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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category

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Eyes on the Street: First Phase of Second Street Makeover

SFMTA is putting in some initial improvements before 2nd Street's big makeover begins in the Fall. Image: SFMTA

SFMTA is putting in some initial improvements before 2nd Street’s big makeover begins in the fall. Image: SFMTA

As the photo shows, SFMTA is making some quick improvements to the 2nd Street bike lanes. This is a temporary fix, intended to be replaced once a full-blown makeover starts this fall.

It was last August that Streetsblog brought you news of the project to rebuild 2nd Street with protected bike lanes, bus boarding islands, pedestrian bulb outs, and other safety features. For now though, the painted improvements will run between Market and Howard streets, with new restrictions on left turns from 2nd to Folsom, Mission and Harrison. The final project should be completed in mid-2018.

While Streetsblog is often critical of city agencies for not going far enough, it’s nice to see things moving in the right direction on 2nd. And, no, this isn’t an April Fools joke!

2nd Street will look like this sometime in Mid-2018. Image: SFMTA

If all goes to plan, 2nd Street will look like this sometime in Mid-2018. Image: SFMTA

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Mission Street Transit Lanes: What About the Bikes?

Right lane transitways on Mission leave no place for cyclists. Image: SFMTA

Right lane transitways on Mission leave no place for cyclists. Image: SFMTA

Earlier this week, the SFMTA sent out a release with a progress report on the “Red Lane” paint (actually, a thermoplastic adhesive) they are applying, clearly marking lanes for Muni Streetcars and buses (and taxis):

Early signs indicate success. Preliminary data shows transit-only lane violations dropping by more than 50 percent on some segments of 3rd Street. On Geary and O’Farrell streets, the red lanes have reduced Muni travel times by 4 percent despite traffic congestion increasing on the same segments by 15-18 percent.

But what about bikes?

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SF Mayor’s Veto of Increased Transportation Sustainability Fee Stands

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 Left to right: Thea Selby of the Transit Riders Union, Peter Cohen, Council of Community Housing Organizations, Margaret McCarthy, SFBC, Supervisor John Avalos, Peter Straus, Transit Riders Union, and Calvin Welch, Human Services Network at a presser pushing to override Mayor Lee's veto. Image: Jeremy Pollock.

Left to right: Thea Selby of the Transit Riders Union, Peter Cohen, Council of Community Housing Organizations, Margaret McCarthy, SFBC, Supervisor John Avalos, Peter Straus, Transit Riders Union, and Calvin Welch, Human Services Network at a presser pushing to override Mayor Lee’s veto. Image: Jeremy Pollock.

Supervisor John Avalos, backed by safe streets and transit advocates, and Supervisors David Campos and Jane Kim, made a push today to override Mayor Lee’s veto of a proposed increase in the Transportation Sustainability Fee (TSF) on large commercial developments. But the override only got six votes rather than the eight required.

The proposal would have increased the one-time fee on large commercial projects by $2 from $19.04 to $21.04 per square foot (and that only applies on the portion above 100,000 square feet, if the project is large enough to qualify). It also requires commercial projects in the pipeline that have not received Planning Commission approval to pay half of the difference between the new TSF and the previous fee.

The TSF was a huge step forward, requiring developers to pay a fee for for impacts on transportation infrastructure brought about by the workers and residents they bring to the city. The proposed increase, meanwhile, would have generated an estimated $2.4 million a year along with $30 million in one-time revenue for the SFMTA.

“Mayor Lee’s veto of the TSF ordinance preserves a backroom deal with developers and forces tax payers, Muni riders, and workers to subsidize the increased transportation impacts of big developments,” said Supervisor John Avalos. “The SFMTA will be forced to make up for the gap in revenue through increased fares and fines or further defer much-needed maintenance and capital projects.”
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Streetsblog USA
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High-Speed Police Chases: Not Worth the Risk

High-speed police chases have no place in crowded cities. The risk of killing innocent bystanders is just too high to justify maybe preventing the “bad guy” from getting away.

Police chases: not worth the risk. Photo: Wikipedia After seven innocent people were killed in five years, Louisville revised its police chase policy, and no one has been killed by a pursuit since. Photo: Wikipedia

Branden Klayko at Network blog Broken Sidewalk reports that Louisville recently revised its police chase policy to become “among the strictest in the country,” and it’s saving lives:

In 2012, a police pursuit of a drug suspect ended up killing Stephanie Melson, a mother of three, after the suspect ran a stop sign. “Melson’s death was the catalyst for newly arrived Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad to overhaul the department’s pursuit policy,” Riley wrote, “to try and reduce the risk of collisions and fatalities from police chases.”

