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Posts from the "Walk SF" Category

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Safe Streets Advocates: “Enough is Enough” — Time to End Traffic Violence

Miles Epstein stands in the crosswalk where Pricila Moreto was killed outside City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The recent spate of drivers killing or maiming pedestrians has both City Hall leaders and SF agencies running out of excuses for their snail’s-pace implementation of measures that would make city streets safer.

At a rally on Friday, a coalition of safe streets advocates chanted, “Enough is enough.” The 28 people killed in crashes on city streets this year, 18 of them pedestrians, puts SF on pace to surpass last year’s number of fatalities.

At the event, 28 pairs of white shoes were placed on City Hall’s steps to represent this year’s deaths.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum pointed out that, with about three people hit by cars in SF every day, the shoes represent only a tiny fraction of injury victims whose lives are often ruined. “There are more than 100 times this many people injured,” she said. “People with broken limbs, with irreversible trauma and damage to their bodies.”

“For every person involved in gun violence in San Francisco, there are five people who are hit by cars,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We don’t call this violence for some reason, but cars are also weapons. They take people’s lives, they take people’s limbs.”

Those killed or seriously injured by drivers on SF’s streets are disproportionately likely to be minorities, seniors, and people with disabilities. Over half of those killed this year were seniors — including 68-year-old Priscila “Precy” Moreto, who was killed on October 23 in the crosswalk right in front of the City Hall steps where the rally was held. One man at the event, Miles Epstein, held a sign reading, “Hey City Hall, there is blood in your crosswalk.”

Friday’s rally was not just a call to action, but also a memorial for victims like Moreto, a Filipino-American woman who was run over by a tour trolley driver who was apparently distracted while narrating to passengers. Rudy Asercion, executive director of the National Federation of Filipino American Association of SF, called on the Board of Supervisors to push for legal changes to ban tour drivers from narrating at the same time.

The event was far from the first pedestrian safety rally in SF. Pi Ra of the Senior and Disability Action Network, who has been active in pedestrian safety advocacy since 2000, said pedestrian safety advocates ”get a sugar high” every few years when calling for action. Each time, city leaders provide lip service, but lasting change never seems to result.

The typical excuse, Ra said, is that there’s no funding for safer streets, despite the vast economic toll of traffic injuries – $15 million per year just for medical treatment, according to a 2011 report from the SF Department of Public Health. Traffic injuries account for one-fourth of all traumatic injuries in the city.

“We need action. We don’t need more town hall meetings. We don’t need any more plans,” said Ra. “What about the cost of our lives? What about the costs around our injuries? That’s costing far more than the little bit of money we’re asking for to make it safe for everybody.”

“We have the funding, and we have the political will,” said Shahum. “What’s missing? It’s the action.”

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Tomorrow: Rally for Vision Zero Action After Spate of Traffic Violence

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Pedestrian safety advocates, including SF County Transportation Authority Chief Tilly Chang (left), at a Walk to Work Day event in April. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A coalition of street safety advocates will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., calling upon city leaders and agencies to step up the action on Vision Zero. The event will also serve as a memorial to victims of traffic violence.

Just in the last two weeks, six people have been killed in traffic crashes in SF and more have been injured, according to Walk SF. The latest death came this morning at about 6:15 a.m., when a 51-year-old woman was killed by a Golden Gate Transit bus driver while jogging in a crosswalk at Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue. The driver was making a left turn — one of the most common factors causing deadly pedestrian crashes along one of the city’s most dangerous streets.

In total, 26 people have been killed in traffic crashes in SF this year, according to Walk SF.

SF’s latest victim was killed at Van Ness and Lombard this morning. Photo: Anne Makovec/Twitter

“Enough is enough!,” the organization wrote in a message to its members today. “San Franciscans spoke loud and clear at the polls to make safety a priority for our streets, voting Yes to Prop A and B, and No to Prop L. Now, the City must not delay efforts to make Vision Zero — the goal to end ALL traffic-related deaths in ten years — a reality.”

The propositions Walk SF referred to were Props A and B, two transportation funding measures, and Prop L, the rejected cars-first measure which attacked pedestrian safety improvements. With all three votes, a majority of San Franciscans indicated that they want quicker action on safer streets.

The coalition gathering at tomorrow’s rally will include the South of Market Community Action Network, the Senior and Disability Action Network, Chinatown Community Development Center, the Central City SRO Collaborative, the SF Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and other community groups.

Eighteen people have been killed by drivers while walking in SF this year, 14 of whom were walking on the city’s most dangerous streets — the six percent of streets that account for 60 percent of serious and fatal injuries, Walk SF noted.

