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List of Projects Poised for Funding From CA’s Active Transportation Program

The California Transportation Commission recommended 145 bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs for funding from the new Active Transportation Program, including this pedestrian-cyclist-equestrian bridge over the L.A. River. Image from LARRC

The California Transportation Commission has released a list of recommended projects that could get funding from the state’s Active Transportation Program. The ATP is a new statewide grant program that funds bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout California. The list is expected to be approved by the full CTC at its August 20 meeting.

Under the ATP, the CTC is preparing to distribute $221 million for projects and programs in two categories: a statewide competition and a separate competition for small rural and urban projects. A third category of funds will be distributed later this year through the state’s largest Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) (more on that below).

The $221 million for the first two categories will be matched by another $207 million in local matching funds, yielding a total of $426 million in bike and pedestrian projects that will get the green light in the first two-year funding round. The 145 successful applications include 124 statewide projects [PDF] and 21 small rural and urban projects [PDF].

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Another Death on El Camino, While Atherton Bike/Ped Plan Stays Tabled

The “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” installed last year on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, where resident Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed while crossing the street two weeks ago. Image: Google Maps

32-year-old Shahriar Rahimzadeh was struck and killed by the driver of a red 2000 Volvo S40 sedan while walking across El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue near his home in Atherton two weeks ago. It was exactly the type of high-speed, fatal collision that could have been prevented either by crosswalk improvements that Caltrans is dragging its feet on, or by the comprehensive redesign of El Camino proposed by the town’s draft bicycle and pedestrian plan. That plan still awaits approval from the Town Council, more than four months after its review in April.

“Mr. Rahimzadeh was struck hard enough to be thrown some distance from the site of the collision,” Atherton Police Sergeant Sherman Hall told The Almanac. Hall also noted that “we’re not able to place him in the crosswalk,” despite one eyewitness who described seeing both a puddle of blood in the crosswalk, and the Volvo stopped just a few feet past the crosswalk. Shahriar Rahimzadeh survived five hours before dying at Stanford Hospital at 8:40 p.m.

Shahriar Rahimzadeh (left) died on July 23, five hours after being struck by a car driver while walking across El Camino Real in Atherton. Photo: Reza Iranmanesh, via The Almanac

The 1.6-mile stretch of El Camino Real that cuts through the low-density residential town presents an ongoing hazard to residents walking or bicycling — especially for anyone crossing the six-lane arterial street anywhere other than at the sole traffic signal, at Atherton Avenue and Fair Oaks Lane. In October 2012, two women were seriously injured by an SUV driver while walking together across El Camino, in the crosswalk at Isabella Avenue. Two years earlier, 55-year-old Honofre Mendoza and 62-year-old Christopher Chandler were killed by drivers in separate crashes at the same intersection.

After the October 2012 injuries, Atherton officials began lobbying a reluctant California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to implement safety improvements, resulting in “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” at the town’s five existing crosswalks on El Camino — including Almendral Avenue, where Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed on July 23.

Caltrans also agreed to install pedestrian hybrid beacons on El Camino at Almendral Avenue and Isabella Avenue, but only after Atherton town staff insisted on a solution that would require drivers to come to a complete stop for pedestrians crossing the street. Pedestrian hybrid beacons are similar to standard traffic signals: They display yellow, then red, lights to stop vehicle traffic after being activated via a push-button by a person wishing to cross the street on foot or by bike. Caltrans agreed to pay for, and install, the beacons at a cost up to $150,000 for each intersection — but not until 2017. Caltrans engineers initially proposed using much cheaper rectangular rapid flashing beacons, which flash yellow lights from a roadside sign but do not require drivers to stop.

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Ocean Ave to Get Spruced Up, But Real Transformation Will Have to Wait

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Ocean and Geneva Avenues, outside the City College Main Campus. Photo via the SF Planning Department

City planners are shaping up plans for Ocean Avenue, following public workshops that will help develop a vision for both near-term and long-term improvements. The near-term plans, for the commercial stretch of Ocean west of Phelan Avenue and the City College campus, are far along in their development. Meanwhile, a long-term plan for the remainder of the avenue, stretching eastward to the Balboa Park BART Station, is still in its earlier stages.

Thus far, no major changes have been proposed on Ocean. Most of the street has narrow sidewalks, no bike lanes, and heavy car traffic turning from 280 — making the street dangerous to cross and snarling Muni. A separate plan is in the works to remove and re-configure those ramps years down the road, but a redesign of Ocean could present the opportunity to free up room for walking, biking, and transit.

