Residents Call for Safer Streets in Speed-Plagued District 7

District 7, one of San Francisco’s most suburban in character, has seen three of this year’s six pedestrian deaths so far. At a hearing yesterday called by D7 Supervisor Norman Yee as his first order of business after taking office in January, residents called upon city agencies to slow drivers on dangerous high-speed streets that cut through neighborhoods like West Portal, Parkside, Sunnyside, and Forest Hill.

The district’s three pedestrian deaths within the last two months each took place on streets known to be dangerous for walking. On February 19, 72-year-old Eileen Barrett was killed by a Muni driver on Lake Merced Boulevard and John Muir Drive. On March 4, Hanren Chang, a 17-year-old Lowell High School student, was run down by an allegedly drunk driver on her birthday on Sloat Boulevard at Forest View Drive in a crosswalk, less than a block from her house. On March 21, 68-year-old Tania Madfes, a retired teacher, was crossing West Portal Avenue at Vicente Street with her husband when a driver ran them down. Madfes died from her injuries a week later.

Supervisor Norman Yee. Photo via ##https://www.facebook.com/normanyee415##Facebook##

Most of the district’s pedestrian crashes take place on streets designed for drivers to speed, like Sloat, O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, and 19th Avenue, according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Residents said even in crosswalks where the agency has added treatments like more visible crosswalk markings and signs that instruct drivers to yield to pedestrians, they don’t.

Anyan Cheng, who was a close friend of Chang’s, said she did a one-hour study this week of a pedestrian crossing on Sloat, the speedway where Chang was killed. Even as elderly residents tried to traverse the roadway, she said, “not one car stopped.”

“On Sloat, on 19th Avenue, on Ocean, on Monterey, we need to fix our streets to tame speeds, calm traffic, and prevent more tragedies,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF.

While District 7 carries a generally proportionate share of pedestrian injuries, those injuries are more likely to be fatal, said SFMTA traffic engineer Ricardo Olea. Of the estimated two to three pedestrians injured every day in San Francisco, District 7 sees 8 percent, but 16 percent of the city’s pedestrian fatalities occur there.

Image: SFMTA

Olea said “unsafe speed” was the factor most commonly cited by police as the cause of D7 pedestrian crashes, comprising 33 percent of all cases. As we’ve reported, people are six times more likely to die when hit by a driver at 30 mph than at 20 mph, according to the Department of Public Health.

“Not only does an unsafe speed cause a collision, but unsafe speed can kill a pedestrian, kill a bicyclist, and severely injure a motor vehicle occupant,” said Olea.

The SFMTA has installed measures in recent years like pedestrian countdown signals, red light enforcement cameras, and more visible crosswalks along the district’s dangerous corridors, said Olea, who acknowledged that more is necessary to curb injuries. As we’ve reported, meager upgrades are planned for Sloat in two years, but until more substantial measures are taken to slow drivers, pedestrians will continue to take their lives into their hands when crossing the street.

Supervisor Yee called the deaths within his district “unacceptable,” stating that “this is not going to be the last you hear from me on this issue.”

With the city expected to release its finalized Pedestrian Strategy within the next two weeks, Stampe urged supervisors, who also comprise the board of the SF County Transportation Authority, to “make sure that this plan is actually funded, so it doesn’t just sit on the shelf, but actually gets implemented, to start systematically fixing our streets.”

“These tragedies are things we can prevent,” she added.

Noting the importance of increased traffic enforcement, Olea said, “In a dense city like San Francisco, [motorists] cannot just be looking out for vehicles. They have to be looking out for bicycles and pedestrians.”

Read more from the hearing at Bay City News via ABC 7.

  • Joel

    Wasn’t the ped. strategy supposed to be released this week (one of Tuesday’s headlines)?

  • Gryphonisle

    Why not change our laws to reflect what people are doing wrong, or badly, instead of merely giving people tickets for jay walking or biking through stop signs? For driving, why not upgrade Reckless Driving to a more serious offense and then put Texting within the category, with mandatory license suspension for the first offense? Why not have Distracted Driving as a category of Reckless Driving, when an officer can see someone clearly unable to control their car as they fiddle around behind the wheel, multi tasking? And, as its own serious offense; what about creating a category for Aggressive/Combative driving? Such folks who drive to slow on the freeway and slam on their brakes when others approach, or those who speed up and charge the slow driver’s bumper? Go around. This offense would also bring a mandatory suspension of driving.

