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Posts from the "Walk SF" Category

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Nicole Schneider to Succeed Elizabeth Stampe as Director of Walk SF

Walk SF’s new executive director is Nicole Schneider, who will take the reins of San Francisco’s pedestrian advocacy organization starting September 23. Schneider will fill the shoes of Elizabeth Stampe, who has left the position to take a maternity leave but promises to return to Walk SF in another capacity.

Nicole Schneider. Photo via Walk SF

Schneider, who has an extensive background in urban planning and advocacy working to improve public health, said she’s excited to take on the position. “I’m interested in creating environments, using policies and implementation strategies, and engaging communities to make San Francisco a more equitable place for people not only to walk, but to live,” she told Streetsblog.

Schneider hails originally from Long Island, New York, and has lived in California for 12 years, first in downtown Los Angeles while studying at the University of Southern California, then moving to the Bay Area six years ago to study at UC Berkeley. Walk SF provided an overview of her background in its member newsletter last week:

Nicole comes to Walk San Francisco with a background in active transportation, urban planning, and public health. As an independent consultant, Nicole helped develop climate change adaptation plans for the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Program on Health, Equity and Sustainability, and provided bicycle and pedestrian planning services to the Alameda County Transportation Commission, where she worked with cities to implement complete streets strategies.

Prior to starting her own consulting business, Nicole worked at Prevention Institute, where she trained community groups across the U.S. in policy and media advocacy strategies to create healthy, equitable places.

Nicole earned a Masters of Public Health and Masters of City Planning from UC Berkeley.

At a meeting in July, the Board of Supervisors commended Stampe for her three-year tenure in leading Walk SF and her legacy of elevating pedestrian safety issues in the political landscape and successfully advocating for measures like the implementation of 15 mph school zones, the first program of its kind in the state. The board also commended the work of Manish Champsee, who also leaves his ten-year volunteer career at the organization, during which he served as Walk SF board president.

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Without Traffic Calming, Sunset Blvd. Project a Missed Chance to Save Lives

Sunset Boulevard at Ortega Street. Photo: Google Street View

Six-lane Sunset Boulevard is one of the city’s most dangerous streets to cross, but that won’t change under plans being developed by the SF Public Utilities Commission.

Intersections along Sunset where pedestrian deaths and injuries occurred between 2005 and 2010. Image: SFDPH

The SFPUC’s Sunset Boulevard Greenway project is aimed at replacing the underground sewer system and re-landscaping the corridor’s grassy medians, which are half a block wide and separate the motorway from parallel streets, to better absorb stormwater. While traffic and safety improvements aren’t the focus on the project, digging up the street — a rare and major city investment — offers a chance for the SFMTA to make changes that could reduce pedestrian injuries, says Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe.

“The SFPUC’s current greening designs fail to address the conditions on this wide, fast street that make it so deadly,” said Stampe. “This is a real missed opportunity.”

Between 2005 and 2010, 28 people were hit by cars on Sunset – many suffering severe injuries, according to data from the Department of Public Health. Three victims were killed, including an 83-year-old man at Taraval Street in 2005, a 20-year-old woman at Vicente Street in 2008, and 81-year-old Yee-Sung Poon, run over in a crosswalk at Santiago Street in January, 2009.

Poon’s death was deemed nothing more than “a tragic accident” by police, according to the SF Chronicle.

But such tragedies can be prevented with smarter design. Stampe suggests removing two of Sunset’s six traffic lanes, which would help tame car traffic. The only change made to Sunset in recent years was the installation of a traffic signal at Quintara Street, which, unlike redesigning streets for slower speeds, doesn’t necessarily make streets safer.

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SF Still Waiting for DA Gascón to “Send a Message” to Deadly Drivers

At the press conference yesterday to announce the plea deal between prosecutors and Chris Bucchere in the death of Sutchi Hui, SF District Attorney George Gascón said that his “goal is to send a message” to cyclists.

