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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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SMCTA: East Palo Alto Can’t Use Highway Money for Safe Crossing at Less Cost

East Palo Alto wants to save money and build a ped/bike bridge over Highway 101 at the University Avenue interchange, but the SMCTA says it can’t use its highway grant for that. Image: AECOM

East Palo Alto is the latest city to be prohibited by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA) from using highway funds to build a bike and pedestrian bridge across a highway.

In this case, city planners actually found a way to cut costs on a planned ramp expansion at the Highway 101 interchange at University Avenue and use the savings to build an overcrossing for people on foot and bike. But according to East Palo Alto officials, the TA insists that its $5 million Highway Program grant must be spent primarily on highway lanes — not safe highway crossings.

Rather than build a new off-ramp, the city wants to add a second right turn lane to its existing off-ramp, which would move cars at least as quickly, according to a 2014 traffic study. (A note of clarification: This project is separate from the bike/ped bridge planned to the south of the University interchange, at Newell Road and Clarke Avenue.)

“The TA feels that the funding for Measure A highway operations is not flexible and cannot be used towards ped/bike improvements,” East Palo Alto Senior Engineer Maziar Bozorginia wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “The City believes that by providing a safer ped/bike route through this section, it would help to reduce conflicts and congestion on the highway system.”

With the money saved from forgoing construction of a new highway ramp, East Palo Alto could build a new bike/ped bridge. The rest of the funds for the interchange project would come from a $1.8 million federal grant awarded to the city in 2003.

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Noe Valley Gets Sidewalk Extensions and Decorative Crosswalks on 24th

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Photo: Aaron Bialick

City officials celebrated new brick-trimmed crosswalks and sidewalk bulb-outs on 24th Street in Noe Valley at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.

The changes will make for a more pedestrian- and transit-friendly environment on Noe Valley’s commercial corridor. At Castro and Noe Streets, the transit bulb-outs — curb extensions at bus stops — will help speed up Muni’s 24 and 48 lines.

Supervisor Scott Wiener speaking at the ribbon-cutting today. Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter

Supervisor Scott Wiener speaking at the ribbon-cutting today. Photo: Scott Wiener/Twitter

“Property owners and merchants have invested heavily in streetscape improvements” on 24th in recent years, and the latest upgrades “keep the momentum going,” said Noe Valley Association Executive Director Debra Niemann in a statement. “That’s one of the reasons Noe Valley appeals to many as a place to live and as a shopping destination.”

“The commercial heart of Noe Valley is 24th Street, one of the great neighborhood corridors in San Francisco,” said D8 Supervisor Scott Wiener in a statement. “It’s a community destination to shop and eat and to catch up with neighbors. These streetscape improvements make 24th Street safer, more attractive and more welcoming for residents and visitors.”

Completion of the “24th Street Urban Village” project, led by the Department of Public Works, was delayed from last fall. The project also includes new benches and planters on the bulb-outs, and was paid for with $560,000 from the $248 million street re-paving bond passed by voters in 2011.

“One of the most important investments we can make in our communities is making our neighborhood streets safer,” said a statement from SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, who called the improvements “significant upgrades for pedestrian safety that will help us reach our citywide Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths.”

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As Long as Speed Is King, People Will Get Hurt at Oak, Fell, and Masonic

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Photo: Andy Bosselman

Photo: Andy Bosselman

There’s no mystery to why drivers continue to run people over where Masonic Avenue crosses the Panhandle, at Oak and Fell Streets. The three streets are designed like residential freeways, yet the city has no plans to remove traffic lanes to slow speeds and reduce injuries.

On Wednesday, a driver hit two joggers at Oak and Masonic in the Panhandle crosswalk at about 7:15 p.m.

Hoodline reports:

According to the SFPD, the pedestrians were running across the street against a red light when they were struck by the vehicle, a silver Toyota Prius.

