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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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Daly City Police’s Idea of Vision Zero: Ticketing “Jaywalkers” at BART

Daly City police officers recently targeted people crossing against the walk signal on John Daly Boulevard to reach the Daly City BART Station, just south of the San Francisco border, as seen in a KRON 4 “People Behaving Badly” segment last week.

Commuters crossing against the light when John Daly is clear of traffic are not known to be a major cause of pedestrian crashes. But DCPD’s traffic sergeant told Streetsblog these types of operations are common and driven by collision data, though the data wasn’t on hand.

Officer Rey Asuncion was seen in the segment apparently trying to scare violators into not running into a driver’s path by describing a recent hit-and-run crash that killed an elderly man.

There was no evidence the victim in that crash crossed against a signal, and Asuncion’s description contained several inaccurate details.

“About a month ago, we had a Chinese gentleman who got hit at an intersection in Daly City,” Asuncion said in the segment. “He got struck at that intersection. The vehicle got away, and we have not found the driver, but unfortunately for that gentleman, he died right there at the scene.”

Here are the known facts of the crash he was referring to, according to media reports and DCPD’s traffic sergeant. On Highway 35 near Westridge Avenue on December 14 (four months ago), a driver hit and killed 77-year-old Daly City resident Jose Rosel in a crosswalk. The driver, 40-year-old Joro Petrovmoray, was arrested in February and charged with felony hit-and-run causing death. His vehicle was found an auto body shop where he allegedly sold it after the crash. He has plead not guilty.

DCPD Traffic Division Sergeant Matthew Fox acknowledged that Asuncion “might not be apprised of what detectives have done with that case… maybe he misspoke, but the message was to be safe along these corridors.”

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Abisai May Dzul, 24, Victim of the “Alemany Maze” Highway Tangle

The Alemany Maze. Photo: Chuck B. / my back 40 (feet)

Abisai May Dzul, 24, was killed while walking on an off-ramp in the “Alemany Maze,” the forbidding tangle of freeway ramps where Highways 101 and 280 intersect in the southeast city. The crash occurred on Sunday at about 9 p.m., according to media reports.

Walking up the Highway 101 off-ramp at Alemany Boulevard, Dzul “had been struck by at least one car and possibly a second,” the CA Highway Patrol told Bay City News. Neither of the drivers stopped.

“This Alemany interchange, like the notorious Hairball slightly to the north at Cesar Chavez, is a mess for anyone trying to walk from, say, the popular Farmers Market to catch the #9-San Bruno on Bayshore,” said Fran Taylor, who helped organize CC Puede for safer streets around the “Hairball” junction at Highway 101 and Cesar Chavez.

Last year, D10 Watch author Chris Waddling wrote about the “outright hostile conditions for pedestrians and cyclists” presented by the Alemany Maze and the Hairball, noting that “neither area is currently slated for improvement in the near term.” The Alemany Maze cuts off access between the Portola, Bayview, and Bernal Heights neighborhoods for people walking and biking.

The maze “is in desperate need of attention” from Caltrans and city agencies, Waddling wrote.

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Taxi Driver Kills High School Senior Seana Canavan at Pine and Larkin

Pine and Larkin Streets. Image: Google Street View

Seana Canavan, who would have turned 18 today, was killed by a taxi driver at Pine and Larkin Streets Saturday night at 10:28 p.m., the SF Chronicle reported.

Seana Canavan. Photo via SFGate

Seana Canavan. Photo via SFGate

Canavan was a senior at International High School in Hayes Valley. Sammy Walker, who knew Canavan since they were five, told the Chronicle, “Seana wasn’t just unique because of who she was, but because of what she was — a student, daughter, athlete, artist, comedian, feminist, San Franciscan, believer and my best friend.”

The SFPD told the Chronicle that Canavan “stepped in front of a taxi heading westbound on Pine” when she was hit. The taxi driver stayed at the scene.

On the stretch of Pine where Canavan was hit, drivers cruising along a route with synchronized traffic signals pick up speed on a downhill slope. Pine is a three-lane, one-way street. Like most streets that criss-cross the Tenderloin and nearby neighborhoods like Polk Gulch, where the crash occurred, it is designed primarily to whisk car traffic along.

The Department of Public Health has flagged Pine as one of SF’s “high-injury corridors,” the 6 percent of streets and intersections where 60 percent of severe and fatal pedestrian injuries occur.

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Chinatown Program to Turn Kids Into Safe Streets “Investigators”

Jean Parker Elementary School students at the Chinatown CDC’s Safe Walks to School workshop in 2011. The school will now have a similar regular after-school program. Photo: Deland Chan

A new after-school program will teach kids in Chinatown not just how to survive on car-centric streets — but also how to redesign them.

Students in grades 3 to 5 will learn to act as “city street investigators” in a program launched by the Chinatown YMCA, the Chinatown Community Development Center, the SF Safe Routes to School Partnership, and Walk SF. It will be held in conjunction with a more conventional program teaching students, including grades K-2, how to avoid getting run over by drivers.

“This approach is unique because we’re not stopping at education, we’re thinking of additional ways to empower kids and families with the knowledge they need to assess their transportation system and determine needed improvements to truly achieve Vision Zero and end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement.