On Ocean between Manor and Phelan Avenues, the near-term plans — set for construction next spring — include a handful of bulb-outs, new sidewalk greenery, seating, and other street fixtures at three “key” T-intersections: Ashton, Capitol, and Granada Avenues. At those intersections, Lily Langlois, the Planning Department’s project manager, said “the street dead-ends at Ocean, so there’s this kind of focal point, and an opportunity to build on that street pattern by creating those community gathering spaces.”

Community members have already taken proactive measures to improve the public realm on Ocean. Today, an event was held to celebrate a mobile parklet that was developed, designed, and built by high school students from the Youth Art Exchange. It will be placed in front of at least five different local businesses, six months at a time, starting at Fog Lifter Cafe.

Alex Mullaney, publisher of the neighborhood newspaper The Ingleside Light, said he helped push the Department of Public Works to create a plan for streetscape improvements on long-neglected Ocean, and created the Ocean Avenue Association’s Street Life Committee.

The near-term streetscape improvements “will go a long way to modernize Ocean Avenue, and bring it up to speed with a number of other neighborhoods,” he said. ”The new landscaping and amenities will improve quality of life and slow down traffic. Ocean Avenue has one of the highest vacancy rates in the city, along with three extremely dangerous intersections. I have zero doubt that the near-term project will turn around those two issues.”

A mobile parklet now sits on Ocean and will be moved every six months. Photo: Youth Art Exchange via Facebook

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Reckless Driver Leaves Urban Data Maven Zachary Watson Fighting for Life

Zachary Watson seen in a panel discussion about Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network, which he helped map in 2012. Image: ZERO1 via Youtube

Zachary Watson, a noted 29-year-old city data visualizer, remains hospitalized in critical condition after a driver fleeing police in a stolen minivan caused a two-car wreck Monday night. Watson was apparently walking with his bike or locking it up when the vehicles hurtled toward him. He is known for creating works like a map of private shuttles that connect San Francisco to Silicon Valley.

Watson's bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

Watson’s bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

The crash occurred at Post and Jones Streets at about 10:15 p.m. Police had attempted to pull over Anthony Wisner, 25, at Post and Hyde Streets, according to reports. The officers did not pursue Wisner, but he sped through red lights and crashed into a taxi at Post and Jones, sending the two vehicles flying into Watson and one other pedestrian. All six people involved were injured, but Watson was the only one to suffer life-threatening injuries.

Although Watson was found with his bicycle and wearing a helmet, there is reason to believe he was not on the bike when he was hit, according to social media posts by Marc Caswell, a former staff at the SF Bicycle Coalition who is a friend and former roommate of Watson’s. Watson may have been walking with or unlocking the bike.

Wisner was reportedly caught by police attempting to flee on a 38-Geary Muni bus, and faces ten felony charges.

Watson, who is currently employed by the Exploratorium, previously worked for Stamen Design, where he helped create a map of Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network that gained attention in the transportation planning world in 2012. He was one of three members on a panel about the role of private shuttles in December 2012, along with Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck and SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan.

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Santa Clara County Still Plans to Widen Expressways, Despite Lower Traffic

Traffic congestion has worsened on Lawrence Expressway over the past decade, but has remained steady or lessened along Santa Clara County’s other urban expressways. Photo: Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is still operating under plans that assume it can build its way out of traffic congestion by adding more lanes of traffic, plus new overpasses and underpasses, to the county’s 62 miles of expressways — dangerous arterial roadways that were “upgraded” decades ago with freeway-like ramps and overpasses. This is in stark contrast to the 21st-century approach taken by other cities and transit agencies in the region, which are planning for reduced traffic volumes by centering future urban growth around transit corridors and high-quality networks for walking and bicycling.

The county is still in the preliminary stages of its Expressways Plan 2040 — a long-term plan to “improve” the county’s system of eight 1960′s-era expressways, which “were designed to relieve local streets and supplement the freeway system.” The current expressways plan is a 2008 update of a 2003 planning study, which identified and prioritized among a long list of highway expansion projects that could meet “expressway needs.” Those “needs,” of course, consisted of reducing traffic delays at intersections for drivers.

“The Santa Clara County Expressway Master Plan has historically promoted additional auto capacity and grade separations (separating cars from local cross-traffic to increase their throughput), with limited accommodation for other types of travelers,” SPUR stated in its July report on strategies to improve transportation in the South Bay. “Future expressway master plans should aim for a multi-modal expressways system that is integrated with local efforts to grow sustainable, multi-modal communities.”