One victim, a 36-year-old man, was left in life-threatening condition with bleeding to the brain. The second victim, a 34-year-old man, suffered pain and abrasions, but was not critically injured.

It’s the second such incident in just three months. Back in April, a jogger was struck by a car while running against the light at that same intersection. When we posted that story, many commenters noted that the busy intersection is poorly designed, with one going so far as to call it a “death trap,” and another warning that you “avoid this intersection at all cost.”

In response to victim-blaming in Hoodline’s comment section, Michael Smith, a co-founder of Walk SF, pointed out that the intersections see so many injuries because Masonic, Oak, and Fell are designed as speedways. Oak and Fell each have four one-way traffic lanes, and additional turn lanes at Masonic, which has six lanes on the stretch that bisects the Panhandle.

Masonic at Oak, looking towards the Panhandle. Image: Google Maps

Masonic at Oak, looking towards the Panhandle. Image: Google Maps

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Someone Finally Figured Out How to Fix Parking Forever. Blame Canada!

Who’s taking your parking space now? Delaware and Canada!

Car owners in Hayes Valley will not stand by as “their” parking spaces are usurped by safe streets measures and “foreign” car-share “corporations” from places like “Delaware” and “Canada.”

That’s according a couple of bizarre anonymous flyers spotted recently around the neighborhood that appear to take aim at the arrival of on-street car-share parking spaces and plans to make crosswalks safer with daylighting and sidewalk bulb-outs.

On the subject of car-share spaces — each of which, by the way, helps people let go of owning a private car — one barely-coherent flyer has this to say:

STREET PARKING BELONGS TO HAYES VALLEY RESIDENTS NOT TO FOREIGN (CANADA– GETAROUND—ZIPCAR HERTZ A DELWARE CORPORATION EXEMPT FROM PARKING TICKETS

At the risk of taking this all too seriously, a quick Google search reveals that Getaround, which lets people rent their cars to their neighbors, is based in San Francisco, though its vice president of marketing was born in Canada (A-HA!). ZipCar is based in Boston, and owned by New Jersey-based Avis, not Florida-based Hertz — but we digress.

No word yet on whether the car owners who take up the other 99 percent of Hayes Valley’s curb spaces are 100 percent native San Franciscans with a legitimate birthright to free parking.

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North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year.

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that "there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer" to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that “there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer” to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

The Columbus bulb-outs were approved months ago, and have already been heavily watered-down during a planning process that’s lasted years. The SF Fire Department signed off on them as safe for turning fire trucks.

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”

“Nobody that I know is particularly freaked out by what we ended up with,” she added. “But just to make sure, we’re going to paint these on the street. And if somehow, something comes up with the templates, and the reviews, and the tens of hours of community meetings that was not brought to our attention, I guarantee I will go and fix it.”

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”

Unlike the first meeting, officials from SFFD and the SFMTA made presentations and answered questions on the issue, which seemed to quell fears among some attendees.

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

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SF Firefighters Take Campaign Against Safe Street Design to North Beach

At a community meeting about bulb-outs in North Beach tomorrow evening, some residents and firefighters are expected to speak against the curb extensions on the grounds that they make streets more dangerous.

Image: KTVU

As Hoodline has reported, the leadership of the North Beach Neighbors and the SF Fire Fighters Union have drummed up opposition to bulb-outs proposed at four intersections along Columbus Avenue. NBN will hold its second public discussion on the issue tomorrow.

While the SF Fire Department’s top brass has shown signs of letting go of its opposition to curb extensions, SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 has maintained a campaign for wider, more dangerous roadways.