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Supervisor Mar Wants to Study How Lower Speed Limits Could Improve SF

Reducing speed limits could have a big impact on saving lives. Image: PEDS Atlanta

Supervisor Eric Mar requested a city study last week about how lower speed limits could benefit San Francisco. Although lowering speed limits without implementing physical traffic calming measures isn’t a panacea for safer streets, the measure does hold promise as a first step toward saving lives and implementing Vision Zero. San Francisco would follow in the footsteps of New York City, Paris, and the United Kingdom in looking at major speed limit reductions.

Supervisor Mar with one of SF’s 15 mph school zone signs. Photo: Eric Mar

“We must do all that we can do to make sure that our streets are safer for our residents, and a speed limit reduction may have a significant impact on achieving this,” said Mar.

The study requested by Mar would add to a growing body of research showing how lower speed limits would reduce fatal crashes and save money. The UK Department of Transportation, which instituted a “20′s Plenty” campaign that set 20 mph speed limits as the default for residential streets, found that the chances of survival for a person hit by a car at 40 mph are half that of being hit at 30. Fatalities increase six-fold from 20 to 30 mph.

“Getting hit at 20 mph is like falling off a one-story building, but getting hit by a car at 40 mph is like falling off the fifth-floor,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who called major speed limit reductions ”one of the most important next steps we can take in achieving Vision Zero.”

“We need to look towards our partner cities that have done this successfully, and model our efforts on the best practices,” she said.

Last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation requiring the installation of 20 mph “Slow Zones.” The New York State Legislature also passed a bill to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The default speed limit for city streets in California, unless signed otherwise, is already set at 25 mph.

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SFMTA Announces 24 Vision Zero Bike/Ped Projects for Next 24 Months

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At this morning’s Walk to Work Day press conference, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin announced a plan to implement 24 bike and pedestrian safety projects over the next 24 months [PDF]. This is the most concrete safety plan unveiled so far, ever since city leaders pledged to pursue Vision Zero.

Nicole Schneider presented Walk SF’s “Street Score” report card for pedestrian safety in SF today, alongside Supervisor Malia Cohen (left). Photo: Aaron Bialick

The projects (listed below) include bulb-outs, traffic signal changes, road diets, turn restrictions, and even a conceptual “raised cycletrack” on upper Market Street. Half the projects are funded (one “partially”), and the SFMTA hasn’t assigned an order to them yet. Some of the projects have already been in planning, like the Second Street and Polk Street redesigns, and at some locations the “WalkFirst improvements” have yet to be designed.

Vision Zero “is something that we’re united around as a city family,” said Reiskin on the steps of City Hall, surrounded by a full roster of elected officials and department heads, minus Mayor Ed Lee.

The 24-project list wasn’t heavily discussed at the city’s second official Walk to Work Day press conference, where city leaders re-iterated the urgency of Vision Zero — the goal of ending traffic deaths within 10 years. Every member of the Board of Supervisors and other officials walked to City Hall, starting at points around the city. The furthest trekkers included Reiskin, who walked from west of Twin Peaks; Supervisor Eric Mar, from Arguello Boulevard; and Supervisor John Avalos, from the Excelsior.

Walk SF also presented a “report card” grading pedestrian safety in San Francisco:

  • Overall progress towards Vision Zero: C+
  • Walkability: A+
  • Pedestrian Safety: D+
  • Funding: D+
  • Engineering: C+
  • Enforcement: B
  • Education and Outreach: B-

“We have the fabric of a walkable city,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “But unfortunately, we have a relic of an older generation with our transportation system. We have streets that were designed for speed and not for safety… This isn’t something that our current administration came up with, but it’s going to take a lot of funding and a lot of work to change.”

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Supes, SFPD, SFMTA Stand With Crash Victims and Advocates at City Hall

Crash survivor Monique Porsandeh speaks alongside Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider and city officials holding the names of those killed by drivers. Photos: Walk SF

SFPD officials, transportation department heads, and three supervisors stood outside City Hall this morning alongside safe streets advocates and people whose lives have been affected by traffic violence. The press conference served as a call to action and a memorial for victims of traffic violence in the past year, with participants holding Valentines featuring names of the deceased.

Walk SF, which organized the event, was joined by Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and John Avalos, the sponsors of the “Vision Zero” resolution introduced at the board. Also in attendance were SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum and top brass from the SFMTA and the SFPD Traffic Company, including Commander Mikail Ali and  SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, as well as SF County Transportation Authority Executive Director Tilly Chang. Mayor Ed Lee was absent.

“The violence has to end,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that since December, 11 pedestrians have been killed by drivers, four of them this year. Introducing a segment about the event today, an ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings said it “feels like open season on pedestrians.”

“We’ve acknowledged that this is a crisis,” said Schneider, “and now we’re calling on city leaders to fund the [SFMTA's] Pedestrian Strategy and implement Vision Zero — zero traffic fatalities in 10 years.”

