There’s no telling where San Francisco Fire Chief Johanne Hayes-White got the patently false stats on pedestrian safety she cited to the SF Examiner yesterday. Hayes-White argued that the city shouldn’t build proven pedestrian safety upgrades because most people hit by drivers while walking are to blame for their own injuries.
The Fire Department hasn’t cited any data to back its misguided campaign against bulb-outs and bike lanes on the grounds that they cause delays for emergency vehicles. But what’s clear to anyone on the streets is that firefighters and ambulances are constantly delayed by private autos, whether they’re doubled-parked or sitting in congestion. By opposing proven safety upgrades on streets that see the very crashes they respond to, SFFD is making the city a more dangerous place to live.
As Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told the Examiner, it’s “a shame.”
“We’re all working on public safety here,” she said. “What we need to be doing is building safer streets. These sort of improvements reduce deaths.”
Hayes-White told the Examiner that “as many as 74 percent of pedestrian injuries result from jaywalking, other citable offenses or pedestrians being ‘inattentive.’” But according to the SFMTA’s 2010-2011 Collisions Report [PDF], out of the 844 non-fatal pedestrian crashes in 2011, police attributed 573 primarily to driver error. The five most commonly-cited factors were driver violations, the top being motorists’ failure to yield the right-of-way in a crosswalk.
Despite the complete lack of data to support “distracted walking” as a significant cause of pedestrian deaths, Hayes-White and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr continue to blame the victims.
Meanwhile, as Supervisor Scott Wiener noted to the Examiner after a ride-along with SFFD responders, ”Bulb-outs weren’t a problem. Double-parked cars are a huge problem for them.” Another screamingly obvious observation is the fact that bulb-outs often replace curbside parking spaces. Yet SFFD would have the public believe that fire truck and ambulance drivers have an easier time navigating around parked cars than curbs.