Now there’s tension between the union and the fire department about street design. In a June 18 letter to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White [PDF], Local 798 President Tom O’Connor protested the department’s “very troubling” approval of “obstacles” that “will require our members to knowingly drive into oncoming traffic” (yes, some firefighters still make that claim):

We further assert that any and all obstacles that have already installed [sic] should completely [sic] removed on the basis that they are a danger to public safety, to our members and to the integrity of our apparatus and finally as a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

NBN President Trish Herman has fueled the flames. She told Hoodline that “bulb-outs in the Castro have caused traffic back-ups,” presumably referring to Castro Street’s recent sidewalk expansion, which narrowed its excessively wide traffic lanes. She also complained about sidewalk space removing parking: “They’re not considering the vehicle public,” she said.

Bulb-outs improve the visibility of pedestrians, shorten crossing distances, and keep drivers from barreling around turns at high speed and hitting people. They are an increasingly common street safety measure in SF.

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Safer Path Could Help Untangle the “Alemany Maze” Highway Interchange

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

The “Alemany Maze,” the deadly Highway 101 and 280 interchange in the southeast city, could get a safer crossing for walking and biking. Funding to study a walking path and bike lanes through the junction was approved this week by the SF County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, comprised of the Board of Supervisors.

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

The study, set to be completed by next June, will look at creating a “multi-modal pathway” where residents already cross the “nasty mess of ramps” to reach the Alemany Farmers Market, SFCTA planner Colin Dentel-Post told an SFCTA board committee this week.

“People currently use an informal pathway and dangerous, unsignalized crossings through the interchange,” he said. The maze “creates a barrier between the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Bernal, Portola, Bayview, and Silver Terrace neighborhoods.”

The $100,000 approved for the study was requested by D9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos was apparently swayed by the Portola Neighborhood Association to push for a safer crossing, according to a recent post by Chris Waddling at D10 Watch.

Waddling, chair of the SFCTA Citizens Advisory Committee representing District 10, lauded the advancement of the project:

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SFMTA Plans to Install Painted “Safety Zones” at 40 Intersections This Year

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A painted bulb-out, a.k.a. “safety zone,” at Sacramento and Stockton Streets, where 78-year old Pui Fong Yim Lee was killed. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has ramped up its roll-out of painted curb extensions, which the agency calls “safety zones,” at some of the city’s most dangerous corners. Twenty-one have been installed at at least 11 intersections, and the tally should reach 40 intersections by the end of the year, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose.

Painted bulb-outs are a low-cost measure to slow down turning drivers, using khaki-colored gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners. When the bulb-outs replace parked cars at street corners, they also make people more visible to drivers approaching intersections, a measure known as daylighting. Once funding becomes available, they can be upgraded to concrete sidewalk extensions.

“We are installing painted safety zones on the city’s pedestrian high-injury network, where just 6 percent of city streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities,” Jose wrote in a recent blog post. “Painted safety zones are one of the elements we are quickly installing to improve safety in support of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths.”

So far, most of the bulb-outs can be found along Howard Street in SoMa and as part of the first phase of safety upgrades on Polk Street.

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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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Driver Kills Ai You Zhou, 77, at Clay and Kearny; Christensen Calls for Action

Photo: Parker Day

Yesterday at about 6 p.m., Tim Pak Wong, 59, ran over and killed Ai You Zhou, 77, in the crosswalk at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets near Chinatown. Safety improvements have been planned for the location, and today Supervisor Julie Christensen called for swifter action on pedestrian safety from the SFMTA and SFPD.

SFPD issued Wong a citation on suspicion of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and misdemeanor manslaughter, reports the SF Chronicle.

Zhou appeared to have the walk signal, according to Parker Day, who witnessed the crash from about a block away as he biked toward the intersection. He said Wong was turning left onto Kearny from Clay.

When Day took the photo of the scene above, Zhou “had just stopped breathing and [Wong] was about to pull her out from under the car.”

“It was a terrible thing to witness,” Day added. “I hope I don’t ever see something like it again.”

D3 Supervisor Christensen held a press conference at the site of the crash today to call on the SFMTA to expedite pedestrian safety improvements and the SFPD “to step up enforcement at our problem intersections along our high injury corridors.”

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