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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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El Camino Real to Remain Deadly

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

San Jose reconstructed the southern 0.5-mile end of El Camino Real with wide medians, pedestrian refuges, and sidewalk curb extensions in October 2014.

On Tuesday, Menlo Park’s City Council postponed a pilot project to replace parallel car parking with buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real, deciding that neighboring Palo Alto and Atherton should also agree on a common design for bike lanes before proceeding with the permitting process required by Caltrans. Despite strong community support to fix the urban highway’s safety hazards, the city remains content with today’s configuration, after 11 public meetings held since April 2014 on the topic.

In late 2014 Atherton approved a similar conversion of two of El Camino’s six lanes through the town into bike/ped paths physically separated from auto traffic. But Atherton’s Town Council put the critical next step to conduct a traffic study with Caltrans of the proposed six-to-four lane conversion on hold in February 2015–just four months after approving it. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District remains staunchly opposed to bike paths and bike lanes on El Camino Real, claiming they’ll threaten residents’ lives by slowing emergency vehicles.

El Camino Real remains the most hazardous street on the San Francisco Peninsula, killing five and severely injuring 20 people in car crashes each year between 2005 and 2014, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS). A traffic safety report published by the San Mateo County Health System last month showed that 18 percent of all collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists occur on El Camino Real, despite the street making up only one percent of total roadway miles in the county. Read more…

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Oakland’s New Parking Protected Bike Lanes Are Challenging to Some

There is a lot going on in the street. Bicyclists now have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

There is a lot going on along Telegraph Avenue, and now bicyclists have a safe place to ride without having to mix with car traffic. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

With a road diet, new parking configuration, and protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue, Oakland is saying to its car drivers: slow down, take it easy. And to its bike riders: you’re welcome here and safe.

Not everyone is listening. The new parking-protected bike lanes have been in place for a week. In that time, it’s been easy to find cars parked in them, driving in them, and blocking bus and loading zones. It will take some time for people to get used to how the new street works, but it’s important to note that bad behavior is old hat on Telegraph Avenue.

Until a week ago, Telegraph had two travel lanes in each direction, plus parking at the curb, with some yellow-painted loading zones and red no-parking zones near crosswalks and at bus stops. During several afternoons of observing travel behavior prior to the changes, I saw a lot of illegal and dangerous maneuvers. At times the right-side travel lane was no more than a defacto double parking lane. Drivers would pull over, get out of their cars, and go into nearby businesses, spending five minutes or more inside. Other drivers, seeing those cars stopped, would pull up behind or in front of them and stop.

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Buses still pull up to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yellow zones were frequently blocked by parked cars, and delivery vehicles double-parked. Meanwhile traffic, including bikes, buses, trucks, and cars, did not slow down, but flowed around obstacles by using the middle lanes. There were no turn lanes, so anyone turning left blocked the through-traffic if it couldn’t go around on the right.

Meanwhile pedestrians had to cross four lanes of moving traffic at intersections with simple crosswalks but no traffic lights. It was a long way, and drivers frequently did not stop. Crossers had to wait until traffic in both directions was clear, and there was no place to pause in the middle of the road.

In other words, it was a busy, chaotic scene that flowed because it had a rhythm to it, but involved a fair amount of bad behavior and danger. It sort of worked for through-traffic because people found a way around obstacles, but it put everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists, at risk.

As of last week, with the changes almost complete, there is only one lane of through-traffic in each direction. There’s also a painted median with turn lanes at many—though not all—of the cross streets, so left-turning cars can get out of the way of moving traffic. Cars no longer park at the curb—that is, they are no longer supposed to park at the curb. Instead a bike lane lines the curb, with a three-foot painted buffer to its left. Cars park left of that buffer, leaving a wide space for bikes to travel without having to mix with fast car traffic. Read more…

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San Francisco Needs to Get Out of the Car Storage Business

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Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Free private automobile storage on transit routes makes for inherently dangerous conditions. Image: Wikimedia

Marco Salsiccia is a blind resident of the Sunset District. Last month, while stepping off an L-Taraval train at a stop without a boarding island, he got his cane stuck in the wheel well of a car as it illegally passed the train. His cane snapped in two. The motorist stopped briefly and then took off. Salsiccia emailed his San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang about the incident:

Today’s situation could easily have been much worse. I could have been injured, maimed, or even killed. If this happened to me, I imagine similar—if not worse—things have occurred to others in the highly-trafficked area.

