A Hopeful but Somber Walk to Work Day

Another Year of Ups and Downs in Pursuit of Vision Zero

Josie Ahrens, Neighborhood Organizer for Walk SF, stops to admire some tactical urbanism on Page Street. All photos Roger Rudick/Streetsblog SF
Josie Ahrens, Neighborhood Organizer for Walk SF, stops to admire some tactical urbanism on Page Street. All photos Roger Rudick/Streetsblog SF

Walk to Work day started badly this morning–very badly. A volunteer–the name withheld for privacy–was hit by a car somewhere on the way to the event, which started at Market and Duboce. “This is insane,” said Cathy Deluca, incoming acting director of Walk San Francisco. “People should be able to walk the streets of San Francisco without putting their lives at risk.”

Reports are this latest victim of San Francisco’s dangerous streets was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. But, of course, it highlighted the urgency for improving our streets. Hailey Van Vorhis–it was her friend who was hit by the car–was there early handing out schwag and helping to recruit new members. Why did she volunteer her time to stand in a cold morning drizzle for Walk San Francisco? “I want to help make walking safer and encourage people to do it.”

Interim Walk SF director Cathy DeLuca and Hailey Van Norhis at the start of the walk. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Interim Walk SF director Cathy DeLuca and Hailey Van Norhis at the start of the walk.

“If we’re going to reach our goal of achieving Vision Zero, we need a more walkable city,” said Tom Maguire, Director of SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division, who partcipated in the walk. “We need to change a culture of speeding into a culture of safety.”

“25 percent of trips in San Francisco are walking,” said Nicole Ferrara, who wraps up her tenure at Walk SF’s helm after next week. “But really, it’s 100 percent of trips that start and finish with walking.” Ferrara, who is going to Oakland’s new Department of Transportation, outlined things to notice during the Walk to Work Day event, which went from Market and Duboce to City Hall, with stops in Hayes Valley and on Page Street to see different street treatments and hear from speakers.

Walk San Francisco's outgoing executive director, Nicole Ferrara, giving a television interview at the start of the walk. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Walk San Francisco’s outgoing executive director, Nicole Ferrara, giving a television interview at the start of the walk.
The walk making its way down Page towards Octavia. That's SFMTA head Ed Reiskin and Rec & Park Manager Phil Ginsburg. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The walk making its way down Page towards Octavia. That’s SFMTA head Ed Reiskin and Rec & Park Manager Phil Ginsburg with Nicole Ferrara.

At Page and Buchanan, at the corner of Koshland Community Park, Josie Ahrens pointed out blue chalk around the crosswalks, indicating that they will get a raised-crosswalk treatment. With treatments such as this, plus traffic diverters, the hope is that Page will one day become a quiet street where “…pedestrians, cyclists and kids can co-exist,” explained Casey Hildreth, Project Manager at SFMTA for the Page Street Green Connection Project. As seen in the lead photo with Ahrens, there was also some “tactical urbanism” on Page, in the form of quick treatments to make the street more interesting and inviting. The safe hit posts, she mentioned, were borrowed from SFMTrA, the guerrilla group that puts down non-official posts to help make our street safer.

This blue chalk marks the future location of a raised crosswalk. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
This blue chalk marks the future location of a raised crosswalk.

The group then stopped on Octavia, in Hayes Valley, where this week a section of roadway is closed to automobiles. “The sign says ‘road closed,'” said McGuire, “but the street is open–open to people and bikes.”

“Urban centers are getting denser and we have to reduce the number of vehicles,” said George Gascón, San Francisco’s District Attorney, during the stop on Octavia. “We need more people on bikes and mass transit and we do that by making it safer.”

District Attorney George Gascon and SFMTA head Ed Reiskin listen to speeches on the portion of Octavia in Hayes Valley that is currently closed to automobiles. Photo: Streetsblog/SF
District Attorney George Gascon and SFMTA head Ed Reiskin listen to speeches on the portion of Octavia in Hayes Valley that is currently closed to automobiles.

The event finished up with speeches in front of City Hall.

“I walked from my office,” joked Mayor Ed Lee, who did not participate in the walk, but came to the concluding ceremony. “I did not take the elevator.”

Mayor Lee got a few polite chuckles, but no big laughs–perhaps that’s not a surprise given the serious nature of Walk SF’s work or the fact that one of the volunteers was presumably still in the hospital from a collision that morning. He talked about supporting Assemblyman David Chiu’s “Safe Streets Act”/AB-342, legislation which would allow San Francisco to deploy Automatic Speed Enforcement (ASE) cameras. The legislation has been very challenging, said Chiu, but he vowed to keep pushing it, since cities in other parts of the world have used ASE to cut down speeding and save lives. “Every 18 hours someone is struck in San Francisco,” said Chiu. “The bill will take the steps we need to see a vision of no fatalities on the streets of San Francisco.”

Supervisor Jane Kim talked about how nearly all the constituents in her district have either been hit by a car, or know someone who has. She saw progress, though–in 2016, there were 16 pedestrians killed in collisions, versus 20 in 2015. But that, she said, is still unacceptable. “Each death was 100 percent preventable.”

All the politicians and advocates, meanwhile, praised the work of Ferrara and wished her luck on her new job in Oakland.

“People don’t choose to live in San Francisco because they love to drive,” said Ferrara, at the walk’s conclusion on the steps of City Hall. “They live in San Francisco because they love to walk…we can become the most walkable city in America.”

