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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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Mayor Lee Unveils 5-Year Plan to Improve Safety at Up to 265 Intersections

These are the 170 locations in line for safety upgrades in the WalkFirst program. An additional 95 intersections will receive safety improvements if voters pass transportation funding measures on the ballot this fall. Image: WalkFirst

Today Mayor Ed Lee and city officials announced a five-year plan to implement pedestrian safety upgrades at 170 priority intersections. The city also launched its “Be Nice, Look Twice” PSA campaign today.

Mayor Lee today with Supervisor John Avalos (left) and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The 170 locations in the WalkFirst Capital Improvement Program [PDF] were determined using injury data and public input. These improvements will be funded by $17 million set aside over the next five years, according to the SFMTA. If voters pass the three transportation funding ballot measures proposed by the mayor’s Transportation 2030 Task Force in November, the city will have an additional $50 million and could pay for safety fixes at 265 intersections.

“We’ve been saying ‘sorry’ for” pedestrian crashes, “when we ought to be saying, thank you for yielding. Thank you for not running red lights. Thank you for not speeding,” Lee said in announcing the WalkFirst plan and pedestrian safety awareness campaign.

The awareness spots, which can already be seen on Muni buses, come in several different versions, with text saying, “Drive like: your [friend/mom/family] is in the crosswalk.” Some versions show drivers yielding before the crosswalk, and at least one, posted by a Twitter user, depicts a truck driver violating the crosswalk and slamming into a pedestrian.

“I’m asking my officers to not be so nice when they see persons not yielding, when red lights are run, and when speeding occurs,” said Lee, pointing to a recent 12 percent increase in the SFPD’s Traffic Company staff. “Enforcement is about that discipline that we have to have for people’s behavior.”

These “Be Nice, Look Twice” ads have already been spotted on Muni buses.

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ABC 7′s “I-Team” #DidntLook at the Real Dangers for Pedestrians in SF

ABC 7′s “I-Team,” lead by reporter Dan Noyes, had a major opportunity to give viewers an accurate picture of what’s causing pedestrian deaths,” as the headline of its latest segment suggests. But Noyes didn’t let the facts get in the way of producing a pedestrian-shaming piece, at the end of which he asked viewers to tweet about self-endangering pedestrians with the hashtag #DidntLook.

Image: ABC 7

ABC did put some of those pesky facts in the segment, like the SFPD statistics that two-thirds of pedestrian crashes are primarily the fault of the driver. (Noyes, however, made no mention of the fact that driver error accounts for the top five most common violations.) But why should the I-Team’s “investigation” allow rigorous data to spoil the slant of the segment — which was mainly focused on shaming people crossing the street against lights and outside of crosswalks?

As it happens, #DidntLook backfired. Search the hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll find across-the-board criticism of the segment. Noyes tried to counter some of the jabs himself, arguing that it’s just pedestrians’ turn for an I-Team segment, since they’ve done pieces on drivers and bicycle riders. Because that’s how journalism is supposed to work — everybody gets a turn. Next up for the I-Team: a hard-hitting look at the menace of babies in strollers.

By the way, Noyes is capable of better stuff. His most recent bicycle-related segment, “I-Team gets street view from cyclists,” wasn’t as egregious, telling stories through footage submitted by cyclists.

Here are some prime cuts from the #DidntLook discussion:

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San Mateo County Bike/Ped Safety Projects Starved for Funding

In Burlingame, a stretch of El Camino Real lacks sidewalks south of the Mills-Peninsula Hospital. The latest funding request for the project was denied, leaving residents to walk on the shoulders to access transit and other services. Photo: Andrew Boone

Despite growing demand for better walking and biking infrastructure in San Mateo County, active transportation grants from the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) cover only a fraction of the projects that cities want to build, leaving many residents without the sidewalks, bike lanes, and other basic ingredients they need to safely navigate their streets.

“The high demand for [these] project funds is a significant shift in transportation priorities we’ve seen in recent years,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Corinne Winter. “People are looking to live and work in communities where biking and walking are convenient ways to get around. It’s more important than ever that our funding sources align with the undeniable need for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”

Cities recently submitted funding requests for 19 walking and biking safety projects from the county’s Transportation Development Act funds, a pot of state money distributed by C/CAG every two years. But C/CAG’s latest grant provided only $1.6 million, enough for eight projects. It would take $3.8 million to fund all 19 projects that cities in San Mateo County want to build.