“It’s a tragedy that it is becoming a common occurrence for children, parents, spouses, relatives and friends to lose a loved one in San Francisco because of recklessness on the roads,” Supervisor Yee, who has been hit by a driver, said in a statement. ”Let’s slow down, be alert, and be respectful. It will take our whole community to make Vision Zero a reality.”

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Imagine No Deaths: Supes, Safe Streets Advocates Call for “Vision Zero”

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Duboce Avenue at Noe Street. Photo: Aaron Biailck

A coalition of safe streets advocates, community organizations, and city supervisors have launched a campaign for San Francisco to join leading cities in adopting a “Vision Zero” goal — an end to traffic deaths on city streets within ten years.

“We need a culture shift in San Francisco, and it has to start from the top down,” said Supervisor John Avalos, also the chair of the SF County Transportation Authority, in a statement. “We’re calling for our mayor, our police chief and our SFMTA director to commit to allocating resources to the three areas that we know can save lives,” he said, referring to engineering, education, and enforcement efforts to reduce crashes.

Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. Image: Board of Supervisors

Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. Image: Board of Supervisors

Leaders in Chicago and New York City have adopted Vision Zero policies, following the lead of Sweden, which launched the official campaign in 1997, though the country’s traffic deaths have been declining since the 1970s despite increasing population.

In a press release, Supervisors Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee said they’ll introduce a resolution calling for a “Vision Zero Plan” based on three major components:

  • The establishment of a “crisis intervention” team by the SFMTA that would be tasked with getting at least two dozen pilot projects into the ground over the next two years, using “near-term, low-cost safety improvements in the areas with repeat traffic collisions.”
  • SFPD to direct its traffic enforcement resources to “cite the most problematic dangerous behaviors and locations.”
  • A “citywide safety awareness program for drivers.” Supervisors Yee and Avalos are “targeting state funding opportunities through the Transportation Authority” to fund it, and Supervisor Kim has called for the formation of “an interagency work group to develop a large vehicle and city fleet driver education program for all city employees or drivers who contract with the city.”

Last year, the number of people killed while walking and biking — 21 pedestrians and four bicyclists –- was the highest since 2007, noted a statement from Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition:

Despite calls for critical safety improvements to the streets and more data driven enforcement of traffic crime and widespread education, the Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney and SFMTA Director have made only small commitments to street safety and have not committed to any larger vision toward keeping our residents safe on increasingly chaotic streets.

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With WalkFirst, SF Takes a Data-Driven Approach to Pedestrian Safety

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The city recently launched the WalkFirst program to lay a data-driven, participatory foundation for the effort to attain the main goal of its Pedestrian Strategy — cutting pedestrian injuries in half by 2021. In the coming months, staff from the SFMTA, the Planning Department, the Controller’s Office, and the Department of Public Health will field public input on dangerous streets and release new data illustrating the toll of pedestrian injuries and deaths.

Pedestrians use an unmarked crosswalk on Mission Street near Fifth. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Pedestrians use an unmarked crosswalk on Mission Street near Fifth. Photo: Aaron Bialick

To start, the new WalkFirst website has easy-to-use, interactive tools showing where most pedestrian crashes occur, the factors that cause them, and the kit of street design tools to reduce them. An online survey also allows people to weigh in on how pedestrian safety funding should be prioritized.

“For the first time, San Francisco will be investing in projects that are data-driven and focused on the most dangerous streets for pedestrians,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. WalkFirst is “a step forward for using the data that we have to the make the biggest impact.”

The feedback from the website will inform a draft plan for safety improvements scheduled to come out in January, with adoption by the SFMTA Board expected in February. The plan will guide an expected $17 million in safety improvements over the next five years. “By combining rigorous technical analysis with significant community outreach, we will target our investments in the communities that need them the most,” SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said in a statement.

The city’s goals include “upgrading” 70 miles of streets where injuries are most concentrated — 5 miles per year through 2021. Another aim is to extend pedestrian crossing times at 800 intersections — at least 160 annually. Schools and senior centers with high rates of pedestrian injuries will also be targeted for improvements, while the SFPD is expected to beef up its “Focus on the Five” effort to prioritize traffic enforcement efforts against the most dangerous violations at the most dangerous locations. (Not all SFPD captains appear to have gotten that memo.)

City agencies are also working on a report providing a fuller picture of the economic toll of pedestrian injuries, as well as the benefits of reducing them. As we reported in 2011, DPH and the University of California, SF estimated that the costs of medical treatment, emergency services, and other impacts of ped crashes add up to about $76 million annually. The WalkFirst report is expected to expand upon the economic ripple effects of traffic violence.

“Every life and injury is incredibly valuable, but from a decision-maker’s perspective, it’s also helpful to understand how much this is costing us to help make the case for the improvements that are needed,” said Schneider. “It costs way more to treat someone who’s been injured than it does to prevent the injuries in the first place.”

