As Tenderloin Crosswalks Get Safer, KPIX Weeps for Lost Parking Spots

At Jones and Ellis Streets today, drivers yield to pedestrians at a corner clear of parked cars. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA recently implemented a simple measure to improve visibility at crosswalks in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with very high concentrations of both pedestrian injuries and children.

Corners at 80 intersections got the “daylighting” treatment, which improves visibility by clearing parked cars that obscure sightlines between drivers and people in crosswalks. It’s one of the latest efforts in the city’s Vision Zero campaign, which is targeting the 12 percent of city streets that account for 70 percent of severe and fatal traffic injuries.

To hear KPIX reporter Ken Bastida tell it, these measures to reduce traffic violence are just an annoyance for people who need to find a curbside parking spot right now

Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the "vanishing meters." Image: KPIX
Ken Bastida solved the mystery of the “vanishing meters.” Image: KPIX

“Think it’s getting harder to park in San Francisco? Well, it is,” Bastida said by way of introduction alongside the text, “Vanishing meters.”

Here’s how Bastida explained daylighting (a “fancy word”) in his best muckraker voice: “The curb gets painted red, the meter disappears, and we’re left with what the city calls ‘a safer intersection.'” Truly a devious plan by the city.

Bastida didn’t cite any safety statistics or interview anyone on camera who uses the crosswalks, but he did find a driver to complain about how hard it is to find a parking space. With testimony from that one guy in the bag, Bastida then declared, “Frustrated drivers say they’re all for safety, but they’re quick to point out, visibility is a two-way street.” Apparently, we’ve all got to wear more DayGlo.

What Bastida didn’t mention is that drivers’ failure to yield in a crosswalk is among the top five causes of pedestrian injuries citywide (the other four are also driver violations). That’s according to the SFPD data behind the department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign.

Tenderloin Station is actually the worst SFPD outpost in the city when it comes to focusing enforcement on those five violations. In September, the most recent month for which citation data is available, officers didn’t issue any tickets to drivers violating pedestrians’ right-of-way. However, they did manage to issue 245 tickets — 43 percent of their total — to pedestrians.

An SFPD driver approaches a turn at another daylit corner at Jones and Ellis. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Kate Stellard, 56, a Bay Area native who has lived in the Tenderloin for ten years, said drivers “cutting her off in crosswalks” is her “main pet peeve.”

“The police do it to me all the time,” she said.

District 6, mainly comprised of the Tenderloin and SoMa, saw 240 of the city’s 900 pedestrian injuries in 2011.

“We want to end injuries and deaths in this neighborhood,” said D6 Supervisor Jane Kim in a statement today. “The Tenderloin is one of the densest neighborhoods in the city with a high concentration of families and a growing senior population who primarily don’t own cars. This neighborhood is also home to many of San Francisco’s highest injury corridors. Our residents advocated for safer streets and daylighting is a simple and cost effective solution to increase everyone’s visibility — pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.”

The Tenderloin sticks out on the SF Department of Public Health's map of high-injury streets. Image: SFDPH
The Tenderloin sticks out on the SF Department of Public Health’s map of high-injury streets. Image: SFDPH

Many of the Tenderloin’s most violent crashes happen when people are walking with the signal in a crosswalk. Even on the sidewalks, people aren’t safe from drivers who jump the curb.

In 2010, a UCSF shuttle bus driver was caught on video killing a 65-year-old woman in a crosswalk at Geary and Leavenworth Streets, and the driver was not cited or charged. In 2012, another UCSF shuttle driver was also caught on camera running over an elderly man with a cane at Leavenworth and Eddy Streets. Police issued a citation only after a public outcry, but the District Attorney’s Office said the driver could not be charged because he didn’t kill the man.

On New Years’ Eve 2013, six-year-old Sofia Liu was killed when she was hit, along with her mother and brother, in a crosswalk by an Uber driver at Polk and Ellis Streets. The driver was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

Daylighting is one of many pedestrian safety improvements needed in the Tenderloin that have long been stalled without funding.

Daylighting “is what we’ve been asking for,” said Michael Harris, a wheelchair-reliant resident of the Hartland Hotel, in a news release today. He described having “to roll around parked cars into the crosswalk to be seen.”

“Unfortunately, drivers often do the same thing and pull fully into a crosswalk to see around a parked car on the corner,” he said. “These improvements help increase visibility for everyone.”