The walk concluded on the steps of City Hall with speeches by advocates and politicians. Photo: Streetsblog/SF
The walk concluded on the steps of City Hall with speeches by advocates and politicians, including Mayor Lee.
Volunteers and officials posed for this pic in Hayes Valley. Photo: Streetsblog/SF
The Walk to Work Day volunteers and officials in Hayes Valley.
  • p_chazz

    Nicole Ferrara, wraps up her tenure at Walk SF’s helm after next week and is going to Oakland’s new Department of Transportation,

    Aaron Bialick was a Streetsblog editor who accepted a position on the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s public relations team.

    Seems like these nonprofit jobs are stepping stones to cushy jobs in the public sector.

  • bobfuss

    Yeah. And Bryan Goebel has been cashing in his virtue signalling as well. It’s good that justice warriors and snowflakes have a career path, else how could they eat?

    Initially I could not see a single person in any of those photographs who wasn’t white. But then I looked closer and saw Ed Lee, so I guess it was a day for diversity.

    But I never trust my first impressions and so I checked the Walk SF website, feeling certain in my own mind that it would an impeccable homage to a rainbow world.

    Nope, all white with a token Asian as well. Undeterred I looked at the SFBC website. Guess what?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    It turns out that having a blog where you are consistently correct about major issues for years on end can enhance one’s reputation.

  • p_chazz

    More like a blogger who serves as an amplifier for city policy can expect to be looked after by city government in return, like a journalist going to work for the Obama Administration..

  • bobfuss

    A supporter of the same policies that an advocacy blog also advocates for isn’t exactly objective or balanced about those policies being “correct”, wouldn’t you say? If a Trump supporter says that Trump is “correct” should we believe that as well?

    Anyway the point isn’t about being “right” and “correct” if that also entails not achieving much. Being a correct loser is over-rated. And given the extent of the whining here abut cars, Uber, safety. transit, lack of bike lanes etc., it would seem that he achieved considerably less than you claim.

  • bobfuss

    Indeed, and there are similar examples in all tentacles of the city’s non-profit empire, such as education, healthcare, housing and so on. Not to mention the public sector unions as well.

    SFUSD and CCSF may be truly awful organizations but they have long been seen as a stepping stone to a political career. Not many Supervisors come from the private sector with actual experience of running an enterprise. But work for a failing public entity and your dance card is full.

    The irony is that the left often turns on their own when they get a cosy sinecure. Randy Shaw still regards himself as a beacon of progressive radicalism while the pundits and poseurs of the left heap vitriol upon him for being too close to the Mayor and his purse strings. Which is why you cannot comment on Beyond Chron.

  • Jessica J

    Were you looking at this page? Because that doesn’t look all white to me. http://www.sfbike.org/about/board-of-directors/

  • bobfuss

    That page has 15 people of which one was black and one was Hispanic (by name anyway). 13 were Anglo-Asian. The “streets” movement is an Anglo-Asian movement.

    Make of that what you will, but it’s usually liberals who complain that an organization is dominated by Anglos and Asians. In fact Tech companies routinely get criticized for being racist for being less dominated by Anglo-Asians than Walk-SF and SFBC are.

  • Jessica J

    I’ve never seen a tech company that has a board as gender-
    and race-diverse as SFBC’s. There was a concerted effort in recent SFBC elections to diversify the board. They have a ways to go, but it’s also worth taking note of the progress made.

    I really doubt you’re a big supporter of diversity if you’re calling people on these boards “tokens” and being dismissive of their presence & contributions.

  • bobfuss

    It’s good that SFBC is taking steps to address what it clearly regards as its lack of diversity. But you still haven’t addressed my observation that the situation at Walk-SF is even worse than it is at SFBC.

    Why do you think that is?

  • Stuart

    bobfuss is hilariously bad at concern trolling (despite a lot of practice). The fact that he couldn’t help dropping insults favored by the alt-right into his post is a give away even for those not familiar with his posting history.

    This is one of his preferred derailment tactics when Walk SF is involved (presumably because demonizing pedestrians is a much harder sell than demonizing cyclists, so he has to target the advocacy group itself). It’s best to ignore it, since it’s such a transparently pointless tangent.

  • Stuart

    Do you think all public sector jobs are “cushy”, or do you have some evidence that there’s something particularly easy about doing transit planning for Oakland?

  • bobfuss

    I recall that liberals referred to Trump as a “snowflake” when he complained about Pence being booed at a performance of Hamilton, so clearly the left is as happy to use such terms as the “alt” right (whatever that means). Not to mention throwing around terms like “deplorable”, “fascist” and “Nazi”.

    Jessica pointed out that at least SFBC has taken steps to address its diversity problem, albeit clumsy and artificial ones initially. When will WalkSF accept and address its alarming ethnic skew? Or do you think that would be “pointless” because you’re so color blind and all?

  • p_chazz

    A department head in city government typically pulls down a six-figure salary with benefits. Nice work if you can get it!

  • Edward

    True. But most jobs, as in industry, are not the head of a department. Most are not “cushy”. And most new hires don’t get the same retirement benefits as those who have been there for years. The problem with existing staff is that they were given a contract years ago that (in hindsight) was over generous. But note the word “contract”. It was an agreement for consideration. You don’t (can’t actually) go around breaking contracts.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Are you actually saying anything? If so, what?

  • bobfuss

    Attributing Jeffrey’s claims to bias

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