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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category


San Mateo County TA Rejects Ped Safety Projects But Not Highway Expansions

San Mateo County TA awarded $108 million on October 1 to eight highway expansion projects, still believing we can "build our way out of congestion" on Highway 101. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Mateo County TA awarded $108 million on October 1 to eight highway expansion projects, still believing we can “build our way out of congestion” on Highway 101. Photo: Andrew Boone

With $125 million to lavish on it’s Highway Program this year, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA) has decided to spend $108 million on highway expansion projects while denying funds for major pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements [PDF].

On October 1, the TA Board approved $11 million to reconstruct the Holly/101 Interchange in San Carlos as a partial cloverleaf to accommodate higher traffic volumes, but rejected the city’s $3 million request to include a ped/bike bridge. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the interchange will force people crossing the highway on foot or by bicycle to navigate a series of hazards.

“With the new design of Holly/101, people on bikes still must cross and weave with [auto traffic from] high-speed on and off ramps, and it won’t make people safe and comfortable enough to use walking and bicycling,” Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) Policy Manager Emma Shlaes told the board. “If a true Complete Streets design cannot achieved on the interchange itself, then funding should be provided to alternatives, in this case, the bike and pedestrian overcrossing.”

The pedestrian bridge was declared “not eligible to be funded from the Highway Program” by TA staff, even though the Highway Program has funded many safety improvements included in other projects.

“I certainly would not go so far as to say it would be illegal,” said TA Legal Council Joan Cassman at the board meeting. “But I would say that given the confines of this call for projects, and the rules we established in seeking proposals from sponsor cities to submit requests for grants from this agency for highway projects, we were quite clear that the requests for the projects we were seeking would not include separate bicycle overpass facilities.”

TA staff also defended their decision to deny funds on grounds that several ped/bike-specific funding sources could be used instead [PDF]. But those grant programs are tiny — dwarfed by sums heaped on highway expansions — so most critical safety projects remain unfunded for years or even decades.

Read more…


Governor Signs Bill Banning Tolls on Bridges for Bicyclists and Pedestrians

 Assemblymembers Phil Ting (pictured) and Marc Levine introduced and championed A.B. 40 to ban tolls of bicyclists and pedestrians on bridges. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Ting

Assemblymembers Phil Ting (pictured) and Marc Levine introduced and championed A.B. 40 to ban tolls of bicyclists and pedestrians on bridges. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Ting

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 40, legislation that bans tolling bicycle and pedestrians on bridges that have tolls for cars throughout the state.

While this is a statewide ban, all toll bridges in California are located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Golden Gate, the Antioch, the Benicia-Martinez, the Carquinez, the Dumbarton, and the eastern span of the Bay Bridge have bicycle and pedestrian crossings.  Currently, there are no tolls for cyclists and pedestrians to cross any of these bridges. However, a proposal to place bicycle and pedestrian tolls has come up several times in recent years.

The campaign against the tolls has focused on how biking and walking are good for the environment and should be encouraged, not tolled.

A statement from the bill’s sponsors notes that forty percent of climate changing emissions come from transportation.  In 2014 Bay Area commuters lost over 45 million hours in traffic, wasting $291 million in fuel.  The Golden Gate Bridge is crossed by tens of millions of people each year, with as many as 10,000 pedestrians and 6,000 cyclists crossing each day.  And, 43.6% of tourists report visiting the bridge during their visit to San Francisco.

The signing was met with praise from bicycle and pedestrian advocates.

“Taxpayers save money when more people ride bicycles. We pay for our roads through sales taxes, property taxes, and through all kinds of related costs such as for emergency services, health care, and cleaning up pollution,” explained Dave Snyder, the executive director of CalBike at a rally for the legislation last month.

“We pay less for all this when more people ride bicycles. Bicycling is so good for California, our economy, our health, our environment, that taxpayers would come out ahead if we paid people to bike for short trips instead of drive a car for short trips. We certainly shouldn’t charge them to do it.”

Locally, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was similarly enthusiastic. Read more…

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Peninsula Advocates Push For Vision Zero

Safe streets advocates and local government officials met at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto. Photo: Andrew Boone

A coalition of advocacy groups, local government agencies, and cycling clubs called on cities across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to adopt Vision Zero goals to eliminate traffic fatalities at the recent Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto.

In the ten years from 2004 through 2013, 1,236 people lost their lives in car crashes in the two counties, according to the California Highway Patrol. Every year, more than 1,800 people are injured by drivers while walking or biking. In San Jose, the region’s largest city, 44 people were killed in car crashes in 2014, and another 30 people were killed in the first eight months of 2015 – with pedestrians accounting for more than half the victims.