At a press conference yesterday, Gascón said the prosecution of Chris Bucchere for the death of Sutchi Hui should be “a message to cyclists.” Image: ABC

“Cyclists need to understand that they’re held accountable to the same standard as anybody else operating any other type of vehicle, and I believe we have achieved that in this case,” Gascón said. ”Often, bicyclists feel they are above the law.”

But with charges brought against so few of the 27 drivers who have killed pedestrians in San Francisco since the beginning of last year, it’s hard to believe motorists are being held to the same standard that Gascón applied in this case – a standard that all victims of traffic violence deserve.

Have law enforcement officials ever prosecuted a driver with the stated intent of sending a message to all people who drive? Or made broad, sweeping statements about motorists’ view of the law?

As Streetsblog has continually reported, drivers rarely face charges for killing pedestrians unless they’re intoxicated or flee the scene. The Center for Investigative Reporting buttressed that conclusion with an extensive study in April, looking at pedestrian fatalities in the Bay Area’s five largest counties between 2007 and 2011:

Sixty percent of the 238 motorists found to be at fault or suspected of a crime faced no criminal charges during the five-year period, CIR found in its analysis of thousands of pages of police and court records from Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

When drivers did face criminal charges, punishment often was light. Licenses rarely were taken away. Of those charged, less than 60 percent had their driving privileges suspended or revoked for even one day, an automatic penalty in drunk driving arrests.

Forty percent of those convicted faced no more than a day in jail; 13 drivers were jailed for more than a year. By contrast, those charged in accidental shootings often serve lengthy jail terms, according to media reports.

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Supervisor Wiener Wants to Remove Clutter From SF’s Narrow Sidewalks

As if San Francisco’s sidewalks weren’t narrow enough, they’re often cluttered with objects like newspaper racks, utility poles, street signs, and utility boxes.

Photo: SFDPW

In a hearing yesterday, Supervisor Scott Wiener set out to question the necessity of such structures, calling on city staffers to answer for things like the empty newspaper racks at busy corners like 18th and Castro Streets.

“Whether or not particular street furniture has value, they can all block pedestrian access and reduce automobile and pedestrian visibility,” said Wiener. “It’s essential that we’re very thoughtful and strategic about what we place on our sidewalks and where, exactly, we place it.”

While Wiener noted that his recently-passed legislation should help streamline sidewalk expansions, he questioned the amount of space carved out from existing walkways, which often don’t meet the new sidewalk design standards set out in the city’s 2010 Better Streets Plan. “There are bus shelters where you almost have to walk single file to get past,” he said.

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe pointed to improvements like bike corrals, which add bike parking in the street bed, as a “great example” of how to avoid cluttering city sidewalks.

“For decades, our roads have been designed to create a clear path for vehicles by shoving people over to the edges, where they need to thread their way between poles and empty newsracks and utility boxes,” said Stampe. “We need to widen the space for people to enjoy on foot. We also need to think creatively about how we can start using some of these elements to calm traffic and make the street safer.”

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Police Commissioners to SFPD: Focus on Drivers Who Endanger Pedestrians

Members of the SF Police Commission, a civilian body charged with police oversight, urged SFPD officials at a hearing last week to focus their traffic enforcement efforts on the greatest danger facing people walking: driver violations.

A pedestrian suffered serious injuries after being hit by a cab driver near the Broadway Tunnel in April. Image: ABC 7

An average of three pedestrians are injured by motorists on San Francisco streets every day. As part of the city’s Pedestrian Strategy to reduce the toll traffic violence, SFPD officials say they’re revamping their education and enforcement efforts aimed at drivers and pedestrians, using data to target the most common causes of pedestrian crashes under a program called “Focus on the Five.” All of the top five causal factors of pedestrian crashes are motorist infractions: running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrian right-of-way, turning violations, and speeding.