    Likewise, pedestrians who step out into traffic, against the light, without any regard for their own safety should be cited for Anti-Social behavior and Reckless Endangerment, which would require mandatory counseling sessions at the person’s own expense. Same for bikes who pass buses pulling into a stop, on the right, at a danger to themselves and those who step off the curb. Reckless endangerment.

    Instead of ticketing people for speeding on the freeway, which nearly everyone is doing, and which only makes the person feel they “got caught”, as well as diminishing respect for the law; cite and punish people for what they actually do wrong, such that the citation illuminates the behavior that needs correcting.

  • Anonymous

    Those ideas are all neato and everything, but you’ll actually need some kind of consistent police presence to make any rules worth a damn. I see drivers blocking the box all the time in SOMA, and there aren’t any police around to write the tickets to keep it from happening.

  • Anonymous

    As the article already suggests, D7 is one of the must suburban in San Francisco, a fact that goes hand in hand with this sort of issue. Police enforcement, increasing of penalties…these are all fine theories, but fundamentally it comes down to design and usage. Outside I of cruel and unusual punishments, I strongly disagree that enforcement has as massive of an impact as some here suggest.

    These areas need to be designed to better reflect the model of density they embody. More people on the streets, fewer cars. More businesses in neighborhoods, fewer 20 minute-drives to get groceries. More stop signs and red lights, and fewer high speed corridors.

    These designs are built around a model of needing to travel greater distances for daily activities, which pushes a culture to need and rely on cars further, which makes the game all about minimizing time spent getting places in cars, which encourages speeding, which also means a chunk of your day is spent in a car, which encourages recklessness like texting or calling while driving.

    The only real way to enact change in this situation is through better design. We built this problem for ourselves.

  • When I lived in the Sunset, my roomate pointed out that you could usually hear a loud “scrREEEE *CRASH*” at least once a day. For such a sleepy part of town, it seems to have a serious car safety problem.

  • Anonymous

    It is sad when a pedestrian gets injured on city streets. However the article is full of misinformation.

    In 2008 the speed limit on 19th Avenue was reduced from 35 mph to 30 mph. Every intersection of 19th Avenue has a traffic light and countdown pedestrian signal. 19th Avenue and Sloat Blvd has a photo enforced traffic light to catch red light runners.

    SFCTA says the average traffic speed during peak hours going north is 18 mph, going south is 23 mph.

    O’Shaughnessy Blvd is windy and hilly, not suited for fast driving. Since 2003 there have been 3 pedestrian injuries on O’Shaughnessy.

    To say that O’Shaughnessy Blvd, 19th Avenue are designed for speed does not make any sense.

    The pedestrian injury map includes District 4, District 7 and District 11. So you are reducing three districts into one. And can make up any kind of statistic.

    The author mashed up selected information to paint a scary picture of District 7.
    It didn’t work because of all the holes in the article.

  • correction – O’Shaugnessy is “winding”. It may not be suited for fast driving but that does not mean fast driving does not occur. It is a very fun road to ride downhill on a bicycle, which I have done, averaging *over* the speed limit with cars on my tail trying to pass me. To find that there have been 3 pedestrian injuries on O’Shaugnessy is shocking – because there sure as heck aren’t a lot of pedestrians out there, and most of them are on the uphill separated bike path. The problem being if you have to cross the road to get to your neighborhood on the South of O’Shaugnessy – Good Luck!

    19th Avenue is absolutely designed for speed. The average speed is not a function of the design of the road, it’s a function of the traffic. What is the average speed off-peak when traffic does not limit speeds? Hint: Over the speed limit.

  • Anonymous

    According to your logic every street is designed for speed. Everyone does not travel as fast as they can between intersections. At almost every block of 19th Avenue is a speed limit sign for 30 mph.

    So you think 19th Avenue is designed for speed. What would you do to make it safer for eveyone?

  • mikesonn

    LOL at drivers driving the speed limit.

  • murphstahoe

    Narrow the lanes and widen the sidewalks, daylight the intersections, red light cameras, longer pedestrian crossing cycles, pedestrian bulbouts.

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