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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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SFBC, Walk SF Push SFMTA to Make Room for Bike/Ped Projects in Its Budget

Bike and pedestrian advocates are pushing the SFMTA to make more room in its budget for safety projects and programs as the agency’s board of directors weighs its priorities.

Image: SFBC

Image: SFBC

Bike/ped funds currently make up less than 1 percent of the SFMTA’s operating and capital budgets; the vast majority goes towards Muni. And although the agency has professed its commitment to Vision Zero, as well as its Bicycle Strategy and the WalkFirst plan that lay out the map to safer streets, funds for street safety are competing with other funding pushes. Yesterday’s SFMTA Board meeting was packed with dozens of commenters calling for the expansion of free Muni pass programs to low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and extending the youth program to 18-year olds.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, pointed out that “there is not a more affordable option than” walking and biking, and urged the board to “include [those] in the equity lens.”

The SFBC and Walk SF have highlighted that the SFMTA’s operating budget devotes more money to office supplies, over $5 million, than to bike and pedestrian safety programs, which each get about $3 to $5 million.

Shahum pointed out that the proposed SFMTA budget calls for 1.9 new miles of bike lanes, and 4.5 miles of upgraded bike lanes, per year. The middle of the three scenarios laid out in the SFMTA’s Bicycle Strategy calls for upgrades to 10 new miles of bike lanes each year.

Bike and pedestrian funding are poised to get only a slight increase in the share of the SFMTA’s existing revenues in the next budget [PDF]. The agency is banking on three proposed funding measures headed to the ballot this November that altogether could provide about half the funds needed for WalkFirst and the “medium” Bicycle Strategy scenario.

“We did work to find ways to put more revenues in here, although we don’t have a whole lot of flexibility there,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. “You could argue it’s never enough, but it’s a significant investment we’ll be making.”

SFMTA Board Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman asked Reiskin to address the comparisons between bike/ped funding and office supplies at a later meeting. “I know it’s a great rallying cry… safety is our number one goal, but I’d like to know where that number comes from. Hopefully it’s not true that we spend more on paper than we do on bicycle safety.”

“We can’t meet our bike and pedestrian mode shift goals without increasing safety, and we can’t meet our transit demand without including our bicycle and pedestrian mode shift goals,” she added.

The SFMTA will continue to drill down the details of its two-year budget next budget at a hearing on April 15.

“I’m very worried about what happens in November,” said Brinkman. “Do we have a plan B to improve the safety of our streets if we’re not successful?”

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Atherton’s Bike/Ped Plan Calls for Safer El Camino Real and Bike Boulevard

A proposed plan for El Camino Real in Atherton would reduce six traffic lanes to four and add a bike/ped path and bike lanes. Image: Alta Planning + Design

The Atherton Town Council this afternoon will review a draft of its first ever bicycle and pedestrian plan, which it crafted over the past eight months with resident input. The plan has attracted little notice, even though it calls for safety redesigns on major streets like El Camino Real, Middlefield Road, and Marsh Road.

The plan’s primary goals are to improve safety for people walking and bicycling on Atherton’s streets, and to reduce school-related traffic congestion by removing barriers that keep children from accessing key destinations on foot or by bike.

Atherton paid for the $40,000 bike/ped plan using a $350,000 settlement that it won from Facebook in 2012, for declining litigation after claiming that the environmental impact report for Facebook’s Menlo Park Campus inadequately assessed traffic impacts.

El Camino Real, whose six lanes slice through the center of Atherton, is by far the town’s most dangerous street. In October 2010, 55-year-old Honofre Mendoza and 62-year-old Christopher Chandler were killed by drivers in separate crashes while crossing El Camino at Isabella Avenue. Exactly two years later at the same intersection, two women were seriously injured by an SUV while walking together in a crosswalk.