When she was nine years old, Commissioner Suzy Loftus said she was hit by a driver who claimed he didn’t see her in the crosswalk at California Street and 24th Avenue. “The story ended okay for me, but I think what I’ve come to realize as an adult and a mother in the city is that I have a very strong feeling that enforcement is lacking, and that that’s part of why drivers don’t count on getting caught,” she said.

Police Commission President Thomas Mazzucco emphasized the need for more effective traffic enforcement, even if it means getting officers at the understaffed department to work overtime. “In my neighborhood, it’s a sport to see who will roll through the stop sign in a Range Rover while texting,” he said.

In expressing her frustration that the number of pedestrians killed has increased in recent years, Loftus initially referred to the deaths as “homicides.” When SFPD Chief Greg Suhr said the correct term is “fatalities,” Loftus said she had misspoke.

SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali said officers regularly “admonish” drivers who violate pedestrians’ right-of-way, while also giving “tips” to pedestrians and bicycle riders to behave predictably. “They emphasize that the importance of safe driving is on the driver, the person responsible for the 4,000-pound vehicle,” he said. “They have to bear the greater burden in that regard.”

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. Image: ABC 7

But Suhr, displaying the same victim-blaming attitude he espoused in his Walk to Work Day speech in May, made it a point to wag a finger at people who walk while using their cell phones, despite the complete lack of data to support “distracted walking” as an actual cause of pedestrian deaths, and the clear evidence that drivers are at fault for most pedestrian deaths and injuries. Suhr said there has recently been a 12 percent increase in “pedestrian violations” — presumably jaywalking tickets — while citations for drivers failing to yield have recently increased 8 percent.

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Wiener’s Proposals to Streamline Ped Safety Upgrades Pass Supes Committee

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A package of legislation aimed at cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that encumbers the city’s progress on life-saving pedestrian safety measures was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee yesterday. The full board is expected to approve the proposals in the coming weeks.

Supervisor Scott Wiener's legislation is aimed at improving coordination between agencies in making pedestrian safety improvements. Advocates hope that would get DPW to save money by adding bulb-outs when tearing up sidewalks, which it failed to do when adding these curb ramps. Photo: SF DPW

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed the legislation, said it’s aimed at reforming several city procedures that often delay pedestrian safety projects, and that it should help the city meet the goal set out in the SFMTA’s draft Pedestrian Strategy: cutting pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016, and by 50 percent by 2020.

“Pledges and good intentions only get us so far, and in fact, money only gets us so far,” said Wiener. “The process we have in place to implement needed pedestrian upgrades is lacking. We don’t have enough inter-agency coordination, and we have outdated codes.”

Last year, police reported that 964 pedestrians were injured on San Francisco streets — “the largest number since 2000,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. Nineteen of those people were killed, and, she pointed out, 20 to 25 percent of trauma victims in SF hospitals are hit by cars. “That’s a huge amount,” she said. “Too often, the projects to fix these dangerous streets just take too long, and the bigger projects often get whittled down.”

Wiener said the legislation would push agencies to better coordinate with one another on street infrastructure projects by creating a Street Design Review Committee. It also calls upon agencies to “modernize street code provisions” and “formulate clear procedures” for coordination. One ordinance in the package would make it easier for developers to implement pedestrian safety projects as gifts to the city in lieu of impact fees, and another targets strict interpretations of the fire code that can limit sidewalk extensions.

The SF Fire Department has resisted the fire code amendment, since it would relax the city’s definition of roadway obstructions, which department heads say could inhibit fire truck and ambulance access. Changes to street widths in California must adhere to a fire code requirement that 20 feet of clear roadway be provided, and under Wiener’s proposal, curbs less than six inches high would not be considered an obstruction by the city.

“We want less people run over in the streets,” said Fire Marshal Thomas Harvey. “But we do have difficulty trying to bridge that gap of what provides the best pedestrian safety and what actually allows for our operational needs and does not limit our fire department vehicle access.”