“No fatality and no major life-altering injury on our roadways is acceptable,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) Deputy Director Colin Heyne.

SVBC and California Walks released their Vision Zero Toolkit [PDF] at the summit, a how-to guide for advocates and city officials based on the “Five E’s” – Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, and Evaluation. The guide describes how cities can prevent serious traffic injuries and deaths resulting from car crashes, based on current best practices in other cities and US Department of Transportation recommendations.

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Sup. Kim Raises Banners to Tell Drivers to Slow Down in SoMa and Tenderloin

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim wants you to know that driving fast in her district is not okay. At a press event today, Kim drew attention to the banners recently raised on 150 street poles telling drivers to slow down in the South of Market and Tenderloin districts.

The “Slow down!” banners feature images of people, including “Mother” Elaine Jones, a community activist who has called for safety measures on deadly streets like Sixth, beneath the words “I live here.”

Kim had the banners created using general funds set aside for District 6. “These banners portray real residents and small business owners uniting across neighborhood lines for a common goal — zero pedestrian deaths by 2024,” she said in a statement, referring to the city’s Vision Zero goals.

“Traffic safety concerns, especially speeding, are the top reason why San Francisco parents choose not to walk or roll with their kids,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said in a statement. “We’re grateful for Supervisor Kim’s initiative in developing this signage, and her leadership in ensuring that streets around schools, such as Bessie [Carmichael Elementary], are prioritized for safety improvements.”

The “Slow down!” banners are part of the Vision Zero publicity campaigns coordinated by the SF Department of Public Health. Though media campaigns alone haven’t been shown to slow drivers significantly, a study released last week by the SFMTA and SFDPH [PDF] found that, when combined with targeted enforcement, they increase the rate of drivers yielding to pedestrians slightly — by 3.2 percent on average.

Redesigning streets has been shown to be far more effective at reducing injuries. But “in addition to the work we’re doing to hard-wire safety into the streets, we can also influence the software, the behavior,” SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin told the SF Chronicle. “It’s encouraging to see that this can actually work.”

“In thinking about Vision Zero and safety, it is important to remember the people who are impacted by traffic fatalities and injuries,” said a statement from SFMTA’s John Knox White, who manages the agency’s Safe Streets SF campaign. Kim’s campaign “does a great job of reminding us why this issue is so important,” he said.


Study: SF’s Severe Traffic Injuries Have Been Heavily Underestimated

The number of severe traffic injuries inflicted on San Francisco’s streets has been grossly underestimated, according to hospital researchers.

In one year, more than 60 percent of San Francisco’s severe traffic injuries were not identified in SFPD reports — until now, the city’s sole source of injury data — according to a new study [PDF] by researchers at the SF Department of Public Health.

A woman injured by driver on Masonic Avenue in 2011. Photo: Matt Smith, SF Weekly

In the 12 months starting at the beginning of April, 2014, 515 patients were admitted for severe traffic injuries at SF General Hospital, site of the city’s only trauma center. Police reports only accounted for about 200 of those injuries.

A person is severely injured in SF traffic every 17 hours on average, said Leilani Schwarcz, the epidemiologist who led the study as part of SFPDH’s Vision Zero team. Of the 515 victims counted in the one-year period, 36 percent were pedestrians, 20 percent were bicyclists, 26 percent were motor vehicle occupants,  and 17 percent were motorcyclists. Sixteen died.

The study defined “severe injuries” as cases where the victim was hospitalized for more than 24 hours. Of those, 10 percent are admitted to a skilled nursing facility for long-term recovery, as was the case for Monique Porsandeh in 2013.

“Those are the people that are most likely suffering long-term disabilities and physically or mentally-life changing events,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara, who said it’s “really shocking that there are so many more life-changing injuries than we thought.”

Schwarcz said the SFMTA funded the SFDPH study to develop a system that combines a range of data sources to more accurately assess the “true burden” of traffic violence. The agencies plan to conduct broader studies on the subject.

Researchers don’t know yet why so many severe traffic injuries have gone unreported. One possible reason offered by Schwarcz was that police officers “aren’t trained medical professionals” and can’t necessarily assess injuries fully. In addition, injuries are sustained on freeways, which are outside SFPD’s jurisdiction, might not be counted. A small number of traffic injuries flagged by SFPDH may be due to solo bike crashes or collisions in BART tunnels, but not enough to account for a significant share of the discrepancy with SFPD’s numbers.