The policy, instituted in December 2012 and updated several times since then, states that LMPD officers can only pursue suspects involved with a violent felony, according to [local WDRB reporter Jason] Riley. Otherwise, the chase must be called off. “As of last year, they have to stop, turn around and drive the opposite direction to show the suspect they are not being followed,” Riley reported.

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Five Eclectic Questions for Streetfighter Janette Sadik-Khan


Right before former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan set off on a multi-city book tour for Streetfight (along with co-author Seth Solomonow), I was able to get a few minutes to ask her five eclectic questions in Washington Square Park.

Want to know the story behind the appearance of hundreds of cheap lawn chairs on opening day in car-free Times Square? We asked her. Want to know if she has a crush on David Byrne? We asked her that too! Want to know her favorite color jellybean? Well, we didn’t ask her that.

But we think you’ll enjoy our quick, engaging conversation that’s saturated with footage from the Streetfilms vault from Sadik-Khan’s 2007-2013 tenure at NYC DOT.

Streetsblog USA
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Five Strategies for Equitable Active Transportation Planning and Advocacy

Cross-posted from the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

Photo: John St. John via Flickr

It started as a lively discussion on the Bike Equity Network — a listserv for mobility and equity advocates working within walk/bike advocacy and planning — related to a Washington Post article that examined the notion of bike lanes as symbols of gentrification. The online conversation that transpired was rich, frank, and underscored the need to bring the conversation to a broader audience in a more interactive format. So this month, the Alliance hosted a highly anticipated Distance Learning Webinar: “Active Transportation & Anti-Displacement.”

Co-facilitated by Dr. Mike Smart, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, and featuring insight from several equity leaders, the webinar was a timely and candid conversation that provided Alliance members an opportunity to hear diverse perspectives from and ask questions of advocates working within academia and advocacy — and future planners in Dr. Smart’s class.

Special thanks to Dr. Mike Smart, as well as our presenters:

Listen to the full recording on SoundCloud here and read a summary of the main takeaways below. Also catch some of the conversation that happened on Twitter via hashtag #MobilityEquity. Enjoy!

Acknowledge that bicycle infrastructure is wrapped up in larger development processes spurring gentrification, which has in many cases been done on purpose.

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Streetsblog USA
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Finally, a Little Accountability for State DOTs on Bike and Pedestrian Safety

In a win for bike and pedestrian safety, the Federal Highway Administration announced yesterday that it will require state transportation agencies to do something they have never had to do before: set goals to reduce bike and pedestrian fatalities, and track progress toward attaining those goals.

The news is part of FHWA’s roll-out of several “performance measures” for state and regional transportation agencies. The system of metrics is supposed to make the agencies more accountable for the billions of dollars in federal transportation funds they receive every year.

Advocates for walking and biking pressed FHWA to include bike and pedestrian safety measures in the performance standards, after they were initially excluded. Andy Clarke, former head of the League of American Bicyclists, now with the Toole Design Group, said the League helped solicit more than 11,000 comments in favor of creating performance measures for bike and pedestrian safety.

FHWA must have been listening. In its announcement, the agency said, “Non-motorized safety is of particular concern and improving conditions and safety for bicycling and walking will help create an integrated, intermodal transportation system that provides travelers with real choices.” Translation: The feds value walking and biking.

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SF Moves to Next Round in Competition for Federal “Smart City” Grant

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Self-driving cars are one of many technologies that may change transportation in the Bay Area. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Self-driving cars are one of many technologies that Bay Area leaders are preparing for in a submission to the Smart City Challenge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Over the weekend, San Francisco and six other finalists made it to the next round of the US Department of Transportation’s “Smart City Challenge” grant competition.

It’s part of a USDOT program to get cities thinking about new technology. In a few months, USDOT will announce the winner of the ultimate prize: $50 million for implementation of the best idea for using technology to improve transportation. The award includes a $40 million grant from the government and $10 million more from Vulcan, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s philanthropy.

“We received applications from 78 cities that fully embraced the Challenge,” wrote Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a blog post. Originally, the USDOT was going to work with five cities, but the Secretary wrote that they invited two more to join. “Each of these finalists will receive $100,000 to build out their vision, including submitting budgets and expanding their proposals.”

Of course, this was a perfect opportunity for SFMTA’s new “Office of Innovation,” led by Timothy Papandreou, Chief Innovation Officer at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “That’s why the office of innovation was created.” San Francisco’s proposal aims to get in front of the next phase of the sharing economy, he said. “We learned our lesson from the last couple of years.” The rapid rise of Uber and Lyft taught city transportation agencies just how quickly things are changing.