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Ped Safety Fixes on Sloat, Where Girl Was Killed, Moved Up to This June

Pedestrian safety fixes on deadly Sloat Boulevard will be installed beginning this June — much sooner than originally proposed.

Photo: DPW

At the intersection of Sloat and Forest View Drive, where 17-year-old Hanren Chang was killed by a drunk driver in a crosswalk in March, the Department of Public Works will install bulb-outs, more visible crosswalks, street lights, an extended pedestrian refuge median, and a button-activated pedestrian beacon, according to the agency’s website. Those improvements are scheduled to be finished by August.

The second phase of the project, which includes similar improvements at Sloat’s intersections with 23rd Avenue and Everglade Drive, would be in place by June 2014, DPW’s website says.

Previously, a city memo on the project had indicated that safety improvements might not be on the ground until June 2014.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF, said “this rapid action on Sloat safety improvements shows a real change.”

“It shows that city leaders are listening to the community, to take action to make our streets safer,” she said. “For too long, it’s taken years to get small fixes. Now that the voice for safe, walkable streets is growing, we look forward to seeing street fixes happen faster to prevent more tragedies.”

“This is the kind of action we need to see on the new Pedestrian Strategy, to fix five miles of streets a year,” she added. “This isn’t rocket science. We need funding and political will to fix the city’s most dangerous streets, where people get hit by cars every single day.”

A community meeting on the Sloat improvements with DPW, Supervisors Katy Tang and Norman Yee will be held tonight at 6 p.m. at the San Francisco Zoo.

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Mayor Lee on Walk to Work Day: We Won’t Let Ped Strategy Sit on the Shelf

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

On Walk to Work Day, touted as the first official event of its kind in the nation, city officials strolled to a press conference on the steps of City Hall, where Mayor Ed Lee promised to implement the city’s Pedestrian Strategy [PDF].

Since the Draft Pedestrian Strategy was released in January, providing a rough guide for how the city can re-engineer streets and target traffic enforcement to make walking safer in the coming years, street safety advocates have praised the city’s vision, but have been concerned as to whether city leaders will take action to fund it.

“I’m going to see to it that we not have a [delay] where this stays on the shelf,” Lee told a crowd of dozens of Walk to Work Day participants. “We’re going to fund this thing.”

Lee said one-third of the estimated funding needed has already been identified, and that he’s confident the city will find the rest in the coming years. He also said the city plans to launch a website within the next two weeks where residents will be able to track the progress of implementation and “hold us accountable.”

Walk SF is “excited to see” a revised section of the Pedestrian Strategy which more specifically lays out the amount of funding needed and potential sources the city could use to procure it, said executive director Elizabeth Stampe. Of the estimated $363 million needed to implement safety upgrades on priority streets by 2021, the city has a $215 million shortfall, according to the plan. In the coming months, a steering committee is expected to develop criteria for how to prioritize safety projects where they’re needed most.

“It’s up to the mayor and the supervisors to help direct funding to fixing the streets and saving lives,” Stampe said.

So far, seven people have been killed by drivers on San Francisco streets this year. The latest victim was 60-year-old Becky Lee, who was hit and killed by a pickup truck driver Wednesday in a crosswalk at Judson Avenue and Edna Street, just east of City College’s Ocean Campus, and about a block from the 280 freeway. Last year, 20 pedestrians were killed, according to SFPD.

“We shouldn’t be losing 20 people a year. We shouldn’t be losing anybody just to walk in the streets of San Francisco,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “We should also be working to make it more enjoyable so that we can attract more people out of their cars and on to their feet, which will make San Francisco an even better place.”