Middlefield Road has also seen its share of serious collisions. A man was killed in September 2013 after being struck by a hit-and-run driver near Glenwood Avenue. Several students are also typically injured each year while walking along or crossing Middlefield near Menlo-Atherton High School.

Alta Planning + Design, the consultant crafting Atherton’s new bicycle and pedestrian plan, recommends $13 million in safety projects, including nearly $7 million of “priority projects.” These include pedestrian safety improvements at key intersections, new walking and biking paths, and new crosstown bike routes — including an overhaul of El Camino Real that would add bike lanes and reduce auto lanes from six to four.

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Spectacular New Devil’s Slide Trail Difficult to Reach Without a Car

A 1.3-mile section of abandoned Highway 1 south of Pacifica was converted into the new Devil’s Slide Trail, seen here just before its grand opening to the public on March 27. Photo: Andrew Boone

The 1.3-mile “Devil’s Slide” segment of Highway 1 just south of Pacifica is the latest addition to San Mateo County’s 20 parks. The freshly-paved walking and biking trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and its coastal cliffs, and it’s by far the widest trail in the San Francisco Bay Area, with 12 feet striped for walking and 12 feet for bicycling.

“This is inarguably one of the most beautiful segments of the California Coastal Trail,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Samual Schuchat at the trail’s ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. “It’s incredibly exciting to open it, after years of driving through here and wanting to take in these views but being afraid that you would crash.”

The geologically hazardous section of highway was closed to cars in March of last year with the opening of the twin Tom Lantos tunnels, which Caltrans constructed to bypass this stretch. As Deidra Kennedy of the Pacifica Historical Society told the SF Chronicle last week, Caltrans originally planned to build an inland bypass and bury the Devil’s Slide highway, but local activists persuaded them to instead build a tunnel and re-purpose the coastal road.

Construction included re-paving the road, building parking lots, bus stops, and public restrooms at both ends, and adding three overlooks, 12 benches, and a variety of educational panels alongside the trail to help visitors learn about the area’s geology and ecology. The San Mateo County Parks Department spent $2 million on the highway-to-trail project, and will invest another $492,000 per year to maintain it, or roughly 5 percent of the department’s annual budget.

Getting to the new trail without a car, however, is a challenge. Since the trail was carved from Highway 1, the highway remains the only way to get there.

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SFPD Finds SUV in Crash That Killed Oi Yeung, 82; Driver Still at Large

Police investigating the scene of the crash on Bayshore last Thursday. Image: KRON 4

SFPD has found the SUV in the crash that killed 82-year-old Oi Yeung in a crosswalk at Bayshore Boulevard and Visitacion Avenue Thursday morning, after which the driver fled the scene. The SF Chronicle reported that police located the white Dodge Durango seen by witnesses and in video footage near the intersection where the crash occurred, but that no arrests have been made.

A video still of the SUV involved in the crash. Image: SFPD

“We’re working on making a case for the suspect,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told the Chronicle:

Yeung was crossing Bayshore Boulevard in a crosswalk at Visitacion Avenue when a Durango, moving in the same direction on Visitacion, turned left into the northbound lanes of Bayshore without yielding to her, police said.

The driver continued for a block to Leland Avenue, did a U-turn, drove back slowly to observe the result of the collision, and then sped away south, police said.

The car was towed and was being processed Tuesday for evidence, said Officer Albie Esparza. Investigators were conducting interviews with the car’s registered owners, and everyone else who lives at the address connected to the SUV.

“This is yet another reminder of how much further we need to go to put an end to traffic violence in San Francisco,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that streets like Bayshore are “dangerous by design.”

“In fact, in 2011, the Senior Action Network led a demonstration on this street just one block down,” she said. “They submitted their recommendations to the SFMTA, but no changes were ever made.”

Although a section of Bayshore to the north received a traffic-calming road diet earlier this month, with two of the four traffic lanes north of Paul Avenue converted to buffered bike lanes, the Visitacion intersection was not included in the project.