He added that San Francisco’s entry will have them partnering with tech, communications, and transportation companies to start planning for integration of ride-hailing with existing transit assets. “We want to make it mature so ride-hailing is folded into transit as a step towards shifting behaviors from personal cars, and to get access to everyone,” he said. That means that, as shown in the USDOT video below, in the future someone who buys a Muni or Caltrain ticket will be able to get off the train and find a ride-share–perhaps one day an automated car–waiting right there.

Despite a recent small setback, self-driving cars seem tantalizingly close to ready for the road. And what will that mean for the future of transportation? Will it mean more cars? Probably not. But will these new automated cars draw people away from transit, and consume more energy in the end? That will depend. Rather than wait until the technology is in widespread use before formulating policies, as transportation agencies ended up doing with Uber and Lyft, San Francisco is hoping to shape the use of new tech to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled and CO2 emissions.

Papandreou also envisions a day when automated vehicles respond to demand, so a five-person or fifty-person vehicle will show up depending how many people want to travel and where. By making ride-hailing more dominant, there will be less need for parking and parking structures for private automobiles, which sit around doing nothing most of the time. That will free up more room for more important uses, such as housing, he explained.
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Are Outdated Regulations Holding Back Safety Changes on Market?

Family, friends and advocates attend a memorial for Thu Phan. Photo: JikaiahStevens.

Family, friends, and advocates attend a memorial for Thu Phan. Photo: JikaiahStevens.

Today, advocates for livable streets attended the memorial service for Thu Phan, a woman killed in a crosswalk on Market Street on February 5. Yesterday Streetsblog urged SFMTA to stop compromising on safety improvements, a theme echoed at the event.

“In the first two months of 2016, five people have already died in traffic crashes – and over half of those were killed on or near our most dangerous streets,” said Walk SF executive director, Nicole Ferrara. “While the recent changes to Market Street are important first steps in making San Francisco’s streets safer, they do not go far enough, especially to protect people who are most at risk, including seniors and people with disabilities. Thu Phan’s tragic death could have been prevented, if stronger safety measures were in place.”

The tragedy highlighted something else that’s painfully obvious: Market Street will always be a dangerous place as long as there are automobiles on it. Between the streetcars, bicycles, buses, pedestrians and—above all else—automobiles, it’s not so much that there’s a particular intersection that’s problematic. The entire street, as currently configured, is a conflict generator.
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Lesson in Upcoming Memorial for Thu Phan: Stop Compromising on Safety

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SFMTA crews are improving crosswalk viability. Photo: SFMTA.

SFMTA crews are improving crosswalk visibility. Photo: SFMTA.

On Tuesday, March 1, at noon, advocates for vulnerable road users will hold a memorial for Thu Phan, a woman who was killed by a city vehicle while she was crossing the street at 7th and Market in her motorized wheel chair. The memorial will be held at UN Plaza, adjacent to the crossing where she was hit. Afterwards, participants will walk to City Hall to testify at 1 pm at the SFMTA Board Meeting. 38-year-old Phan of Berkeley was fatally struck on the morning of Friday, Feb. 5, by a white Ford sedan making a restricted left turn across the crosswalk.

The turn was restricted to commercial and Muni vehicles. Although the car was owned by the city and was driven by an employee of a city clinic, it was not permitted to make that turn, despite conflicting reports at the time of the incident.

“It has been confirmed that city drivers are not exempt from traffic laws,” said Jessica Lehman, Executive Director of Senior and Disability Action, an advocacy group. However, trucks, taxis, and Muni vehicles are held to a different standard at that intersection.

It’s hard to imagine how a turn can be unsafe for private vehicles, but safe for everyone else. Is someone less dead if they’re hit by a taxi or a truck? Also, in defense of motorists, the intersection is confusing. Imagine being in the lane behind a bus, which makes the turn, and a cab, which makes the turn, and a truck, which makes the turn. How can a driver at the back of that queue, ideally watching out for pedestrians and other vulnerable users, also be expected to read a list of allowed and not-allowed vehicles and figure out what applies? The sign is a driver distraction. Safe street advocates intend to use the memorial to demand fewer exemptions from that turning restriction.

“It’s a ridiculous thing,” said Lehman, adding that she still does not think “confusion is an excuse for any driver making an illegal turn.” That said, both Lehman and Nicole Ferrara, her counterpart at Walk San Francisco, want the city to take a look at the engineering of that turn and how it can be made safer.
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