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Posts from the Pedestrian Infrastructure Category

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Driver Kills Ai You Zhou, 77, at Clay and Kearny; Christensen Calls for Action

Photo: Parker Day

Yesterday at about 6 p.m., Tim Pak Wong, 59, ran over and killed Ai You Zhou, 77, in the crosswalk at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets near Chinatown. Safety improvements have been planned for the location, and today Supervisor Julie Christensen called for swifter action on pedestrian safety from the SFMTA and SFPD.

SFPD issued Wong a citation on suspicion of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and misdemeanor manslaughter, reports the SF Chronicle.

Zhou appeared to have the walk signal, according to Parker Day, who witnessed the crash from about a block away as he biked toward the intersection. He said Wong was turning left onto Kearny from Clay.

When Day took the photo of the scene above, Zhou “had just stopped breathing and [Wong] was about to pull her out from under the car.”

“It was a terrible thing to witness,” Day added. “I hope I don’t ever see something like it again.”

D3 Supervisor Christensen held a press conference at the site of the crash today to call on the SFMTA to expedite pedestrian safety improvements and the SFPD “to step up enforcement at our problem intersections along our high injury corridors.”

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Walk SF Gives City a Mixed Score on Street Safety Progress

A recently-completed bulb-out at McAllister and Hyde Streets near City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Walk SF today released its second annual Street Score Report Card [PDF], which it bills as the “only comprehensive review of the City’s progress towards improving pedestrian safety and walkability.” The report is the first thorough attempt to assess how well the city has followed through on the mayor’s 2013 Pedestrian Strategy.

SF agencies’ progress remained subpar on many of Walk SF’s nearly 40 metrics, though the city did exceed its goals in a few key areas, such as the installation of bulb-outs.

The report tracks progress in six categories: Reducing injuries, installing engineering upgrades, focusing enforcement on the most dangerous traffic violations, delivering education campaigns, adopting local and state legislation to enable safety measures, and reporting progress data to the public.

“We can’t measure what we don’t count,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement. And by the most important measure — fatal and serious injuries sustained in traffic — SF didn’t hit its mark.

Last year, 96 people were killed or suffered severe injuries on SF streets, higher than the goal of 82 laid out in the Pedestrian Strategy. Walk SF also notes that the share of pedestrian deaths involving seniors was higher than the city’s target.

Image: Walk SF's Street Score

Image: Walk SF’s Street Score

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Parking-Free Marina Path Plan Could Be Delayed By Boaters’ Parking Proposal

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The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: Department of Public Works

Updated at 11:38 p.m. with further response from the Recreation and Parks Department below.

The Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path was supposed to be car-free by now. The years-old plan to remove the 57 car parking spaces on the stretch between Scott and Baker Streets is scheduled to be implemented by this spring.

But the SF Recreation and Parks Department may hold off yet again — potentially for years — because the department is seriously considering a last-minute proposal from boat owners to carve curbside “parking bays” from the path to preserve some spots.

The Association of Bay Area Governments’ Bay Trail Project and the SF Bicycle Coalition sent a letter [PDF] Tuesday urging Rec and Parks General Manager Phil Ginsburg “in the strongest of terms to move forward with the current plan to remove the parking and driving lane… immediately.”

We believe that a proposal to provide a drop-off, loading/unloading zone with limited parking may have merit and should be pursued. However, the thousands of walkers, joggers, cyclists, families, roller-bladers and wheelchair riders who make up 98% of the users of the Marina Green Bay Trail cannot continue to wait for safety in this area.

[Update] Rec and Parks spokesperson Connie Chan wrote in an email that the department “is seeking funding for” the project to include “the construction of 3 new parking bays.”

“Each bay will provide 3 to 5 parking spaces: 2 white loading-only spaces, 1 blue ADA-only space, and 2 unregulated public parking spaces (optional),” she wrote. “One parking bay will be situated near each dock gate, with exact location determined by traffic code and/or other site constraints.”

When asked if the parking removal will no longer happen this spring as planned, she repeated, “At this time, the Department is seeking funding for the project.”

In addition to reducing space for people, lumping parking bays into the project could further delay it for years. Digging into the pavement would require securing funding, design work, and construction for a project that originally only involved removing parking bumpers and replacing signs and pavement striping. It would add an estimated $450,000 to a $60,000 project.

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“Walk [Your City]” Signs Take the Guesswork Out of Hoofing It in SF

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You may have gotten a kick out of some of the signs posted along Market Street in recent weeks telling people how long it takes to walk to destinations like Yerba Buena Gardens, Civic Center, and even the Pacific Ocean.

The signs are the doing of Walk [Your City], a national effort to facilitate what has been called “guerrilla wayfinding” — providing residents the means to “plan, design and install quick, light, and affordable street signs for people.” The campaign started in Raleigh, North Carolina, but the organizers received a grant in February to bring it to other cities, including San Jose.