Yeung is the sixth pedestrian killed by a driver in SF this year. As the SFMTA Board of Directors considers approval of the agency’s two-year budget next month, Schneider said increasing funds for the pedestrian safety upgrades called for in the city’s WalkFirst plan is crucial to work towards the city’s official Vision Zero goal of ending traffic deaths.

“New figures from the city show that the economic and health related costs of pedestrian injuries total $564 million per year,” said Schneider. “Compare that to the $3.4 million per year that is secured for pedestrian safety in MTA’s budget. How many more people have to die before we start re-prioritizing?”

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Bayshore Blvd Gets Buffered Bike Lanes, But “Alemany Maze” Still a Barrier

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Bayshore, seen here looking north near Bacon Street, had four traffic lanes reduced to two to make room for buffered bike lanes. Photo: Brian Coyne

The SFMTA extended the buffered bike lanes on Bayshore Boulevard earlier this month from Silver Avenue south to Paul Avenue, reducing four traffic lanes to two. The street now provides a calmer, safer bicycling link for Bayview residents all the way up to where Bayshore ends, at Cesar Chavez Street and the “Hairball” freeway interchange.

The bike lanes were originally slated to go on San Bruno Avenue, which runs parallel to Bayshore on the opposite side of 101, according to the SFMTA website:

This project was originally planned for San Bruno Avenue as part of the 2009 San Francisco Bicycle Plan. However, due to potential conflicts with planned Muni improvements along San Bruno Avenue, the SFMTA has determined that a more appropriate north-south bicycle route between Paul and Silver Avenues would be Bayshore Boulevard because it connects directly with existing bikeways north of Silver Avenue and does not conflict with transit operations.

Traffic analysis was completed that showed that there was not a need to keep four travel lanes.

Chris Waddling of D10 Watch describes: “Pedestrians dash across eastbound Alemany at San Bruno Ave. on their way to the farmers market.” Photo: Chris Waddling

Yet the benefits of the bike lanes and taming speeds on a traffic sewer are largely lost at the “Alemany Maze” – the tangle of looping freeway ramps where 101 and 280 intersect. As D10 Watch author Chris Waddling pointed out, the interchange presents “outright hostile conditions for pedestrians and cyclists,” cutting off access between neighborhoods for those traveling without a car:

Say you want to get from Bayview to a Glen Park BART by bike. Riding the new lanes on Bayshore are now great, but get from Bayshore to the separated bike lane on Alemany at Putnam, and you’re sharing the road with freeway-bound vehicles.

Or say you want to walk from the Portola to the Alemany Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. You either cross illegally at the top of San Bruno Ave or walk an extra 1/4 mile each way to get to the light at Putnam. And if you need one, it’s too bad there’s no ADA ramp for you when you get there.

The benefits of increasing pedestrian and bike access in the area are many: reduced car traffic on Saturday mornings in and around the Alemany Farmers Market; safer access to the Farmers Market for Portola residents; greater access to amenities in the Portola by residents of Bernal Heights; safer access to BART for Portola residents; an opportunity for beautification of the median.

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SFMTA Proposes New Steps to Divert Cars Off Market Street

With new diversions for private autos on Market Street, the SFMTA would direct traffic on to these possible routes instead. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA has proposed new forced turns for private autos at intersections on the most congested stretch of Market Street, which could be implemented in phases early next year. SFMTA staff presented the changes [PDF] to the agency’s board of directors Friday — not just as a way to speed up transit, but to make the thoroughfare safer for walking and biking.

The SF Chronicle reports:

“This is primarily a safety project,” said Timothy Papandreou, director of strategic planning in the sustainable streets division of the Municipal Transportation Agency…

The changes announced Friday include stepped-up enforcement of existing transit-only lanes and turn restrictions. Early next year, additional mandatory turns are to be installed at Third, Fourth and Fifth streets and transit-only lanes would be extended eastward down Market.

