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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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Sidewalk Cycling Ban Again Proposed for Downtown San Jose

Cyclist_on_Sidewalk_with_Peds

A bicyclist navigates between pedestrians on a downtown San Jose sidewalk. Residents have complained of reckless behavior by cyclists on sidewalks for years. Photo: City of San Jose

San Jose Department of Transportation (SJDOT) officials announced at a community meeting Wednesday evening that a downtown sidewalk cycling ban is again under consideration, explaining that the “Walk Your Bike” signs and banners installed in December 2013 had largely failed to convince bicyclists to ride in the streets rather than on sidewalks.

Three members of the city’s Senior Citizens Commission spoke in support of a ban, describing the serious safety hazards that some bicyclists riding on downtown sidewalks have posed to pedestrians.

“I’ve been hit twice on Santa Clara Street,” said Commissioner Martha O’Connell. “If I get hit by a bike, it’s a serious thing for me and a lot of other seniors. Bikers come so close to [pedestrians] that they actually touch their jackets when they pass them.”

O’Connell and other commissioners have diligently documented with photos and written statements the hazard posed by cyclists riding too fast and swerving on downtown sidewalks. ”Adult bicyclists continue to ride recklessly on the downtown sidewalks while the bike lanes remain largely empty,” O’Connell wrote in March 2013, in support of a ban on sidewalk cycling.

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One of 140 “Walk Your Bike” signs installed on sidewalks in downtown San Jose in June 2014. Photo: City of San Jose

In an effort to shift bicyclists from the sidewalks, SJDOT blanketed downtown with “Walk Your Bike” signs: 140 green signs and 170 blue pavement markers. No city ordinance was passed requiring cyclists to walk bikes on sidewalks, though. Educational banners installed downtown also encouraged cyclists to walk on sidewalks and ride in the streets. But SJDOT counts taken at three locations showed no significant shift in sidewalk cycling between December 2013 and August 2014.

“At this point we really haven’t accomplished enough behavior change to say it’s successful,” summarized Active Transportation Manager John Brazil. “Now we’re looking at recommending some type of ordinance to the City Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee.” Under the proposed ordinance described by Mr. Brazil, anyone 13 years and older could be ticketed by the police for cycling on any sidewalk in San Jose’s “Downtown Pedestrian Priority Zone”, a high pedestrian traffic area bounded by Almaden Boulevard, 4th Street, St John Street, and San Salvador Street.

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SFMTA Launches a Smarter Safe Streets Ad Campaign

The SFMTA has launched a new ad campaign called “Safe Streets SF” that takes the most thoughtful approach to addressing the causes of pedestrian injuries of any city campaign thus far.

The ads have started rolling out on Muni buses. One depicts cars stopped in front of a busy, unmarked crosswalk, with the text, “It Stops Here.” A side panel says “all intersections are crosswalks” — a message aimed at combating the misconception that crosswalks aren’t legal unless they’re marked.

“We’ll be targeting the driver violations of pedestrian rights-of-way that are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all pedestrian collisions,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin at an agency board meeting yesterday. “We’re trying not to just put random ads out there, but to really be thoughtful and strategic about what behaviors we’re targeting.”

Reiskin said the campaign, part of Vision Zero, is a collaboration between the SFMTA, SFPD, Department of Public Health, and Walk SF. Next month, it will be complemented by “24 high-visibility enforcement days” from police on streets with high rates of pedestrian injuries. “Officers will be on the streets citing drivers for violating pedestrian rights-of-way,” Reiskin said, noting that it will add to SFPD’s ongoing “Focus on the Five” enforcement campaign.

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Eyes on the Street: New Car-Free Fourth Street Extension at UCSF Campus

Andy Thornley rides on the new block of Fourth Street at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo: Jessica Kuo

The extension of Fourth Street with a car-free promenade appears mostly complete at the University of California, San Francisco campus in Mission Bay. In 2012 we reported on how this project can connect 16th Street to Mariposa Street and the Dogpatch neighborhood without inviting more car traffic as UCSF builds out its development.

The new block features a public plaza and bikeway running through it, and it’s designed to allow emergency vehicle access. On each end are car drop-offs. It’s one block of walking and biking bliss bookended by the usual car-dominated city streets.