“This neighborhood is often used as a throughway to someplace else,” said Kevin Stull, a resident of the Vincent Hotel and a pedestrian safety leader in the Tenderloin, in a statement. “We have a lot of children in the Tenderloin and drivers zoom through our neighborhood and often can’t see pedestrians crossing until it’s too late.”

How daylighting works, as explained in our 2009 Streetfilm.
  • Calling daylighting a “fancy word” sums it up pretty well.

  • The woman complaining about SFPD officer’s poor driving is spot on. We’d have safer streets if SFPD wasn’t allowed to have cars, particularly when you consider that they rarely use them to enforce traffic laws.

  • runn3r85

    80 intersections or 80 parking spaces? I think it’s 80 parking spaces, with 8 parking spaces per intersection, which would make about 10 intersections.

  • I find the suggestion that “visibility is a two way street”, confusing at best. Yes, pedestrians should look for cars, that’s ALSO easier when sight lines are improved.

  • SDGreg

    If visibility is going to work both ways, it’s time to start painting vehicles in neon colors and applying lots of reflective striping as well as improving street lighting generally.

  • Bruce

    That must have been one bad collision to reverse gravity like that.

  • foo

    Yep..3 whole syllables? Shesh, this ain’t Shakespeare. Let’s use simple words we can all understand.

  • misterfranklin

    Just look at the “SFPD driver approaches a turn” photo in this very article. How is SFPD supposed to concentrate enforcement on “Focus on the FIve” if they’re breaking those laws themselves? The photo clearly shows an SFPD vehicle failing to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

  • Chairman Meow

    Shoddy reporting from a shoddy news source. No thinking person “watches” the news.

  • Prinzrob

    That officer is also failing to turn right from as close to the right curb as is practicable, another vehicle code violation.

  • crazyvag

    Is daylighting just a poor man’s version of a bulb-out?

  • JB

    A bulb out reduces the distance a person must walk to cross the street and forces people to drive slower around the corner by forcing a smaller then radius. Day lighting is likely less expensive, but allows a larger turn radius so in theory one could drive around the corner faster.

    Bulb out still allows parking, so it significantly reduces visibility because cars parked 1m further towards the center of the street makes for horrible visibility.

  • KWillets

    Hint: How many bike or pedestrian commercials do you see on KPIX?

  • p_chazz

    A word like “daylighting” is jargon that urban planners use that can sound offputting to people who aren’t in the business. I am a railroad fan, and to me “daylighting” means when a railroad removes the top of a tunnel and turns it into a cut.

  • p_chazz

    If the City wants to reduce pedestrian fatalities, they should make the streets in the Tenderloin two-way. There is no reason to have so many one-way streets in the Tenderloin. Ellis, Eddy, Taylor, Jones and Leavenworth should all be two-way streets.

  • Al Magary

    Seattle has had daylighting for years. Yes, it’s a hassle when you’re trying to find parking (especially as an outlander who doesn’t know the secret spots) but it also makes driving safer as it is easier to see what’s coming on the cross street. Of course it’s great for pedestrians.

  • That’s the definition of ‘practicable’ and exactly where cyclists should be. 🙂

  • runn3r85

    It is 80 intersections. Some news outlets are reporting 80 parking spaces. 170 parking spaces over 80 intersections. Thanks to Hoodline for the links:
    http://hoodline.com/2015/03/tenderloin-swaps-parking-spots-for-safer-crosswalks
    http://sfgov.maps.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/basicviewer/index.html?appid=3650ae9a01f74cf886231901909b8d6c

  • EastBayer

    Yeah, but you can daylight an intesection in a few hours. One-way to two-way conversions take years (and I imagine some projects like that are in the works anyway)

  • p_chazz

    True, but it would be a good idea to convert one-way to two-way streets in areas with high pedestrian fatalities. One way streets encourage speeding.

  • Daimeon Pilcher

    One way streets prevent prostitution allegedly. But, there’s no police enforcement of said prostitution. Just parking enforcement. Lots and lots of parking enforcement. If it’s parking you’re looking for you’re out of luck. If it’s crack, meth, oxycontin, coke or weed, the TL has ya covered. I wonder how many Twitter employees would be arrested during their paid “community service” hours for buying cocaine from undercover cops (if they ever did that here?).