Indeed, worse things have happened. Salsiccia had his foot run over by a driver a few years earlier while he crossed Taraval from Safeway (fortunately, he only suffered some bruising). As Streetsblog previously reported, SFMTA data shows that 22 people have been hit getting off trains on Taraval just in the past five years.

Streetsblog reached out to Tang’s office to get her take on the rate of improvements on Taraval under SFMTA’s Muni Forward program. Streetsblog will update this post if a reply is received. But this was part of her reply to Salsiccia’s email:

Please know that there is currently an intensive planning process happening to plan for future safety improvements along the L-Taraval, including proposals for boarding islands. Along with that have been other ideas for how we can properly train/educate drivers about slowing down near trains where passengers are getting on/off the trains, and stopping behind the train when this occurs.

If that seems a bit wishy washy, there’s a reason. As previously reported, there’s resistance to boarding islands because they require taking away (or relocating) street parking. And this gets local merchants up in arms.

Read more…

Streetsblog LA
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Parents Restrict Toy Guns, Why Not Restrict Toy Cars? #StreetsR4Families

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

If only all cars were as puffy and harmless as this one. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Many parents, including me and my mother, don’t let their kids play with toy guns. We believe that guns aren’t good for kids. They inure children to the danger inherent to guns.

But what about toy cars?

I write about transportation, so I am no expert on guns. From a little online research, here’s what I found. On an annual basis in the United States, cars have killed more people than guns. Since the 1960s, car deaths are trending downward. Gun deaths are trending upward. For the past half-decade, though, cars and guns each killed more than 30,000 people per year in the U.S.

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

U.S. Car deaths have historically been greater than gun deaths. Currently each accounts for roughly 30,000 deaths per year. Image via Bloomberg

But whether cars or guns kill more isn’t the question. It doesn’t matter which serial killer has the lower body count. Both kill.

We restrict our kids from playing with guns. We allow our kids to cuddle with, read about, and watch cartoons about cars.

Car toys are ubiquitous. Cars are in movies, on television, in video games, and books. Kids play with toy cars, ride in toy cars, clutch stuffed toy cars as they fall asleep. My mom encouraged my siblings and me to play car-race video games as an alternative to shoot-em-up video games.

What messages are all these toy cars giving to our children? Read more…

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Mission Businesses Tussle with Transit Advocates over Bus Lanes

SFMTAs newly painted transit lanes on Mission are raising the ire of many. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA’s newly painted transit lanes on Mission are raising the ire of many. Image: SFMTA

Businesses in the Mission are complaining to Supervisor David Campos about the new “Red Carpet” painted transit lanes. And there’s already talk about taking them out. The San Francisco Transit Riders Union (SFTRU) reacted in an email blast last week:

Starting in March, after a decade of numerous community discussions, planning and studies, Muni finally started installing transit priority treatments on Mission Street. Just a month in and despite flagrant violations by drivers, they are already benefiting riders by making their rides faster and more reliable.

However, there has been a major backlash against these changes, and some, in particular Supervisor Campos, have called for rollback of this major progress. It is a betrayal of the 65,000 riders who are served by the 14, 14R and 49 buses, as well as a betrayal of the Transit First charter of this city.

This is what Campos had to say about the lanes on his Facebook page:

While I understand the intention was to enhance the commute of 65,000 transit riders, the changes look better on paper than in practice. I have heard from many of you–car commuters frustrated by traffic jams that stretch multiple blocks…That’s why I’m calling on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make a radical shift in the program. We look forward to announcing a solution shortly. In the meanwhile, please email your concerns to the SFMTA at matthew.brill@sfmta.com.