Six schools are participating in the program, including Jean Parker Elementary School, which is on Broadway Street, identified by the city as a “high-injury corridor.” A plan to redesign Broadway with pedestrian improvements was completed in 2012, though a construction timeline hasn’t been announced yet. None of the four traffic lanes would be removed, but the plan includes sidewalk bulb-outs and raised crosswalks at some alleys.

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Supervisor Yee Wants to Expand Student Crossing Guard Program

Supervisor Norman Yee wants to see student crossing guards return to schools across the city, five years after the program folded.

Photo via Supervisor Norman Yee's newsletter

Photo via Supervisor Norman Yee’s newsletter

Yee re-launched the program as a pilot last year at three schools in District 7, which includes some of the city’s most suburban neighborhoods. Since last March, students at Commodore Sloat Elementary, Lakeshore Elementary, and Alice Fong Yu Alternative School have participated.

“We have received requests for student crossing guards from two dozen other schools,” said Yee. “Principals, parents and students have commented how pick-up and drop-off times have improved because of the presence and visibility of our student crossing guards.”

Yee requested a hearing “to explore the possibilities of expanding [the program] citywide.” The school crossing guard program has been partially funded by the American Automobile Association, according to a KPIX report on the pilot program last year:

The school crossing guard program faded away citywide in 2010, after AAA moved out of its San Francisco headquarters, but AAA is now providing the neon green hats, sashes and badges that will be worn by the young guards.

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SFMTA Shows Off Vision Zero Upgrades, Promises Quicker Implementation

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin leads state and national transportation officials on a tour today at deadly Market and Sixth Streets. Photo: SFMTA

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin leads state and national transportation officials on a tour today at deadly Market and Sixth Streets. Photo: SFMTA

Several top officials from state and national transportation agencies were in town today to see some of the SFMTA’s latest street safety measures. Meanwhile, local street safety advocates continue to push the SFMTA to pick up the pace on delivering pedestrian and bike safety infrastructure.

At a City Hall committee hearing yesterday, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire reported on some solid steps the agency is taking to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that holds up street safety fixes.

While the reforms are “definitely a work in progress,” Maguire told Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener that the SFMTA has adopted new processes and hired new management to speed up the delivery of safer streets.

“There does need to be a bit of a culture change and a raised expectation that we do need to be doing more, better, faster within MTA if we’re going to reach the Vision Zero goal,” Maguire said.

In recent weeks, he said, project managers at SFMTA and SF County Transportation Authority have attended an “intensive training course” focused on rolling out a “capital project control system,” so that managers at both agencies “are on the same level.” The SFMTA is also hiring a project delivery director to “re-engineer and streamline the project delivery process across the entire Sustainable Streets Division” while “providing a single point of accountability.”

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Leah Shahum Launches “Vision Zero Network” to Raise the Standard for Cities

Leah Shahum, former head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, will head up the Vision Zero Network. Image courtesy of Leah Shahum.

Leah Shahum, former director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, will head up the Vision Zero Network. Photo: Melissa Balmer

Vision Zero — the idea that we should no longer accept traffic deaths and serious injuries — is gaining momentum as a framework for thinking about city streets and transportation, as more American cities adopt the goal of ending traffic fatalities.

But what actually constitutes a Vision Zero policy? What are the best strategies to dramatically reduce traffic violence? Which cities are doing it right, and which are talking the talk without walking the walk?

A new organization, the Vision Zero Network, seeks to help American cities adopt the most effective street safety policies. The organization launched today under the leadership of Leah Shahum, former executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with support from Kaiser Permanente.

The purpose of the Vision Zero Network will be two-fold, says Shahum. First, the group aims to connect officials in leading Vision Zero cities to facilitate the sharing of best practices. Second, it will establish benchmarks to determine whether cities are backing up the rhetoric with real policy action.

“We really want to make sure that there’s a meaningful standard to being a Vision Zero city,” said Shahum. “And that’s not the reality so far. Because this concept is so new.”

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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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SF’s Freeway-Like Streets Increase the Risk From Distracted Drivers

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Image: Zendrive

Image: Zendrive

Distracted driving in SF is no accident. A new map of cell phone use by drivers in SF reveals where drivers are most likely to use a mobile device, increasing the risk of crashes and injuries, and the pattern is unmistakable.

There’s one thing that streets with high rates of distracted driving have in common: They’re designed like freeways.

According to the map created by Zendrive, which “measures driving safety using only the sensors on a driver’s phone,” the streets with the most mobile device use by drivers were overwhelmingly designed as routes to freeways, leading to on-ramps and off-ramps, especially along the Central Freeway that divides the South of Market and Mission districts.

Sections of Duboce, Folsom, Eighth, 10th, and the interchange at Brannan and Division Streets all ranked in the top 10 of distracted driving streets.

Also high up the list were Fell and Oak Streets and 19th Avenue, which act as surface highways. Fell and Oak whisk west side drivers to and from the Central Freeway, and have synchronized traffic signals so drivers don’t have to worry about stopping often.

It stands to reason that wide, multi-lane streets designed to lull drivers into “cruise-control” mode fail to keep their attention. As Tom Vanderbilt wrote in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, “The relative ease of most driving lures us into thinking we can get away with doing other things.

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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.