Police reports were “never intended” to provide the sole basis for assessing the extent of traffic injuries, said Schwarcz.

Roughly 800 to 900 pedestrian crashes in total are reported every year, based on police reports. SFPD researchers have long suspected that at least 20 percent of pedestrian injuries go unreported, based on the volume of injuries seen at hospitals.

In 2011, an SFDPH study found that pedestrian injuries impose a cost of about $76 million a year, $15 million of which is for injury treatment alone.


New SFMTA Safe Driving Video Is Required Viewing for City Truckers

The SFMTA has produced the city’s first training video to teach truck and bus drivers safe urban driving practices and highlight the extra care needed to operate in close proximity to people walking and biking on city streets.

The video will be required viewing for all truck and bus drivers employed or contracted by the city, as well as companies that operate under the SFMTA’s private shuttle regulation program. “A variety of private companies will [also] share it with their employees, and the Teamsters union will share it with their locals,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post.

The video explains bike and pedestrian infrastructure like bulb-outs and protected bike lanes, which are relatively new features on SF streets. It also notes the heightened responsibility of truck drivers to keep people safe, due to the weight and blind spots of vehicles like garbage trucks and big rigs.

From the SFMTA:

Although just 4 percent of collisions in San Francisco involved large vehicles from 2007 to 2011, these collisions accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. Collisions between large vehicles are eight times more likely than collisions involving small vehicles to result in death to people walking or biking.

Most of the people killed while biking in San Francisco in recent years were run over by truck or bus drivers, including Amelie Le Moullac, Diana Sullivan, Robert Yegge, Dylan Mitchell, and Cheng Jin Lai. In the past two years, truck drivers have killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a Richmond crosswalk and a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore Street.

Tricia Decker came across an all-too-common scene this morning at 14th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, where a truck driver had struck a female cyclist who “was sitting on the curb surrounded by police officers with her twisted bicycle nearby,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “She was sitting upright and appeared to be conscious and responsive. The mangled bicycle was still partly under a Recology flatbed truck.”

Read more…


How Many People Will Get Hurt If the Masonic Redesign Gets Delayed Again?

Opponents of the safety overhaul of Masonic Avenue complain in particular about removing nine trees on a concrete triangle at Masonic and Geary Street, where a plaza with many more trees (shown) will be built. Image: DPW

Another sorely-needed street safety redesign could be threatened by neighbors protesting the replacement of trees, even though, when all is said and done, the number of trees in the project area will double.

The overhaul of deadly Masonic Avenue could be delayed or altered if the SF Board of Appeals upholds an appeal against tree removal permits at a hearing on Wednesday.

The redesign, which was supposed to start construction this summer, was recently delayed by at least six months, the SF Examiner reported earlier this month. The addition of underground utility upgrades to the scope of work pushed back the start of construction to 2016, with the project scheduled for completion a year later.

The Masonic plan requires the removal of 49 trees, 17 of which are unhealthy and “unsafe,” and the planting of 185 new trees. It’s “a more than three-to-one replacement ratio,” Department of Public Works landscape architect John Dennis said in a statement. Overall, the current count of 145 trees will increase to 282.

“In order to construct our project some trees need to be removed and replaced,” Dennis wrote in an email blast to supporters of the redesign, encouraging them to urge the Board of Appeals to approve the permits. “This is unfortunate, but a small price to pay in exchange for a safer Masonic Street for all users.”

“We have been diligent in our efforts to save existing trees along the corridor,” he added.

As with the Van Ness Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project, which 16 speakers protested last week over tree replacements, a handful of neighbors are threatening to slow down the Masonic plan, which has been in the works since 2010. The Masonic tree removal permits were issued in May, but they were appealed by two neighbors.

If the tree appeal does delay the Masonic projects, it will be another case in which the city’s appeals system has enabled a small group of people to obstruct or delay a project even after extensive vetting via publics meetings, analysis, and city approvals. All it takes is one appellant to bring a major safety effort to a halt.

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SFMTA Proposes a Car-Free Powell Street in Union Square

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has proposed making crowded, traffic-clogged Powell Street in Union Square a car-free street on a trial basis. Removing cars from the equation would make the street function better for pedestrians and cable cars on the blocks between Ellis and Geary Streets.

As we wrote last year, it makes little sense to have cars on Powell, which is seen as San Francisco’s gateway for visitors. On this two-block stretch, private car drivers routinely block bustling crosswalks, create stop-and-go traffic that damages Muni’s world-famous cable cars, and obstruct intersections in the path of the 38-Geary, Muni’s busiest bus line.