The signs were featured as part of the three-day Market Street Prototyping Festival, a project of the city’s Better Market Street redesign. The dozens of sidewalk exhibits, which line Market until tomorrow, are intended to “do a lot more with these beautiful sidewalks that we have… they can be much more dynamic social spaces,” said Neil Hrushowy, program director for the SF Planning Department’s City Design Group, in a KPIX segment. Hrushowy said some of the exhibits could be made permanent with Market’s reconstruction.

SF did pilot pedestrian wayfinding signs along the Embarcadero during the America’s Cup races in 2012, but they weren’t nearly as attractive or cheeky. While most of the Walk [Your City] signs are functional and point to actual destinations, some are more whimsical. “It is a 5 minute walk to High-Speed Rail (soon),” one sign said. Another sign points the way to the “Twinkie defense” — presumably, City Hall.

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City Hall Crosswalk Signal Activated on Walk to Work Day

As public officials and safe streets advocates marked Walk to Work Day, the city activated a pedestrian signal at the mid-block crosswalk in front of City Hall, where 68-year-old Priscila Moreto was killed last October. The wide, zebra-striped crosswalk, which previously had button-activated flashing lights, now has green and red phases, so drivers have a clearer signal to come to a full stop for people crossing on foot.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said the signal “is a first step, but more needs to be done along such a monumental street to demonstrate the Mayor is serious about creating a Vision Zero transportation system — a safe system that forgives.”

The new signal is not the type of change that creates a safer, more forgiving system by compelling drivers to slow down and pay attention. Instead, it creates stricter rules for everybody — including pedestrians, who can’t request a walk phase any more. It also introduces the risk that some drivers will accelerate during the yellow phase to “beat the light.”

“Walk SF really wanted to see the City’s front door transformed from a traffic sewer to a people-focused, civic space,” said Ferrara. “The road diet happening just north of City Hall offered an opportunity to reclaim excess roadway for those purposes.” She was referring to the redesign of Polk north of McAllister Street, approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors last month.

The signal was actually planned well before Moreto was killed. One change that her death did prompt is a ban on tour bus operators narrating while driving, approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Moreto was run over by a tour trolley operator who was telling his passengers about City Hall.

The ban, initiated by Supervisor Norman Yee, applies to tour buses that don’t operate outside the city. Yee told the SF Chronicle that it’s “just one more piece in the puzzle” needed to eliminate pedestrian deaths.

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Four Protected Bike Signals Coming to Polk Street By May

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The SFMTA has promised signals to separate southbound bike traffic from right-turning drivers at four intersections along Polk Street by May. Image: SFMTA

Today the SFMTA announced details about the first package of safety upgrades coming to Polk Street in the next few months. They include signals at four intersections that will give southbound bike traffic a separate phase from drivers turning right, making Polk the second street in SF to get the configuration.

By May, the SFMTA said it would install the bike signals at all four intersections in the Polk plan: Geary Boulevard, Ellis Street, Eddy Street, and Turk Street. The signals “will be implemented to address existing right-hook crash patterns,” the SFMTA said in an email announcing the upgrades.

The prevailing design of SF current bike lanes calls for people on bikes to merge with right-turning cars, putting them at risk of drivers who turn without looking. At the four Polk intersections, right-turning drivers will have a separate lane and signal phase. The configuration is widely used in cities like Amsterdam, and is planned for protected bike lanes on streets like Second.

The only street in SF that already has the configuration is Cargo Way in Bayview, where a two-way protected bikeway separated by a fence was installed in 2012. A similar configuration exists at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue, where a left-turn signal was installed to protect people in a crosswalk along the Panhandle’s mixed bike and pedestrian path.

As part of the first batch of improvements on Polk, the SFMTA said the conventional southbound bike lane will be extended from Union to Post Street by April. That space will apparently be created by narrowing traffic lanes.

When construction of the rest of the Polk project starts next spring, the southern segment of the bike lane will get green paint and a buffer zone. Many sections will run curbside, eliminating the risk of dooring.

The northbound Polk bike upgrades will also come next spring, with the construction of a raised bike lane from McAllister to Pine Street, which won’t include separate signal phases at intersections.

Pedestrian safety improvements are on the way this spring, include zebra crosswalks at 25 intersections and painted bulb-outs at five intersections. By summer, the SFMTA said it will install leading pedestrian intervals, which “allow pedestrians a few seconds of a ‘WALK’ signal before vehicles receive a green light at certain intersections.” By that time, daylighting will also be in place at “various intersections,” along with “new and relocated” loading zones to reduce double parking.

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Painted Bulb-Outs Arrive at Howard Street — Are More Coming Soon?

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One year and four months after SF’s first painted curb extensions came to Sixth Street, the SFMTA has implemented its second set at three intersections on Howard Street, in tandem with a wider and greener bike lane.

But for such a seemingly simple safety measure — using low-cost gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners and slow drivers’ turns — the question remains: Why does it take SF so long to implement?

