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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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Three Recent Assaults By Drivers Show Traffic Sewers’ Danger to Bikes, Peds

A driver recently assaulted a man bicycling on car-dominated Geneva Avenue near London Street. Photo: Google Maps

There have been three disturbing cases in SF within the last month in which drivers assaulted people walking and biking. Such cases are usually rare, but all of the attacks occurred on streets designed for fast driving.

The most recent attack was in the Excelsior on November 11. According to the SFPD Ingleside Station newsletter, a driver was arrested after assaulting a man bicycling on Geneva Avenue. The driver apparently didn’t like the fact that victim was occupying a traffic lane, which the CA Vehicle Code allows in any lane that can’t be safely shared between a bike and a car. But instead of simply changing lanes, this driver took to violence:

The bicyclist told Ingleside officers Trail and Carrasco that he was riding eastbound on Geneva from Alemany, in the slow lane, when the driver of a car started honking at him to “get out of the way”. The bicyclist ignored him and kept riding. However, after he crossed Mission Street, near London, the motorist passed him on his left and then swerved right into the bicyclist’s front wheel. The bicyclist took out his cell phone and took a picture of the motorist’s license plate and then started to dial 911. But, before he could complete dialing, the motorist ran up to him and slammed his body, forcing the cell phone onto the street. The officers detained and questioned the motorist and, after interviewing witnesses, placed him under arrest for robbery and aggravated assault.

Of two recent attacks on pedestrians, the driver in one case ran the victim over and killed him on November 3. Joseph Jeffrey, 54, told a driver to slow down near Eddy and Larkin Streets in the Tenderloin. Police told the SF Chronicle that the driver intentionally ran over Jeffrey, who was homeless and had just left the hospital after recovering from a gunshot wound:

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“Box Blocking” Enforcement is Overdue, But SF’s Traffic Woes Run Deeper

A typical scene at Main and Harrison Streets. Image: KRON 4

For a mystifying exhibit of irrational and antisocial behavior, just watch the rush-hour race to nowhere as drivers attempt to beat one another through a gridlocked San Francisco intersection.

The question, “Do I have room to make it across?,” apparently does not factor into the decision of many drivers who accede to the beckoning green light — only to end up sitting astride a crosswalk, in the path of a Muni bus packed with 70 people, or dozens of other commuters trying to bike or drive through on the cross-street.

This needlessly disruptive traffic dysfunction can perhaps be chalked up to the wishful thinking of impatient automobile drivers. Sitting on one side of the intersection, instead of the other, doesn’t tend to afford a lot of actual progress — but maybe it helps “box blockers” feel like they’re getting somewhere.

Often, the space trampled under their wheels is part of the crosswalk — the scarce designated place where people can cross on foot, theoretically free of cars. Instead, pedestrian crossings are dangerous and downright undignified.

“It’s scary,” said Jamie Whitaker, who lives near the Bay Bridge in SoMa, where drivers trying to cram on to the on-ramps “predictably” block crosswalks and compete with one another to get through. “You just don’t know if someone is gonna shove down their gas to speed up and get around other cars, and not realize someone’s in the crosswalk.”

“I fear for my life every time I leave work,” Christine Queen told ABC 7 at car-clogged Second and Bryant Streets in a report earlier this month. “Seriously, I’ll tell you, it’s like no one’s even walking.”

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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 67-year-old Priscila “Percy” 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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SFMTA Wants Stop Lights, Not Signs, To Keep Muni’s 5-Fulton Moving

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An SFMTA board, displayed at a Wednesday community meeting, explained how adding traffic signals can speed up the 5-Fulton. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The latest of SFMTA’s efforts to speed up Muni lines to run into some neighborhood opposition involves its proposed replacement of stop signs with transit-priority traffic signals. Some Western Addition neighbors have protested a proposal to signalize five intersections on McAllister Street to speed up the 5-Fulton, one of the designated “Rapid” routes receiving upgrades under the Muni Forward program (also known as the Transit Effectiveness Project).

Initially, the complaints were driven by fears that signals would bring dangerous speeding to McAllister. Muni planners responded by holding more outreach meetings, and presented data showing that pedestrian injuries declined on similar streets after signals were added. They also say speeds won’t go up significantly, since signals will be synchronized for speeds below 20 mph.