Santa Clara County maintains a network of eight expressways, and is coordinating plans to widen and extend Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hale Avenue to Gilroy. Image: Santa Clara County

“Going back to the 1960′s, the expressways were built with the intention of carrying automobiles,” said Santa Clara County Transportation Planner Dawn Cameron. “For over two decades, we’ve been working at what is basically retrofitting an expressway system that was built fifty years ago.”

The 2003 and 2008 plans did recommend new sidewalks, better crosswalks, improved signal timing, and striping changes, all of which would reduce hazards for walking and biking across or along the expressways. Long crossing distances and high speed traffic make the expressways inherently dangerous to walk or bicycle along, or even just to cross.

Twenty-six-year-old Daniel Campbell was killed in April while walking across Capitol Expressway at Seven Trees Boulevard in south San Jose, in what KTVU called a “hit and run accident.” In June, 51-year-old Richard Yanis was severely injured after being struck by a hit-and-run driver just two miles away, on Capitol Expressway at Silver Creek Road.

Despite this clear danger, projects to reduce hazards for people walking or bicycling remain a low funding priority for the expressways, comprising three percent of the estimated $2.5 to $2.8 billion in capital program funding needs identified by the 2008 plan.

In comparison, sound walls and landscaping would receive four percent of funds, and the remaining 93 percent of funds would be spent on increasing vehicle capacity.

Meanwhile, traffic congestion seems to be going away on its own, without billions of dollars in new construction.

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Court Applies Reckless Driving to Bikes. When Will Gascón Apply it to Cars?

A California state appeals court ruled last week that “reckless driving” can be applied to people on bicycles who kill or injure others, just as it’s applied to people driving, as the SF Chronicle reported. No one, including bicycle advocates, seems to dispute that full accountability should be brought to anyone who commit acts of traffic violence — but the reality is, drivers who maim and kill rarely ever face penalties.

DA George Gascón in a Streetfilm in 2010, when he went on a bike ride with advocates. He was the SFPD chief at the time.

There are countless such examples. One of the most egregious is the case of 29-year-old Kieran Brewer, who killed 17-year-old Hanren Chang in a crosswalk on Slot Boulevard while he drove drunk, and was sentenced to just six months in prison. Or consider Gilberto Alcantar, who will face no charges for illegally turning his truck across a bike lane and killing 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac at Sixth and Folsom Streets. SF District Attorney George Gascón claims that despite video of the crash, prosecutors can’t make an adequate case to file charges.

“Prosecution of deadly traffic crashes needs to be investigated, and prosecuted, to the fullest extent in order to reflect the severity of traffic crimes,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We also need to ensure fair and equal enforcement across modes, which historically had not happened.”

As the Center for Investigative Reporting reported last year, 60 percent of the 238 motorists “found to be at fault or suspected of a crime faced no criminal charges” between 2006 and 2011 in five Bay Area counties:

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Watch: ABC 7 Talks With Officials, Advocates Supporting Vision Zero

ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings talked to some of San Francisco’s key city officials and advocates about Vision Zero, the campaign to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024, on her show “Beyond the Headlines” Sunday.

ABC's Cheryl Jennings speaks with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Image: ABC 7

ABC’s Cheryl Jennings speaks with SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Image: ABC 7

Pedestrian and bike safety was the theme of the half-hour show, during which Jennings interviewed SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin; the family of Dylan Mitchell, who was killed on his bike by a truck driver in the Mission; SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali; and Cheryl Brinkman, vice chair of the SFMTA Board of Directors. Jennings also spoke with Caltrain spokesperson Christine Dunn, who addressed the issue of deaths at railroad crossings.

The show begins with a segment featuring Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who explains why streets like Van Ness Avenue are so dangerous. It’s a great overview of street safety in SF, especially for folks just getting introduced to the issues.

“If we don’t do something different,” Reiskin said, people will continue to die while getting around on SF’s streets. “We’re absolutely committed to doing something different, to redesigning our streets.”

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Avalos Ready to Champion Freeway Ramp Closures at Balboa Park Station

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The 280 freeway on-ramp at Geneva Avenue next to Balboa Park Station would be removed under the recommendations of an SFCTA study. Photo: SFCTA

Balboa Park Station could become a safer transit hub by 2020 if the city moves forward with proposals to close one freeway ramp and re-align another, as recommended in a study recently completed by the SF County Transportation Authority. Although the proposal hasn’t received much public attention, it’s sure to face a tough political fight when it’s eventually implemented, said D11 Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the SFCTA. Avalos said the project is worth implementing, and he’s eager to champion the plans as soon as they can move forward.

Supervisor John Avalos. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

“It’s a political problem how to implement these changes around the station. People want things to be different, but they don’t want any change,” said Avalos. “The trade-offs, they see as really harmful to the neighborhoods.”