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Man in Wheelchair Killed by Freeway-Bound Driver at Market and Octavia

Image: NBC

A man in a wheelchair, reportedly in his 20s, was killed by a driver at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard around midnight last night. SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza said the crash is still under investigation, but that driver appears to have been heading south on Octavia at the entrance of the Central Freeway, where witnesses said the victim was crossing against the light. The man is the 13th known pedestrian to be killed by a driver in SF this year.

In shots from NBC’s television broadcast, the victim’s motorized wheelchair can be seen sitting several dozen feet south of the intersection on the freeway ramp. SFPD investigators have not determined how fast the driver was going.

As media reports have noted, a new enforcement camera was activated Friday to cite drivers making illegal right turns from eastbound Market on to the freeway ramp, but it doesn’t appear the driver was making such a turn in this case.

“News of another pedestrian death on Market and Octavia is truly devastating, and reminds us of the dangers pedestrian face when freeways intermix with city streets,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who noted that another pedestrian suffered “major injuries” after being hit by a driver last Thursday at a freeway onramp near Seventh and Harrison Streets in SoMa. “Not only are these intersections dangerous because of the high speeds of cars and trucks entering and exiting, they’re often dark, loud, uninviting, and segment our communities.”

Since the Central Freeway ramp opened at Market and Octavia in 2005, the intersection has seen a higher rate of traffic injuries than any other in SF, with 13 in 2011, according to the SFMTA’s 2009-2011 Traffic Collisions Report [PDF]. Although livable streets advocates and city agencies pushed for a tear-down of the Central Freeway back to Bryan Street after it was damaged in an earthquake, it was rebuilt to touch down at Market and Octavia at the behest of Caltrans and car commuters living in the western neighborhoods.

Schneider pointed to recent calls from John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism, for a “freeway-free San Francisco.” At a forum in September, Norquist asked why SF, which protested its planned freeways and prevented most them from being built – and is considering removing another section – doesn’t just go all the way and take down the few that were raised.

“Freeways merging with city streets create a terrifyingly dangerous situation for pedestrians, bicyclists and truly all roadway users,” said Schneider. “Perhaps it’s time for San Francisco to seriously consider what ‘freeway-free’ could mean for public health, safety, and livability in our wonderful city.”

[Update] SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the new enforcement camera cannot capture video footage of crashes to be used as evidence in crash investigations, as it only takes still photos of drivers who make an illegal right turn.

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Han Cheng Li, 62, Killed by Driver at 16th and Potrero

Sixteenth Street at Potrero Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Han Cheng Li, 62, was struck and killed by a driver on 16th Street at Potrero Avenue in the Mission at about 11:38 p.m. Saturday night, according to reports. Police have not released details about how the crash occurred or the name of the driver, but he has been identified as a 54-year-old man. Li is the 12th pedestrian to be killed in traffic in San Francisco this year.

Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk SF, pointed out that between 2005 and 2010, five pedestrians were injured at 16th and Potrero, about one per year. “We are deeply sorry for Han Cheng Li’s family and friends,” she said. “While we still don’t know how the collision occurred, each of these deaths are preventable.”

Sixteenth and Potrero both have four traffic lanes and few measures in place to tame driving speeds. Although a plan to redesign a section of Potrero is in the works, it would only encompass the stretch south of 17th Street. On 16th Street, the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project calls for two traffic lanes to be converted to center-running bus lanes — which could have the added benefit of calming motor traffic — but that project is several years away from implementation.

“We know that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 mph has a 30 percent chance of surviving, but by reducing speed to 30 mph, that chance of survival goes up to 80 percent,” said Schneider. “The city has the tools needed to calm traffic on our streets, and we want to see those tools implemented before any additional families have to suffer the loss of a loved one.”

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Adorable Scenes From a Record-Breaking Walk and Roll to School Day

A record-breaking 13,000 students at 76 SF schools reportedly participated in International Walk and Roll to School Day yesterday, including over a hundred little ones who formed a “walking school bus” at E.R. Taylor Elementary, where city officials held a press event.

At E.R. Taylor, which holds walking buses every week as part of the Safe Routes to School program, 52 percent of students live within one mile of school and 38 percent walk, according to the Department of Public Health. Compare that with the citywide stats: 42 percent of SF elementary school students live within a mile of school, but only 26 percent walk.

Sandy Chow, E.R. Taylor parent, said walking with her son Liam allows them to “spend more time together, talking and connecting with each other. That helps prepare my son with the confidence to begin his day.”

"Chief Suhr asking the students which is better, cars going fast? Or, cars going slow... consensus -- cars going slow!" Photo via Walk SF on Facebook

Walk SF's new executive director, Nicole Schneider. Photo: William McLeod