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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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Street Smarts: SF’s Kids Aren’t the Ones Who Need a Lesson on Safe Streets

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

How to walk on city streets, and to fear cars while doing so, is something that’s taught to small children everywhere. Once those kids grow up and get driver’s licenses, however, teaching the same kids to avoid running over other people doesn’t seem to be a major part of the curriculum.

It’s been generations since the days when streets were places where kids were expected to walk and play, and drivers were held responsible for keeping them safe. These days, nobody bats an eye when the onus for street safety is put onto school children.

A program called “LA Street Smarts,” using video games and set simulations of city streets to train kids how to navigate without getting hit by negligent drivers, arrived at Lakeshore Elementary this week to sharpen its students’ survival skills. The SF Chronicle reported on the “innovative workshop”:

A group of third-graders waved their hands and screamed – “Stop!” – as a car slowly backed toward them from a garage. The children weren’t in danger of becoming San Francisco’s latest pedestrian casualties, though…

Students began by playing “Ace’s Adventure,” a video game in which second- and third-graders navigate an avatar through a neighborhood on a virtual walk to school, crossing streets and learning to obey signals.

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Dangerous by Design: CA Has Second-Highest Fatality Rate for Older Peds

Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 11.27.49 AMSmart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition released their Dangerous by Design 2014 [PDF] report today, showing that California has the nation’s second-highest pedestrian fatality rate for older pedestrians (age 65 and older).

The report highlights the ways car-centric design in US cities makes streets dangerous for walking, and ranks major metropolitan areas using the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI), the ratio of annual fatality rates to the percentage of people who walk to work. California was ranked 17th on the PDI, with pedestrians deaths making up 19 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities.

California’s elderly pedestrian fatality rate, at 5.03 fatalities per 100,000 people (compared to 3.19 nationally), is second only to Hawaii, followed by New York. Nationwide, older adults account for 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities, while only making up 12.6 percent of the population.

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SFMTA Considers Restricting Cars on Crooked Lombard Street

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The “crookedest street in the world” block of Lombard Street is a world-famous tourist attraction, but the resulting car traffic causes congestion and safety problems and may lead the SFMTA to ban tourists from driving that stretch.

In an attempt to reduce pedestrian injuries and blocks-long car queues, the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday will consider several summer trials to allow only “local” cars on two blocks of Lombard. The restrictions would apply on eastbound Lombard, between Larkin and Leavenworth Streets, on Saturdays and Sundays from June 21 through July 13, and on Friday, July 4. The SFMTA will consider longer-term, even permanent, restrictions after monitoring the impacts.

According to an SFMTA report [PDF], the push for restricting tourists from driving on curvy Lombard came from the residents who live on it, as well as District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell. The effort has support from Russian Hill Neighbors and the Lombard Hill Improvement Association.

“In prior years, this portion of Lombard Street has experienced a number of vehicular collisions, pedestrian injuries, and residential property damage,” the report says, also noting “chronic congestion in the summer months” that reaches three blocks back to Van Ness Avenue, where queued drivers “can delay regional transit and vehicular traffic.” At the entrance to the crooked block, drivers also often block the Hyde Street cable car.

“Residents are also concerned about the mixing of large pedestrian crowds… with vehicular traffic,” the report notes, listing several crashes with railings, pedestrians, and fire hydrants on the block within the last few years. In one incident, a speeding driver reportedly crashed into a retaining wall, rolled the car over and fled on foot.

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CA’s Regional Agency Reps Tout Increased Ped Safety Funding in Sacramento

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG. Photo: Melanie Curry

The Peds Count! 2014 Summit kicked off in Sacramento with a panel of top-level executives from regional planning agencies celebrating their accomplishments in improving conditions for pedestrians.

The speakers represented an alphabet soup of major metropolitan transportation agencies in California: SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments; SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments; KernCOG, the Kern Council of Governments; and MTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The summit, the third bi-annual conference organized by CaliforniaWalks, brings together advocates and planners from throughout the state to discuss the current state of research, policy, and innovation in the realm of planning for pedestrians in California’s cities and counties.

According to the California Household Travel Survey, the number of walking trips has doubled since 2000, to 16.6 percent of all trips reported. However, less than one percent of transportation funding in the state goes towards improvements for active transportation (walking and bicycling). In addition, pedestrian safety goals were not included in a recent Federal Highway Administration proposal on new performance measures for national highways.

But the agency executives at the conference celebrated the progress that was made, and challenged pedestrian advocates to build support to make it easier for agencies to do more.

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Fundraiser for Nikita May, 3-Year-Old Boy Hospitalized by Driver on Fulton

Nikita May on Muni. Image via YouCaring

Three-year-old Nikita May remains in recovery at SF General Hospital, after being hit on his bike by a pickup truck driver at Fulton Street and 43rd Avenue on April 10. Friends, family, and community members have set up a fundraiser to help the family see him return to health.