The SFTRU is pretty peeved that Campos is even suggesting undoing the results of all their hard work. They’ve set up a web page, letting transit-supporters know how to stop this roll back. As the SFTRU put its outrage:

The paint has hardly dried. Yet the transit only lanes on Mission Street may go away soon. If prioritizing transit is not possible on Mission Street, one of Muni’s key corridors, then will we ever see Muni become world-class system in our lifetimes?

But let’s back up a second. Do the business owners who say the transit lanes make it harder to drive to their shops and are keeping away customers, really have a basis to complain?

Read more…

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Planning for the Future of San Francisco’s Hub Neighborhood

Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.

Map of the HUB. Image: SF planning department.

About a hundred planners, developers, neighbors, and interested citizens crowded into a conference room at One South Van Ness yesterday evening for a presentation from the San Francisco Planning Department on their plans for the area immediately around the intersection of Market and Van Ness, also known as the Hub.

The Hub, of course, got its name back in the 1800s, when four trolley lines converged there. And, as John Rahaim, Planning Director for San Francisco, reminded everyone at the start of the meeting, it remains a major transit hub for bikes, Muni trains and buses, and BART.

“We felt it was time to take a fresh look at this portion of the plan,” he said to the group, noting the the Hub neighborhood is also part of the larger Market and Octavia Area Plan adopted in 2008.

So why is the planning department paying special attention to the Hub and, in effect, creating a plan within a plan? Rahaim said they hoped to move more quickly with this area that is such a focus of activity, with its many transit lines, including dedicated Bus Rapid Transit coming to Van Ness, and its proximity to the Opera House and Symphony.

“We felt this part of the plan needed another look to create new open spaces and improve sidewalks,” he explained.
Read more…

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How to Get Vision Zero Working: a Talk with Walk SF’s Nicole Ferrara

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Supervisor London Breed and Nicole Ferrara address volunteers at a Walk to Work Day Event in Hayes in San Francisco, California - Photo: Walk SF/Jonathan Fong

Supervisor London Breed (red skirt) and Nicole Ferrara (red shoes) address volunteers at a Walk to Work Day Event in Hayes in San Francisco, California – Photo: Walk SF/Jonathan Fong

A little less than a week ago, Walk San Francisco held its fourth annual “Walk to Work Day” events. The idea is to get people more aware of the health benefits of walking. From Walk SF’s promotion:

Walking at least 15 minutes of your commute counts! Start your healthy walking habit and get rewarded at one of the Walk to Work Day “hubs” across the city. Stop by for a FREE Clipper Card, totes, coffee, or breakfast snack, and much more!

While there was reason to celebrate walking in San Francisco, this year’s event came shortly after a sobering piece in the San Francisco Chronicle listed a spate of road deaths in early 2016:

In addition to the six pedestrian deaths, three people in a car were killed in a Super Bowl Sunday crash on a city street, and a cable car operator hit by an allegedly drunken motorcyclist in June 2015 died of his injuries in January.

As the article made clear, people just keep getting hurt and killed despite San Francisco’s efforts to make its streets safer. The Chronicle cited safe-streets advocates as putting the blame on a system that prioritizes parking availability over safety; a critique Streetsblog has levied for some time:

Vision Zero, San Francisco’s ambitious program to eliminate traffic deaths, is off to a rough start this year — with six people in crosswalks struck and killed by cars and accusations that the Municipal Transportation Agency is protecting parking instead of pedestrians. [emphasis added]

After the story came out, Streetsblog sat down with Nicole Ferrara, Executive Director of Walk SF, and a leading activist for safer streets, to ask if she agreed with its conclusions and, if so, why she thinks Vision Zero isn’t having a more tangible effect.

Streetsblog: So you saw the Chronicle story. Is it right to conclude that the Vision Zero efforts, so far, have failed?

Ferrara: It’s been a little over two years since we started Vision Zero. There are a couple of things that point to certain treatments that are working–the SFMTA has started to evaluate and they are showing positive results in terms of yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk. That, plus speeding, are the top two causes of death and serious injury. However, I think we don’t have a ton of projects in the ground that are comprehensive yet.
Read more…

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An Open Letter to Chief Suhr from Streetsblog

Is this Chief Suhr's car parked in the red zone in front of City Hall? Image: A tipster.