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Tomorrow: Join SF’s First Official Walk to Work Day

Tomorrow, San Francisco launches the first official Walk to Work Day in the nation. Mayor Ed Lee and nine supervisors plan to take a stroll and join a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

Walk SF will have “hubs” set up around the city where walking commuters can get free coffee, snacks, enter to win prizes, and get a free Clipper card “pre-loaded with a ride home.” Check out the Walk SF website for a list of cafes offering special deals for those who say “I’m walking to work today” or show their hub-issued sticker. Walkers who share a photo of their commute on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the #Walk2Work hashtag can also win a prize. After work, Show Dogs at Market and Taylor Streets will host a Walk to Work Day happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Here’s where you can meet up with your district supervisor:

  • D1 Supervisor Eric Mar: Cinderella Bakery, Balboa Street at 6th Ave, 7:45 a.m.
  • D2 Supervisor Mark Farrell: Peet’s Coffee, 2197 Fillmore at California, 8:00 a.m.
  • D3 Supervisor David Chiu: Réveille, 200 Columbus Ave at Kearny, 8:30 a.m.
  • D4 Supervisor Katy Tang will join Sup. Breed at Ritual, Octavia at Hayes, 8:45 a.m.
  • D5 Supervisor London Breed: Ritual Coffee, 432B Octavia Street at Hayes, 8:45 a.m.
  • D6 aide Sunny Angulo will be at the traffic light at Folsom and Russ, 8:45 a.m.
  • D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener: Peet’s Coffee, 2257 Market at Castro, 9:00 a.m.
  • D9 Supervisor David Campos: Philz Coffee, 24th Street at Folsom, 8:30 a.m.
  • D10 Supervisor Malia Cohen will join Sup. Breed at Ritual, Octavia at Hayes, 8:45 a.m.
  • D11 Supervisor John Avalos: Mamá Art Cafe, 4754 Mission at Persia, 7:00 a.m.
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After 6 Ped Deaths in 3 Months, SF Needs City Hall Action on Street Safety

In the first three months of 2013, six pedestrians have been killed on San Francisco streets. At that rate, the city is on course for pedestrian deaths to rise for the third year in a row.

Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe tells KTVU today, "We know what we need to do" to save lives. "We need action from our leadership."

The trend is striking: Since 2010, when 14 pedestrians were killed on San Francisco streets, more have died each year since. There were 17 deaths reported in 2011, and at least 19 deaths in 2012. (The Examiner reports that police data shows 20 deaths that year, and five this year. By our count, it appears one of those deaths may have been mistakenly counted in 2012. We’ve reported on six deaths this year, with the first occurring on the morning of New Year’s Day.)

From 2000 to 2008, pedestrian fatalities were on a downward trajectory: 2000 saw 32 pedestrian deaths, and 2008 saw 13, the lowest number within the period. The rate of pedestrian deaths in the first three months of 2013 is nearly twice as high as the rate in 2008.

Will Mayor Ed Lee go beyond publicity shots and take leadership to curb the rising number of pedestrian deaths on San Francisco streets? Photo: bubbletea1/Flickr

Mayor Ed Lee’s office says the city’s final version of the Pedestrian Strategy, which will include a plan to fund the pedestrian safety improvements that are needed, is expected to be released this week, KTVU reported today.

“We know how to fix these streets,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF. “Delay here means tragedy.”

The latest victim is Tania Madfes, a retired teacher who died in the hospital last Wednesday after she and her husband were run down by a driver in a crosswalk at West Portal Avenue and Vicente Street. The SF Chronicle reports:

A San Francisco woman who devoted her career to encouraging girls to pursue opportunities that had been denied to her has died after she was struck by a car while crossing a street in the West Portal neighborhood with her husband.

Tania Madfes, 68, and her husband, David Madfes, were returning home March 21 from an evening at the Berkeley Repertory Theater and were walking across Vicente Street at West Portal Avenue when a car struck them at 9:40 p.m.

“We were crossing Vicente and – I can’t reconstruct in my head what happened – next thing I knew this car was there,” David Madfes said Thursday. “It hit my leg just as it came to a stop, and I fell and my wife was lying on the street on her back.”

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