A September hearing on the transit-priority signal plans for McAllister and Haight Street drew strong opposition from neighbors, leading the SFMTA to postpone the plans’ approval and drop a signal . D5 Supervisor London Breed asked the SFMTA to do the extra outreach, but is cautiously supportive of the agency’s efforts, said aide Conor Johnston.

“When it comes to transportation, her priority first and foremost is improving transit,” he said. “The only thing that trumps that is public safety.” Johnston said the data on injury reductions were “helpful, but not a complete answer.”

The stop sign at McAllister and Laguna Streets will remain, though five other intersections are proposed to get signals. Photo: Peter Ehrlich/Flickr

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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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SFPD to Cite Driver Who Hospitalized Woman While Backing Up

SFPD said a ticket will be issued to a driver who hit a woman last Wednesday while backing up on 16th Street near Pond Street, next to the Eureka Valley Branch Library. In initial reports, police said the driver had not been cited:

The woman was hit at about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of 16th and Pond streets, about a block from Market Street and two blocks from Castro Street, San Francisco police Officer Gordon Shyy said.

16th and Pond Streets. Photo: Google Maps

The driver of the vehicle, described as a man in his 60s, was reportedly backing into a parking spot when he hit the pedestrian, Shyy said.

The victim was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with trauma to her head that was initially considered life-threatening, according to police.

However, Shyy said the woman is now in stable condition and recovering from her injuries.

SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy told Streetsblog that the driver will receive a ticket for violating California Vehicle Code 22106, which states, “No person shall start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway, nor shall any person back a vehicle on a highway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

Charges are unlikely to be filed, as the District Attorney’s office has said charges typically won’t stand unless the victim dies, thus proving recklessness.

But even in two similar cases, drivers were never charged or cited. Last December, 84-year-old Chinatown activist Isabel Huie was killed by a 76-year-old driver who apparently lost control while parking on Jackson near Stockton Street. In October 2012, a 28-year-old driver ran over a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk on Third Street near Bryant. She was pulling forward out of a garage.

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Supe Kim, Mayor Lee Activate New Sixth Street Crossing Signal

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A new pedestrian crossing signal was installed at Sixth and Minna Streets, seen here before it was activated. Photo: Google Maps

Mayor Ed Lee and D6 Supervisor Jane Kim held a press conference yesterday to activate a new pedestrian signal across deadly Sixth Street at Minna Street, a narrow cross street. Although a marked crosswalk had already existed there, drivers routinely failed to yield to people within it.

The button-activated signal is part of a package of pedestrian safety measures planned for Sixth Street, which decades ago had been designed to speed drivers between the Tenderloin and the 280 highway through the dense SoMa neighborhood, which resulted in an alarming rate of traffic violence. In the past seven years, Sixth has seen more than 50 pedestrian injuries and two fatalities just between Market and Howard streets, according to a Mayor’s Office press release.

“Our families and seniors on Sixth Street know that mid-block crossings, turn restrictions and sidewalk bulbouts can actually save lives,” Kim said in a statement.

“These tragic statistics are simply unacceptable, and we are working towards our new Vision Zero goal: zero traffic fatalities in the next 10 years,” said a statement from Mayor Lee. “Building safer, better streets is a critical part in saving lives.”

Long-term plans for Sixth include a road diet that would remove two of its four traffic lanes and replace them with wider sidewalks and conventional bike lanes. That’s expected to calm car traffic dramatically, but there’s no construction timeline yet.

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Halloween: A Lot Less Scary If Drivers and Roads Were Safer

Halloween is fun because we get to be afraid of things that we know aren’t really scary. But for little trick or treaters in the United States, the danger posed by reckless drivers and unsafe roads is real.

A 2012 study by insurance company State Farm found that motorists kill more children on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Reported LoHud:

From 1990 to 2010, 115 pedestrians under the age of 18 were killed by motor vehicles on Oct. 31, an average of 5.5 fatalities a year during that period.  There are an average of 2.6 child pedestrian deaths other days of the year, the report found.