Market Street between Eighth and Montgomery streets has twice as many collisions as parallel Mission Street despite having only a third of the traffic, Papandreou said. It also includes four of the city’s 20 worst intersections for collisions that injure or kill pedestrians — Fifth Street, Sixth Street, Eighth Street and Main Street. Two of the worst intersections for bike collisions are also on Market at Third and Fifth streets.

The MTA will focus first on Montgomery to Fifth streets before considering whether to head farther down Market.

As we reported last month, the SFMTA is implementing near-term measures in the meantime, including re-timing traffic signals, painting the transit-only lanes red (an effort that began on Third Street last week), and installing ”Don’t Block the Box” paint and signage at intersections, all of which will come with increased enforcement by early summer.

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SFPD Traffic Citations Increasing Towards “Focus on the Five” Goals

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The SF Police Department is issuing more traffic tickets, and a greater share of them are going toward the five most dangerous violations, according to early SFPD data on traffic citations issued so far this year.

This week, a driver was cited for hitting a child and his babysitter in a crosswalk at Fulton Street and 37th Ave. SFPD is issuing more of its citations to the top five causes of traffic injuries. Image: CBS 5

With a new, more efficient database, the SFPD began posting monthly citation data on its website starting in January [PDF] (monthly data on crash reports still isn’t available). The citation reports provide an easy way to track the department’s progress toward meeting the goals set in the “Focus on the Five” campaign, which prioritizes limited traffic enforcement resources for the five violations most commonly cited as the cause of crashes on the streets, all of which are driver violations.

So far, progress on “Focus on the Five” appears promising.

In January, SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali announced a goal of having at least 50 percent of traffic citations going toward the top five violations: running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrian right-of-way, turning violations, and speeding. Last year, 22 percent of citations were issued for those infractions. In January, the share increased to 33 percent, according to the new data posted from that month.

As the SF Examiner reported today, the SFPD is also dramatically increasing the number of tickets issued overall:

From January 2013 to January 2014, the Police Department reported 43 percent more citations citywide, and from January 2013 to preliminary numbers for last month there was a 54 percent increase, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.

“All the stations are up. Across the board, they are writing more tickets,” Suhr said. “Whereas we might have been exercising more discretion and some sort of counseling, now there’s less counseling and more citation issuing.”

Catching traffic violators has become highly emphasized at all 10 police stations, regardless of what other individual issues they face, said Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“In every unit, every officer has been given the directive that transit safety is a priority,” he said.

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SFPD Park Station’s Most Dangerous Intersections: Not on the Wiggle

The SFPD Park District listed six problematic intersections in its most recent newsletter, and none of them are on the Wiggle.

New SFPD data indicates that the Park District’s most dangerous intersections have nothing to do with the Wiggle, where Captain Greg Corrales has devoted his station’s limited traffic enforcement staff to ticketing bike commuters who roll stop signs.

Park District’s “highest collision location involving bicyclists” has nothing to do with stop signs — it’s Fell and Masonic, where drivers notoriously run the red light during a bicycle/pedestrian crossing phase. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Under SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, captains have pledged to target the five most dangerous intersections in their districts. The latest Park Station newsletter [PDF] listed five intersections with high numbers of collisions attributed to certain traffic violations. The newsletter also lists the intersection with the “highest collisions involving bicyclists.” None of these locations are on the Wiggle, or even in the Lower Haight, the neighborhood that the bike route runs through.

When I asked Captain Corrales if he still plans to regularly post officers on the Wiggle to ticket bicycle riders who don’t fully stop at stop signs, he said in an email that “we will continue to be responsive to community concerns.”

The list confusingly names two different intersections as having the most crashes caused by red light running and speeding, and there is no time frame given. (Corrales said he would try to find out what period is covered by these stats.)