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Tomorrow: Hearing on Traffic Signals to Speed Muni on Haight, McAllister

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A snapshot of the SFMTA’s plans for Upper Haight. See the full plan here [PDF].

On the agenda [PDF] for tomorrow’s SFMTA public engineering hearing are proposals to speed up Muni lines with transit-priority traffic signals and bus bulb-outs along Haight and McAllister Streets. These types of changes are central to the Muni Transit Effectiveness Project, but some residents have voiced concerns about replacing stop signs with traffic signals and requiring pedestrians to wait before crossing.

The SFMTA plans to replace stop signs with signals at ten intersections on Haight and five on McAllister. These would be transit-priority signals, meaning that they will stay green when they detect approaching buses on the 5-Fulton, 71-Haight/Noriega, and 6-Parnassus lines.

On the 5, the SFMTA predicts that the signals alone will save 1.5 minutes in each direction, in addition to six minutes saved by adding bus bulb-outs, removing and relocating some stops, and adding right-turn lanes to keep turning cars out of the way. On Haight itself, those improvements are also expected to save three minutes for the 71 and 6, in addition to several more minutes of savings thanks to the contra-flow bus lane being constructed at Market Street. The SFMTA says intersections without signals or stop signs will receive traffic calming treatments, to encourage drivers to yield to people crossing.

Natalie Burdick of Walk SF said the Muni TEP proposals “should not conflict with the SFMTA’s own stated priority for ensuring the safety of the city’s road users.”

“Signalized intersections can support safer walking environments if they are designed effectively,” she said. “For instance, signals can be timed to calm traffic with lower speeds, and provide regular phases for pedestrian crossings.”

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Parking-First “Save Polk Street” Crowd Attacks Van Ness BRT

A rendering of Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. Image: SFMTA

“Save Polk Street” has aimed its parking-first agenda at Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. A couple dozen speakers protested the project an SFMTA hearing last week, distributing fearmongering flyers [PDF] claiming that removing some parking and banning left turns would “kill small businesses,” back up car traffic, and make the street more dangerous.

Dawn Trennert at a meeting about Polk Street last year. Photo: Paul Skilbeck, Examiner.com

The long-delayed Van Ness BRT project was already approved two years ago by the boards of the SFMTA and the SF County Transportation Authority. Last week’s hearing was on specific street changes [PDF], like removing parking for station platforms and pedestrian bulb-outs. No action was taken by the hearing officers, but the street changes are expected to go to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in October.

The speakers and the fliers distributed weren’t explicitly associated with Save Polk Street, but many of the same faces and familiar inflammatory rhetoric could be found at the hearing.

Dawn Trennert of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, who has been seen at past meetings wearing a “Save Polk St.” t-shirt, spoke at the Van Ness hearing and echoed many of the same refrains calling for the preservation of parking and unfettered car movement.

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San Mateo’s Hillsdale Ped/Bike Bridge Moves Onto Final Regulatory Hurdle

The proposed Hillsdale Boulevard Ped/Bike Bridge would span Highway 101 with up to four different entrances. Image: City of San Mateo

Last Monday, San Mateo’s City Council reviewed a draft report ahead of the last step in the permitting process for the city’s ambitious Hillsdale Pedestrian/Bicyclist Bridge over Highway 101. The bridge has been needed ever since the interchange was rebuilt and expanded in 2002, which made crossing the highway more hazardous for people walking and bicycling. The following evening, city staff hosted a community meeting to gather residents’ preferred design alternatives for accessing the bridge from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The interchange’s “full to partial cloverleaf conversion” in 2002 enabled more car traffic to cross and access the highway by removing the southwest and and northeast loops, but nothing mitigated the new safety hazards that result from higher traffic volumes, speeds, and poor sight lines.