Above is a tweet from the Maryland State Highway Administration, which is loaning reflective vests for kids to wear tonight. The agency has a tip sheet for pedestrians and motorists, but holiday-themed PR campaigns are not a substitute for streets that are safe for walking 365 days a year.

Yet that doesn’t stop us from victim-blaming. ”Crowds of trick-or-treaters traveling the streets contribute to the increased risk,” wrote LoHud.

The State Farm study also noted that more than 70 percent of crashes that kill kids on Halloween “occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk,” implying that unsafe pedestrian behavior, rather than lack of pedestrian infrastructure, is the issue. State Farm advises parents and kids to “stick to neighborhoods with sidewalks.” While this advice is easy to follow in some major cities, complete streets are not the norm in most of the country.

Suggesting pedestrians wear reflective tape and asking motorists to not kill people isn’t getting the job done. To keep kids safe every day, we need streets designed to accommodate them.

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Woman Killed at City Hall’s Doorstep, Right After Ped Safety Ceremony

Priscila “Precy” Moreto, a 67-year-old employee in the City Controller’s Office, was run over and killed by a tour trolley driver within a wide, clearly-marked mid-block crosswalk on Polk Street, leading to the steps of City Hall, at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

About 20 minutes earlier and just across the Civic Center Plaza, at McAllister and Larkin Streets, city officials had just wrapped up a groundbreaking ceremony for pedestrian safety upgrades along two blocks of McAllister. In attendance were D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, and SF County Transportation Authority Director Tilly Chang.

None of those who attended the event, myself included, were apparently aware of the death until they heard reports about it later in the day.

“Yesterday morning, the pedestrian safety crisis hit home at City Hall’s doorstep,” Kim said in a statement today, noting that “the central crosswalk in front of City Hall yields heavy pedestrian traffic as constituents, workers and tourists alike travel to and from this historic building.” Supervisors themselves can often be found using the crosswalk.

Moreto was run over by the driver of a tour vehicle designed to look like a cable car on rubber tires, operated by Classic Cable Car Charters, which issued a statement saying “our thoughts and prayers are with the pedestrian and her family.”

Mayor Ed Lee issued a statement saying that “Precy was a dedicated employee who served our city and residents with great distinction.”

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Boat Owners Gripe as Car-Free Marina Path Moves Forward

Attendees at a community meeting last night in the Marina. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A community meeting held yesterday about plans to remove car parking from a stretch of the Marina pedestrian and bike path was attended by just a couple dozen people, most of whom appeared to be boat owners protesting the move. The Recreation and Parks Department does appear to be moving forward with the plan, despite complaints from some well-connected Marina boaters who have delayed the project for months.

Photo: Matt Dove

Several harbor tenants repeated mostly baseless arguments heard at previous meetings, defending the 51 often-empty parking spots by instead complaining about the behavior of people who bike on the path.

This stretch of path along Marina Boulevard, between Scott and Baker Streets, sits alongside four wide traffic lanes. It’s the only segment of the 500-mile Bay Trail that has car access on it. Only two percent of people using the path park cars on it — the rest walk or bike. Most of those biking appear to be pedaling leisurely on rental bikes, and many of them are children.

But that doesn’t jibe with the narrative of menacing road-hogs told by those like Paul Manning, a harbor tenant.

“I think it’s important that, when bicyclists ask for sharing the road, that it be a combination and not an exclusive use of the road,” Manning told Streetsblog. “In this project in particular, they want to obliterate all the cars and have exclusive use for pedestrians and cyclists, which seems unreasonable.”

“That’s their modus operandi,” said Allen Cavey, in response to Manning. ”They want everybody off, but they can’t get the pedestrians off because they’re on the sidewalk.”

Cavey, who identified as a harbor tenant since 1963, said he’s long fought efforts to take cars off the Marina path, which “really started” in 1996. Cavey was unabashed in his contempt for the SF Bicycle Coalition and in his celebration of keeping cars on the path.

“As a member of the Harbor Tenants Association, I had to rattle down the testy, belligerent, arrogant Bicyclist [sic] Coalition. We won, we prevailed. And we’re still parking on the esplanade. And we’re going through the same thing again.”

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