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Foster City Abandons Plan to Close Crosswalk Where Girl Was Injured

A 17-year-old Foster City girl was seriously injured after being struck by a BMW driver while walking in the northern crosswalk (on the right) at Edgewater Boulevard and Port Royal Avenue on January 24. Photo: Andrew Boone

Many Foster City residents were shocked last month when their City Council responded to the injury of a 17-year-old girl by closing off the crosswalk at Edgewater Boulevard at Port Royal Avenue, where she was struck by a driver. Hundreds of residents petitioned the council to take other steps instead of installing “No Ped Crossing” signs and physical barriers. The council reversed its crosswalk closure decision last week, opting instead to install pedestrian-activated flashing lights.

The intersection’s well-known hazards caught the City Council’s attention after the driver of a 2014 BMW 528i slammed into a high school student who was walking in the crosswalk on Edgewater on January 24, breaking both of her legs and knocking her to the ground unconscious. She spent several days in Stanford Medical Center’s intensive care unit but ultimately survived.

Mayor Charles Bronitsky places the blame for car crashes on both drivers and pedestrians not following traffic laws, and argues there’s little cities can do to reduce traffic collisions. ”It’s an issue of personal responsibility, folks,” he said. “There’s nothing the government can do to make people be responsible. We gotta do the best we can to try to babysit adults.”

The statewide fine for walking across a street where “No Ped Crossing” signs are installed, such as this one on Franklin Street in San Francisco, is $194.

Council members Steve Okamoto, Art Kiesel, and Gary Pollard were on the verge of voting to install stop signs on Edgewater Boulevard during their February 3 city council meeting when Bronitsky warned of “potential legal repercussions” that could arise.

A 2012 traffic report authored by professional traffic engineer Steve Fitzsimons of Republic ITS, a subsidiary of Siemens that installs and maintains traffic signals, concluded that stop signs are “unwarranted” according to a state standard that recommends a street to have either more collisions (five annually) or higher car traffic volumes before they’re installed. The report concluded that the left-turn conflicts, high pedestrian traffic (including many children), and poor visibility for drivers turning onto Edgewater from Port Royal were “not relevant,” despite well-documented evidence to the contrary, including calls from residents to fix those hazards in emails to the city and at public meetings.

Fear of litigation helps explain the city’s reaction. City Attorney Jean Savaree said that the city would lose its “design immunity” legal defense in the case of a lawsuit brought by the victim of a collision somehow caused by the stop signs.

“When you hire a traffic engineer and they make recommendations to you, if you follow those, you trigger what’s called design immunity,” Savaree said. “If you install a four-way stop where it’s not warranted and you have a collision, the city is sued [on the basis] that you created a dangerous condition because you have not followed a professional engineer’s advice.”

Okamoto pointed out to fellow council members that other stop signs classified as “unwarranted” by exactly the same type of traffic engineer’s report were previously installed at three other intersections after residents complained of unsafe conditions at those locations.

“I don’t think there has been any liability issues at those intersections,” said Okamoto. ”In spite of the concern of legal counsel, I still support four-way stop signs.”

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Avalos’ Eyes on the Street: SFPD Blocks Crosswalk During Traffic Stop

Supervisor John Avalos posted the above photo on Facebook with the following explanation:

Ironic traffic stop on Mission and Ocean. Police vehicle stopped in the middle of the intersection blocking the cross walk and sending the 49 bus into the next lane. We have a ways to go to coordinate our pedestrian safety effort.

Indeed. Avalos, the chair of the SF County Transportation Authority Board, posted this on the same day he joined Mayor Ed Lee and other city leaders at a press conference announcing the five-year WalkFirst plan. The same day, a Board of Supervisors committee held a hearing on Vision Zero, the city’s goal of ending traffic deaths within ten years. It’s worth noting Avalos launched the Vision Zero campaign at City Hall along with Supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee.

If SFPD is going to lead in those efforts, as Chief Greg Suhr has pledged to do, the department’s officers are going to need to start with some basic awareness of how they can stop contributing to the problem.