Is this Chief Suhr’s car parked in the red zone in front of City Hall? Image: A tipster.

Dear Chief Suhr,

We hope you are okay.

This afternoon, at roughly 1:10, a tipster took some photographs of this silver car parked in the red zone in front of City Hall and sent them to us. Your business card was displayed in the wind screen.

We at Streetsblog just want to make sure you and everyone at City Hall are okay.

Obviously, if it’s your car, you must have been responding to an emergency. Why else would you park in the red zone? As you know, these red zones are there for a reason: to maintain visibility and safety. This is especially pertinent at this cross walk, which was given safety upgrades after the death of 68-year-old Priscila Moreto, who was struck and killed some two years ago, a few feet from where the car was parked today.

Now, we know safety is your number one priority. You say as much regularly, when referring to your concerns about the bike yield proposal, for example. And as you’ve pointed out, it’s also important that pedestrians are attentive, lest they get run over, maimed, or killed because of law-abiding people, such as yourself, operating two-to-20-ton motorized machines.

Of course, there’s another, more insidious possibility–but we don’t think this is really possible for a police chief in a major, progressive city such as San Francisco. It could be that someone took your card and is using it to break the law. And we know you don’t tolerate anyone besmirching the good name of the department, by breaking the law under its banner. If that’s the case, we trust you’ll get to the bottom of this and punish the miscreant.

Regardless, we thank you for participating in yesterday’s Walk to Work event and for keeping us safe.

Sincerely,

Streetsblog San Francisco.

Maybe somebody used his card without permission? Image: a tipster.

Maybe somebody used his card without permission? Image: a tipster.

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Sunday Streets Are Back!

Last year's Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: SFMTA

Last year’s Sunday Streets event in the Mission. Photo: SFMTA

This weekend will mark the ninth season of Sunday Streets, San Francisco’s open-streets event. The festivities start at 11 am and go until 4 on Valencia Street between McCoppin and 26th.

Here are more details from the Sunday Streets Facebook page:

Help kick off the Sunday Streets 2016 season at Mission Sunday Streets on April 10th from 11am-4pm. Walk, bike, dance, play and explore your way down Valencia Street from McCoppin to 26th Street!

For a list of activities, visit:
www.SundayStreetsSF.com/Mission-041016

JOIN THE OPENING PROCESSION
11am @ McCoppin & Valencia with Carnaval San Francisco
New to 2016, Sunday Streets will be kicking off each route with an Opening Procession lead by Host Neighborhood community groups. Join the celebration with a bedazzled bike, a proud pooch, bubbles or simply a smile – the more the merrier!

GET INVOLVED
For information on volunteering, visit:
www.SundayStreetsSF.com/volunteer

For information about hosting an activity, visit:
www.SundayStreetsSF.com/faqs-activity-leaders/

For local access concerns, contact:
SundayStreets@livablecity.org

And if you can’t make it this weekend, there will be plenty of other opportunities to enjoy a car-free Sunday Streets event in San Francisco:

  • May 1 Bayview/Dogpatch
  • June 12 Sunset (on the Great Highway)
  • July 10 Tenderloin
  • August 21 Mission
  • October 16 Excelsior
  • September 11 Western Addition
  • November 13 The Embarcadero

You can also print out this handy flyer. Hope we’ll see you there, from all of us at Streetsblog!

Streetsblog USA
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Photographic Proof That America Can Make Streets for People Instead of Cars

Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut

Walking across Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, got a lot more inviting with these sidewalk extensions and painted crosswalks. Before/after via Google Street View and URB-I

Need some inspiration to make your city’s streets safer and more inviting?

Here’s a good place to start: URB-I, a collective of urban designers based in São Paulo, has been collecting before and after images of street transformations using Google Street View’s time lapse feature. The stockpile has grown to include 1,000 places around the world, including 107 in the United States. Below we’ve curated a selection of street redesign porn from URB-I’s library.

Like this one from Chicago — a parking crater by W Monroe Street transformed into a park:

Read more…