68-year-old Palo Alto resident Theodore Hinzte was struck and killed by the driver of a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) vehicle in December 2009, while Hinzte was bicycling on Hillsdale across the double-lane on-ramp to southbound Highway 101. Someone is hit by a car while walking or biking across the interchange at least once every four months, according to collision data summarized in the report:

“The existing five-foot wide sidewalks provide limited room for passing, offer little separation from adjacent high-speed traffic, and are often used by bicyclists who do not want to contend with vehicles at the double-lane entrances to the loop on-ramps. Visibility of approaching vehicles is limited for pedestrians attempting to cross at the loop on-ramp crosswalks because of the reduced design speed profile of the Hillsdale Blvd. overcrossing and ramps, as well as the position of the crosswalks relative to approaching vehicles.”

A ghost bike was installed in memory of Theodore Hinzte, who was killed while bicycling across the double-lane on-ramp shown. Photo: Google Maps

The report also states that the interchange’s poor design contributes to greater vehicle emissions, noise, and traffic congestion, because pedestrians and bicyclists “either minimize use of or completely avoid travelling through the current interchange because they feel unsafe doing so.” To cross the highway elsewhere requires major detours: 2.5 miles to the north at Fashion Island Boulevard, or 4 miles to the south using the Ralston Avenue ped/bike bridge. As a result, many short trips that a safe bridge would accommodate are instead taken by car.

The bridge project proposes a unique four-entrance design, with two entrances at different locations on each side of the highway. Four entrances would provide better connections to San Mateo’s street network for travelers heading from both north and south. The bridge would connect back to Hillsdale at two large intersections on either side of the highway (Franklin and Norfolk) and also connect residential streets on either side, for pedestrians who want to avoid Hillsdale Boulevard altogether.

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SPUR Ocean Beach Erosion Plan Shelves Road Diet for Great Highway

SPUR will not pursue its vision for narrowing Great Highway from four lanes to two, as neighbors fear that traffic will divert onto their streets. Image: SPUR’s Ocean Beach Master Plan

SPUR has set adrift its proposal to halve the size of the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, as the group strives to avoid distracting attention from implementing the other priorities in its Ocean Beach Master Plan. A road diet may be revisited later, once more pressing concerns have advanced.

SPUR calls the OBMP “a comprehensive vision to address sea level rise, protect infrastructure, restore coastal ecosystems and improve public access.” It also includes proposals to remove other sections of the Great Highway that are threatened by severe erosion, in what’s called ”managed retreat.”

One of SPUR’s highest priorities is converting the Great Highway south of Sloat to a trail. Images: SPUR

Ben Grant, SPUR’s project manager for the OBMP, said one of the plan’s most pressing priorities is closing a short, severely eroded section of the highway south of Sloat Boulevard, and replacing it with a walking and biking trail. Car traffic would be re-routed onto Sloat and Skyline Boulevards, which still would see less traffic than they’re built for.

But the “most controversial” piece of the OBMP plan, said Grant, was the proposal to remove two of the four lanes on the main stretch of the Great Highway, as well as adding parking spaces along that stretch to replace those that would be removed south of Sloat. SPUR doesn’t want opposition to those elements to distract from the more urgently needed road closure south of Sloat.

“We’ve gotten quite a few strong negative reactions to this,” Grant said at a recent SPUR forum. “We’re not going to be pushing for it at this time, because we have much more core, transformative projects to consider.”

Nothing in the OBMP is an official city proposal yet, but SPUR’s ideas are being seriously considered by public agencies that will conduct environmental impact reports for them.

“It’s an interesting thing to think about,” said Grant. “What if we take our one major stretch of oceanfront road and think of it not as a thoroughfare for moving through — [but] think of it instead as a way of accessing and experiencing the coast, as a coastal access or park road?”

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Man Killed by Muni Bus Driver at Closed Crosswalk Outside Geary Tunnel

Image: CBS 5

A man was hit and killed by a Muni bus driver on Geary Boulevard at Lyon Street on Monday at 1:15 a.m., according to media reports. Both crosswalks across Geary are closed at that intersection, just east of the Masonic tunnel, leaving a roughly 1,000-foot gap between crosswalks at Presidio Avenue and at Baker Street.

The man, who hasn’t been identified, is the 12th pedestrian to be killed on San Francisco streets this year.

“His death is all the more tragic, given the crash occurred on Geary — long identified as one of the six percent of streets which make up the city’s high-injury corridors and account for over 60 percent of crashes involving pedestrians,” said Natalie Burdick of Walk SF.