The SFCTA study proposes altering freeway ramps, changing traffic signals, and a new frontage road for loading — changes that were vetted by the Balboa Park Community Advisory Committee. The study notes, “With strong support, consensus, and high priority from the community, agencies, and elected officials, the initial pilot projects could begin in 2016, with full implementation by 2020.”

Avalos’s term in office will end in late 2016, but he said he hopes to help move the freeway ramp changes forward before he leaves. ”I have two-and-a-half years of office left, and I want to be part of actually getting some implementation on these changes,” he said.

The goal of the SFCTA study was to find ways to make the streets safer around Balboa Park Station, which is surrounded by car traffic moving to and from six nearby freeway ramps. Even though 24,000 people use the station daily to ride Muni and BART — it’s BART’s busiest station outside of downtown SF — it seems to be designed as an afterthought to the 280 freeway. Many commuters exiting the station walk or bike to City College’s main campus.

“The neighborhood has long suffered from its cluster of poorly-designed freeway on- and off-ramps,” said Livable City Director Tom Radulovich, a member of the BART Board of Directors. ”We finally have a definite and buildable proposal for the freeway ramps that will reduce the burden that they impose.”

Through the study, planners and CAC members explored several options for re-configuring the freeway ramps. The favored option would remove one of the two northbound on-ramps, at Geneva Avenue. A curved southbound off-ramp that slings cars onto westbound Ocean Avenue would also be removed and replaced by a new ramp that approaches the street at a head-on 90-degree angle. That new intersection would be signalized.

This proposal originally called for closing the second off-ramp that touches down at Geneva, but that idea was dropped.

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Outer Sunset Kids Urge Drivers to Slow Down Through DA-Funded Program

Kids are out on outer Noriega Street this month urging drivers to “Keep Sunset Slow.” Photo: SNBC

“Keep Sunset Slow” — that’s the message from kids in the Outer Sunset urging drivers to slow down and save lives this month.

Elementary school students held their first event last week, part of a pedestrian safety campaign coordinated by the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center and the Outer Noriega Merchants Association. Though it’s a quiet beachside neighborhood, the Outer Sunset’s streets are notorious for their wide expanses of asphalt that encourage drivers to speed.

“Many of the youth and families in our community have to walk while commuting and it is essential that people feel safe getting around the Sunset,” said Matt Pemberton, director of SNBC, which is a member of the merchants association. The “Keep Sunset Slow” campaign, he said, is intended to “empower [youth] to be their own advocates and encourage community members to take more care while driving by following the speed limit, stopping at stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians when they are behind the wheel in the Sunset.”

“It’s wonderful to see that the merchants have taken upon their own initiative to really try to slow down the traffic in the area,” said District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang. “The area by Outer Noriega has really changed a lot over the past few years. There are now some really great businesses in the area, and it’s brought a whole lot more foot traffic.”

“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Now we need to make sure that drivers are aware and used to that, and that they really exercise caution when using the road.”

The program, planned to run through July, was funded by $3,000 from District Attorney George Gascón’s office, which issued grants from its Neighborhood Justice Fund to 11 community groups last month. The revenue comes from restitution funds collected from Neighborhood Court directives, according to the DA’s office.

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Bus Stops and Crosswalks: Does Mayor Lee Care Where His Car is Parked?

Ed Lee is at it again. After the mayor’s car was found parked in a Muni bus stop, he was spotted entering the vehicle while it blocked a crosswalk.

SF Weekly and the SFGate Blog reported that Mayor Lee was photographed yesterday by a Twitter user as he entered his Chevy Volt, which his driver had stopped in a crosswalk at Noriega Street and 46th Avenue in the Outer Sunset. Lee was apparently visiting a merchant at the corner, and seemed not to worry about his vehicle blocking a designated pedestrian crossing.

As we reported last week, Lee’s car was found in a Muni stop, while he ordered food at a taqueria outside Glen Park BART. Mayoral spokesperson Christine Falvey said that Lee had “was dropped off and he expected that the vehicle would have been parked in a legal parking space,” even though the driver apparently left the car with Lee. Falvey said the SFPD officer driving the car was “admonished,” adding that “the mayor believes this is unacceptable and steps have been taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Given that it did happen again, it’s quite apparent that pedestrian safety and efficient Muni operations are not on the mayor’s radar as he makes his way around the city. Even though the mayor isn’t driving the car himself, he’s now missed at least two opportunities to ask his chauffeur to not illegally park, and thus insult people who walk or ride Muni.

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