May was making his way through a crosswalk on a green light at about 11:45 a.m. when the left-turning driver ran him over. May suffered life-threatening injuries, including brain injuries and brain stem damage, “the full extent of which is not yet fully known,” according to the fundraiser page. He also suffered a number of broken bones — his jaw, chin, fractured clavicle, femur, and several ribs, in addition to a “bruised/collapsed lung” and a ruptured spleen.

Although police took the driver in for questioning, according to media reports, there was no word on whether he received a citation or could be charged.

As neighbors told reporters after the crash, Fulton, a four-lane thoroughfare, serves as a speedway for drivers along the border of Golden Gate Park in the Richmond. May was run over at a park entrance, close to a day care center.

May’s bike after the crash. Image: KTVU

Rob Weir, a neighbor of the intersection, told KTVU after the crash, “We have always said it’s going to take somebody getting seriously hurt, probably a pedestrian, for something to happen. And that, to me, is too late already.”

Exactly one month earlier, a five-year-old boy and his babysitter were hospitalized after being struck by a driver just six blocks away, at Fulton and 37th. SFPD reportedly issued that driver a citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The fundraiser, organized by Creative Arts Charter School, has raised $71,660 as of today.

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Mayor Lee Doesn’t Care For Parking Tickets, Un-”Civil” Muni Riders

Ask Mayor Ed Lee what he has to say about Muni, and he’ll talk about how its riders need to be “a lot more civil.” But if you tell him how much you hate worrying about parking tickets — wow, he really feels your pain.

That was the gist of the transportation discussion last week when Mayor Lee joined a live on-air edition of KQED Forum (liveblogged by SFist). The contrast in the mayor’s priorities was clear in his responses to questions about the need for safer streets, better transit, and parking tickets.

Lee mostly stuck to his usual talking points, with a few exceptions. The excitement in the mayor’s voice reached a peak when he attacked the supposed evil that is Sunday parking metering, which he just had the SFMTA board strike down.

The estimated $11 million to be lost from Sunday meters is “hurtful revenue, not helpful revenue,” the mayor said as he expounded upon an issue he clearly cares about:

Why not just have a day where it’s less about the business of the city and more about everybody kind of relating with their families, going out there and enjoying the great things that we have built in the city, and being able to do that without the necessity of looking behind your back and seeing if somebody’s going to stab you with a $75 citation?

Never mind that Sunday meters actually made it easier to find a parking spot while enjoying the city, or that SFpark has substantially reduced the “stabbing” (or at least the cost) incurred by parking citations. In response to Lee, KQED host Michael Krasny quipped, “If you can find a parking spot.”

Lee continues to show that he’s ignoring (or is unaware of) key facts about Sunday meters that undermine his position. For one, he stated that ”other jurisdictions haven’t done this,” ignoring the SFMTA’s 2009 study listing Sunday meters in Los Angeles, PasadenaMiami Beach, Portland, Chicago, Tampa, and even the Port of San Francisco.

Not that he reads SFMTA studies carefully: He still has yet to acknowledge the November report showing that Sunday meters cut in half the time drivers took to find a parking spot during business hours, and improved parking turnover for businesses by 20 percent.

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Scott Wiener Proposes Measures to Curb SFFD’s Push for Wider Streets

The San Francisco Fire Department has not let up in its fight against narrower roads in the city, protesting measures like bulb-outs and traffic lane removals that make streets safer. In one of the latest instances, SFFD has fought 20-foot-wide streets planned for two major redevelopments, going against years of planning and established city codes. The department wants all new streets to be at least 26 feet wide.

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Supervisor Scott Wiener today proposed measures to take on SFFD’s irrational stance. ”Elected policymakers and the voters have repeatedly adopted a policy of safer streets through effective street design, yet some of our departments are acting as if those directives didn’t exist,” he said in a statement.

Wiener’s proposed legislation would require city departments to get Board of Supervisors approval if they want to “deviate” from street width standards in the Fire, Public Works, and Administrative Codes, and the Better Streets Plan. The proposal also asks the City Attorney to draft amendments to those codes to “clarify” the existing standards. 

The legislation would also request a report from the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst on the feasibility of using trucks that are smaller and more flexible than many of SFFD’s “large suburban-sized trucks,” according to a press release from Wiener’s office. SFFD already uses such trucks in Bernal Heights and Telegraph Hill, and the report would look at best practices in other cities.

Wiener also requested a hearing to shed light on the SFFD’s push for wider streets in the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point re-development sites in the southeast area of the city, “including why the departments injected this change so late in the process and despite approval by the Board of Supervisors of a narrower width,” the press release says.

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Eyes on the Street: Geary’s Bus Lane, Wiggle’s Curbs Get Red Paint

Geary at Powell Street. Photo: Cheryl Brinkman

Updated 4/23 2:45 p.m. with corrected project timelines for the painted bus lanes.

The SFMTA started adding the red carpet treatment to Geary Street’s bus-only lane, and started painting curbs red to daylight, or improve visibility at, corners along the Wiggle.