Expectations were raised when deadly Sixth Street received the city’s first six painted bulb-outs at the intersection of Market, Mission, and Howard, even if SF’s extensions were much smaller in size and number than painted curb extensions in NYC.

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who grew up in Manhattan, said at the time that “it’s been amazing to see the difference they’ve been making for the quality of life of pedestrians and cyclists.”

A painted bulb-out in New York City. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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Fell and Oak Safety Features to Finally Be Installed By April

Bulb-outs, rain gardens, and planted traffic islands on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now set to be completed two years late. Image: SFMTA

The final pieces of the protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets are now due to be finished by April, according to the Department of Public Works. Assuming this timetable holds up, construction of the project will conclude two years after the originally promised date in spring 2013.

Crews have been at work for months installing the sidewalk extensions and rain gardens on Fell and Oak between Baker and Scott Streets. There have been no signs yet of construction of the planted traffic islands that will separate the bike lanes from motor traffic (except in locations where there are driveways or turn lanes).

The buffered bike lanes on Fell and Oak have mostly remained the same since they were striped without physical protection in September 2012 and May 2013, respectively. One exception was the installation of short-lived plastic posts in April 2013, which were removed after the bike lanes were re-paved less than a year late and never replaced.

At some points during construction, the Fell and Oak bike lanes have been blocked. Photo: Jonathan G/Twitter

Without the traffic islands, the bike lanes remain unprotected, keeping riders exposed to three lanes of heavy motor traffic and discouraging risk-averse people from biking. Drivers often park in the lanes, though Supervisor London Breed has convinced the tow truck company on Fell to reduce that practice.

While most of the basic bike safety improvements are in place, the project delays have been numerous and, in most cases, baffling. During the planning process, the original construction date of spring 2012 was pushed back a year to create more parking on nearby streets to compensate for spaces removed for the bike lanes. In October 2013, the SFMTA and DPW said construction wouldn’t happen that year because the agencies wanted to tweak the designs of the bulb-outs and islands.

Until recently, a sign was posted at the site promising construction would be finished in January 2015. When asked why the project still isn’t finished, DPW staff didn’t answer the question, only providing the new date. 

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Momentum Builds to Eliminate Dangerous Gap in SF Bay Trail

Officials hope to secure funds from San Mateo County’s 2012 Measure A program to extend the San Francisco Bay Trail through Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, eliminating a stressful detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

Prospects for a safer and more convenient San Francisco Bay Trail are looking brighter as momentum builds for strengthening environmental protections along the bay in San Mateo County.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park planning staff reported that the city, in partnership with neighboring East Palo Alto and Palo Alto, as well as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), will seek approval from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to designate their many San Francisco Bay shoreline parks and wildlife refuges as a new priority conservation area.

The designation was created by ABAG in 2007 “to attract funds to support the long-term protection of regionally significant open spaces about which there is broad consensus for long-term protection.” The conservation area would include Bedwell Bayfront Park, the Ravenswood Salt Pond Restoration Area, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, Cooley Landing, and the Baylands Nature Preserve.

One upshot of this development could be a better Bay Trail. “The PCA designation would expand funding opportunities for enhancing the current Bay Trail around Bedwell Bayfront Park and connections from the Belle Haven neighborhood to the Park,” wrote Menlo Park Assistant Community Development Director Justin Murphy in a report presented to the City Council [PDF].

Murphy cited the long-planned $2.2 million Ravenswood Bay Trail, a missing 0.6-mile section of the San Francisco Bay Trail from University Avenue to the Ravenswood Regional Open Space Preserve in East Palo Alto, as a high-priority regional project more likely to receive county and regional grants with the PCA designation. This gap in the Bay Trail forces pedestrians and bicyclists on a detour along a section of busy, four-lane University Avenue that includes narrow bike lanes but no sidewalks.

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Stockton Street “Winter Walk” Plaza to Return Next Holiday Season

The incredibly popular (but temporary) “Winter Walk” plaza will return to Stockton Street in Union Square for another holiday season in December, the local business improvement district announced.

The news isn’t a huge surprise, given the boost to business brought by the plaza and the fact that the one-block section of Stockton is already filled with machinery for the construction of Central Subway, as it has been since 2012 and will be until at least 2016. But it’s a promising sign that when construction is over the street may not be surrendered to cars.

Katy Lim of the Union Square BID said a visitor poll found that 96 percent of respondents would return to Winter Walk plaza if it were brought back, and that 88 percent would like to see it made permanent. Twenty-six percent of respondents were SF residents, 40 percent were from the Bay Area, and the rest from elsewhere.

No word on just how much foot traffic the plaza saw, but Philz Coffee reportedly sold over 6,000 cups from its stand during the month it was open.

So San Franciscans and visitors have clearly embraced the idea of devoting at least one block in SF’s bustling downtown shopping district to people, though it’s also clear from the detours for Muni’s 30 and 45 lines that surface transit needs greater priority.