisco Huarcha-Salanic on Bayshore Boulevard at the dangerous junction with Highway 101 known as the “Hairball.” Police determined that Rea was intoxicated.

The DA’s office says it is investigating charges in both cases, but Stampe said it’s clear that charges should be filed. “The delay is baffling,” she said.

Key to reducing pedestrian crashes in the first place, however, will be the physical street safety upgrades and data-driven enforcement efforts in the SFMTA’s Pedestrian Action Plan.

At Market and Beale, “Cars will come through here too fast, and cars making a right-hand turn try to turn really fast and go in between the pedestrians walking,” said Charlotte, a woman in a motorized wheelchair, to ABC 7 yesterday.

“It’s frustrating,” said Stampe, “because the city works very systematically to fix all the streets to a certain arbitrary paving score, but we don’t see the same sort of systematic, committed approach to saving lives and preventing tragedies. That has to change.”

Members of the public interested in getting involved in the city’s pedestrian safety efforts can attend tonight’s monthly meeting of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, Room 408.