The Geary/O’Farrell Street couplet, between Powell and Gough Streets, is the second of three bus-only lane segments to get red paint; the first was Third Street in SoMa. The red paint is intended to warn drivers to stay out of the bus lanes, though reports from folks on the street say results have been mixed so far. The third stretch set to get red transit lanes is Market Street, inbound between 5th and 12th Streets, and outbound between 8th Street and Van Ness Avenue. The SFMTA said the Geary/O’Farrell project would be completed by mid-June, and the Market lanes by September.

On the Wiggle, street corners are finally getting daylighting — the practice of removing parked cars to open up sightlines between street users. It’s unclear what took so long to paint the short red segments of curb paint, which the SFMTA promised as early as 2012. Nonetheless, these simple measures to reduce the “peek-a-boo” effect at intersections are very welcome.

Steiner and Waller Streets on the Wiggle. Photo: Mark Dreger

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Scott Wiener: SFFD’s Next Fire Truck Fleet Needs to Be More Versatile

The SF Fire Department needs to replace its aging fire trucks soon, and Supervisor Scott Wiener says the department should use the purchase to take advantage of more versatile models that other cities are using to navigate narrow streets.

SFFD has fought against pedestrian safety improvements that narrow roadways, claiming that they hinder fire truck access, even though other cities use lower street width minimums, and San Francisco has plenty of slender streets that firefighters regularly serve.

“Our fire trucks should be designed around the needs of our city, not vice versa,” said Wiener.

While SFFD has protested wider sidewalks, officials haven’t targeted much more prevalent obstacles like double-parked cars, and they admit they don’t have a firm grasp on what’s causing recent increases in response times. SFFD Assistant Deputy Chief Ken Lombardi said at a hearing in January that “there could just be more cars.”

“While I and others have disputed [SFFD's] assertions,” said Wiener, “if the department is concerned, the solution is to take a hard look at truck design.”

Smaller trucks, better designed for tight spaces than most of SFFD’s current fleet, are in use by a station in Bernal Heights, and they’re commonly seen in older cities in Europe and Japan. But SFFD has made several excuses about why it can’t buy more of them. At the January hearing, Lombardi said that fewer American manufacturers are producing smaller fire trucks, that smaller trucks tend not to meet smog standards, and that powerful engines are needed to climb San Francisco’s steep hills.

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The Death Toll From Cars Is Even Higher Than You Thought

Ten days ago, a four-year-old boy near Houston was killed when a neighbor backed his pickup truck over him. At least 50 times a week, people back their cars over kids in the U.S. On average, two of those 50 incidents are fatal. But you won’t see them represented in official crash statistics.

Four-year-old Zain Ali Hussain's death, like the deaths of an average of 1,621 people per year, will not be counted in NHTSA's traffic death statistics because he was hit in a driveway, not a public road. Photo: ##http://www.click2houston.com/news/deputies-child-hit-and-killed-by-pickup/25434032##Click2Houston##

Four-year-old Zain Ali Hussain’s death will not be counted in NHTSA’s traffic fatality statistics because he was hit in a driveway, not a public road. Photo: Click2Houston

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues a grim summation of the death toll on American roads: 33,561 killed in 2012. The year before that: 32,479. The year before that: 32,999. But this statistic leaves out many fatalities caused by cars and drivers. And the victims it undercounts the most are pedestrians and cyclists — and children.

NHTSA does track these other deaths, but it categorizes them differently. The agency recently released its “Not-in-Traffic Surveillance” numbers from 2008 to 2011 [PDF] — which measures injuries and deaths in “nontraffic motor vehicle crashes” off public roadways. The agency explains:

These crashes… are mostly single-vehicle crashes on private roads, two-vehicle crashes in parking facilities, or collisions with pedestrians on driveways. Then there are also noncrash incidents such as a vehicle falling on a person underneath or unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.

So, add to the 37,261 people killed in traffic in 2008 another 1,605 killed in “nontraffic.” Between 2008 and 2011, there were 6,483 such deaths and 91,000 such injuries. About 39 percent of the people killed in these incidents weren’t in cars.

Children like Zain account for a disproportionate share of “nontraffic” fatalities. (NHTSA put out a separate report [PDF] on children involved in nontraffic crashes.) Between 2008 and 2011, 13 percent of the victims were 4 or younger, while kids that young account for about 3.5 percent of the overall population. Almost half the children who die in these kinds of incidents are killed by drivers backing up over them. Three percent are killed by rollaway vehicles that no one is driving. Of all children injured in “nontraffic” crashes, 60 percent are not in a car at the time.

NHTSA didn’t collect information on these crashes until 2007, and the agency still doesn’t include them in its annual traffic fatality reporting. The National Safety Council does, however, which helps explain why the NSC’s numbers are always higher than NHTSA’s. The NSC also considers a death to be traffic-related if it occurs within 12 months of the crash; NHTSA’s window is only 30 days.