As we wrote last week, closed crosswalks remain even in SF’s most walkable neighborhoods, vestiges of 20th-century planning efforts to whisk cars down traffic sewers like the Geary expressway.

At intersections like Geary and Lyon, people are entirely banned from crossing Geary and instead are expected to spend five minutes (at standard walking speeds) walking to a different intersection and back. The extra 1,000 feet pose an impractical proposition for many people, particularly when traffic volumes are low — too often resulting in fatal outcomes for those who instead attempt the most direct path.

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Closed Crosswalks Remain Even in Today’s Walkable Hayes Valley

Fell and Gough Streets. Photo: tracktwentynine/Instagram

Hayes Valley may be one of the country’s densest and most walkable urban neighborhoods, but believe it or not, it still has three closed crosswalks — vestiges of the mid-20th century’s cars-first planning.

“For many years, traffic engineers devised ways to pen people in, so that cars weren’t inconvenienced,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. ”Nowadays, the city realizes how foolish that thought was, especially in an urban environment which thrives on connecting people with people — not people with fast moving cars.”

Last week, a visiting transportation writer who was exploring many of SF’s otherwise-progressive recent livable streets efforts was surprised and ashamed to find pedestrians banned from crossing at one side of the intersection at Gough and Fell Streets. Instead, people walking there are forced to take a detour through three crosswalks instead of one, so that turning car traffic can whisk through unimpeded.

The SFMTA had previously approved re-opening that crosswalk, as well as another at Fell and Franklin Streets. That was over a year ago.

SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose said the Fell and Franklin crosswalk is set to be re-opened next month, but that the Fell and Gough crosswalk is on hold and will be implemented late next year, in conjunction with “sewer, water, paving and signal enhancements” to “maximize efficiency.”

As for the closed crosswalk at Oak and Franklin Streets, which would cross three lanes of turning motor traffic, SFMTA planners looked at re-opening it but “decided to not move forward at this time,” said Jose. Opening the crosswalk, or removing a turn lane, would “result in traffic backing up into Market Street,” he said.

“Re-opening crosswalks is a basic walkers’ rights issue,” said Schneider, who pointed out that the Mayor’s Pedestrian Strategy has a goal of opening two crosswalks per year through 2021, and “notes that this is a quick, cost-effective way to enhance pedestrian safety and walkability.”

Robin Levitt of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, and a member of the Market-Octavia Community Advisory Committee, said he’s disappointed that the Oak and Franklin crosswalk won’t be opened any time soon, and that the Fell and Gough crosswalk won’t be opened for at least another year. Still, ”It’s been that way forever,” he said, and another year isn’t a big setback.

Nonetheless, ”If this was a bottleneck delaying cars, I think they’d probably get on it.”

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SFPD Cites Light-Running Driver in Crash at Speed-Plagued Oak and Octavia

The SFPD cited a driver for running a red light at Oak Street and Octavia Boulevard on Tuesday night, then crashing into a van and sending three vehicle occupants to the hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the blue Infiniti was traveling north on Octavia when he broadsided the van and sent it into a utility pole, which flipped the van over onto its side.

The intersection is known for high-speed vehicle crashes and light-running drivers, and neighbors have been asking the SFMTA for years to re-configure it and other Hayes Valley intersections to reduce the danger posed by high-volume, high-speed motor traffic. Just last month, a Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association meeting focused on street safety fixes, where D5 Supervisor London Breed told Hoodline that she “got an earful about some of the challenges around traffic in the area,” noting that “we’re hoping to implement some changes sooner rather than later.”

Much of the discussion at the meeting “centered around the contrast of drivers’ freeway on- and off-ramp mentality with the residential nature of the neighborhood,” Hoodline reported. “One concerned mother noted that children play at Patricia’s Green while drivers barrel north up Octavia.”

Oak and Octavia saw a particularly horrific crash in 2011, when a car-carrier truck hit a UCSF shuttle van — the driver of which reportedly ran a red light while traveling eastbound on Oak. Dr. Kevin Mack was ejected from the UCSF van and killed.

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