The car-free trial has already been delayed due to the Union Square Business Improvement District’s resistance to what it calls a “rushed” timeline and insistence on delivery vehicle access throughout the day.

The SFMTA’s goal “is to have these changes in place before the 2015 holiday shopping season,” with signs and paint installed in November, according to an agency flyer [PDF]. An engineering hearing is tentatively scheduled for October 2, and an SFMTA Board vote on October 20, but agency staff said the dates aren’t confirmed.

The car-free trial was originally listed on an engineering hearing for August 14 but got tabled before the hearing was held.

Union Square BID Executive Director Karin Flood told Hoodline that “the group was concerned about the SFMTA ‘fast-tracking’ the changes without taking into account stakeholder concerns.”

“We are open to the concept of making the area more pedestrian friendly but need to ensure that merchant loading/unloading needs are accommodated and that the timing is right,” Flood wrote in an email to Streetsblog.

Under the proposal, during a 12-18 month trial phase, cars and delivery vehicles would not be allowed on Powell except between midnight and 5 a.m., when cable cars don’t operate. This aligns with how “most business who responded” to an SFMTA survey already handle their deliveries. According to the SFMTA flyer, these businesses “indicated that they conduct their loading on a side street or during late night hours when the cable cars are not running.”

Read more…


Upper Market Street Gets First Phase of Safety Upgrades

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The SFMTA has completed its first wave of safety upgrades on Upper Market Street. The changes include painted sidewalk extensions (a.k.a. “safety zones”), high-visibility crosswalks, and signs prohibiting drivers from turning right at red lights.

SFMTA officials and Supervisor Scott Wiener held a press conference today to mark the completion of the improvements between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street.

The 10 newly-installed safety zones narrow the roadway and reduce crossing distances, which should help calm motor traffic at the three Market intersections where they were installed: 16th/Noe, 15th/Sanchez, and 14th/Church Streets.

Most of Upper Market’s intersections converge with two other streets. The legacy of cars-first design at these complex six-point intersections is a disaster for public safety. Pedestrians must traverse long stretches of pavement in crosswalks regularly blocked by drivers, while drivers often speed up to beat the light.

Upper Market has six wide traffic lanes and a median strip that seems to encourage speeding. Walking and biking were an afterthought in its design.

From 2007 to 2012, motorists injured pedestrians in 27 crashes and injured bicyclists in 32 crashes on Market between Octavia and Castro, according to the SFMTA. During the same period, an additional 102 crashes involved only motor vehicle drivers and passengers.

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SFMTA Approves 2nd Street Protected Bike Lane Redesign, Ponders Car Bans

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Second Street will get raised, protected bike lanes, sidewalk extensions, and Muni boarding islands with a redesign approved yesterday. But SFMTA Board members wonder if car restrictions are needed, too. Image: DPW

The SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday unanimously approved a redesign of Second Street which will remove traffic lanes and add safety upgrades like raised, protected bike lanes and sidewalk extensions. After years of delay, SFMTA Board members and some attendees at the meeting said it may not go far enough, and that the agency should consider car restrictions to prevent private autos from clogging the street.

The redesign [PDF] will remove two of Second Street’s four car traffic lanes and bring one of the city’s first routes with raised bike lanes protected from motor traffic by curbs and parked cars. Muni boarding islands will also be installed to allow buses to make stops in the traffic lanes and passengers to alight without conflicting with bike traffic.

The approval is “a resounding victory for safer SoMa streets,” wrote SF Bicycle Coalition Business and Community Program Manager Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, in a blog post. The SFBC submitted support letters from nearly 100 residents and a dozen businesses on the street, Cosulich-Schwartz told the SFMTA Board, noting that it’s the only north-south bike route in that area of SoMa.

Walk SF’s new policy and program manager, Cathy DeLuca, also lauded the plan. In addition to safer crossings (including removal of dangerous double-turn lanes at Harrison Street), and more room for pedestrians, she noted that the protected bike lanes will “make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to navigate” Second, which is “in the heart of such a fast-growing part of our community.”

The redesign “will give the residents, employees, local business, and visitors who use Second Street the great street they deserve,” Davi Lang, an aide for D6 Supervisor Jane Kim, told the SFMTA Board.

DeLuca noted that the plan for Second is the first street redesign to come out as part of the citywide Green Connections plan.

Second’s redesign has been delayed for years. Most recently, completion was pushed back a year from its previous schedule, to fall of 2017, apparently due to delays in completing the environmental review. Before that, the year-long construction was scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

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