C/CAG staff advised cities spurned for this funding to apply for the upcoming County Transportation Authority Measure A Pedestrian and Bicycle Program, another paltry funding source overwhelmed by demand. That program, which allocates 3 percent of a half-cent county transportation sales tax to bike and pedestrian projects, awarded funds to just 16 of the 41 projects that applied for the latest grant in 2011. That year, project requests totaling $11.2 million competed for $4.5 million. On Thursday, the TA Board of Directors is scheduled to review applications for this year’s funding round – 23 projects totaling $9.3 million competing for $5.4 million. The funding awards are expected to be announced on April 3.

Of the eight projects that were funded through the Transportation Development Act money, six will construct badly-needed sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes in Daly City, Pacifica, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.The other two projects are bicycle and pedestrian plans for San Bruno and Belmont, neither of which has ever written such a plan. This is the first year bike/ped plans were eligible for TDA funds.

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DA Gascón to Hire Attorney Dedicated to Vehicular Manslaughter Cases

District Attorney George Gascón has announced that he will hire an attorney devoted to handling vehicular manslaughter cases, in what could be a major step toward bringing accountability to drivers who kill.

Image: SFGovTV

“We’ve lost children, grandparents, people in the prime of their life,” Gascón said yesterday in his State of Public Safety Address, where he announced the initiative under the rubric of Vision Zero. The SF Examiner reports:

The full-time position, requested in the next budget, is necessary to ensure his office can respond “swiftly and appropriately” to such cases, Gascón said.

The district attorney reminded hundreds of public-safety leaders and advocates at the Hall of Justice auditorium that 21 pedestrians were struck and killed by motorists in The City last year, the highest number since 2007. Two months into this year, eight people have lost their lives on San Francisco roadways, which he called “unprecedented” and an incentive to implement the Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian fatalities.

“I am passionate about this effort because when a case gets to my desk, it is already too late; someone has lost their life,” Gascón said. “These tragedies are completely avoidable, and a modern city like San Francisco can and should eliminate this threat.”

Modern technology has meant that advancements like computers in vehicles, security cameras and smartphones become part of vehicular manslaughter investigations. Gascón’s strategy is to have a prosecutor who understands all the forensic evidence available in the 21st century.

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What SFPD Could Take From NYPD: Monthly Crash and Citation Reports

As illustrated in this graph by Streetsblog NYC, the New York Police Department’s January report on traffic citations showed a 66 percent increase in failure to yield summonses over the previous year. SFPD could highlight its enforcement efforts by releasing monthly reports as well.

Here’s a good practice the SFPD could adopt to help the public keep track of the department’s progress toward Vision Zero: monthly reports showing the department’s traffic crash and citation data. It’s already a practice at the New York Police Department, where it was mandated by law.

Now that SFPD seems to be turning a corner with recent policy reforms and pledges to pursue Vision Zero, these monthly reports could show people what’s changing. As Streetsblog NYC reported today, NYPD’s latest report showed a 66 percent increase in citations in January for drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, though the department has received a lot of press attention recently for its crackdown on jaywalkers.

Currently, the SFPD only releases crash data on an annual basis, and full collision reports released by the SFMTA take up to two years to be released, since the data has traditionally had to go through the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. The SFPD recently changed this by adopting a database allowing for far more efficient data delivery within a month or two, which should provide the department the ability to publish monthly reports on its website, as NYPD does.

The Board of Supervisors certainly has an interest in seeing recent crash and citation data. Acting the SF County Transportation Authority Board, the supes created a subcomittee yesterday to monitor the city’s progress towards Vision ZeroMonthly data releases would go a long way towards making those efforts more transparent policymakers and the public.

See snapshots of what the NYPD’s most recent collision report looks like after the break.

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SFPD: No Charges for Trucker Who Killed Woman, 91, on Fillmore Street

Police have declared no wrongdoing on the part of a cement truck driver who ran over and killed a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore at California Street last Thursday afternoon. According to reports, the woman was crossing Fillmore mid-block, in front of the stopped truck, when the driver began driving forward and ran her over. She was taken to SF General Hospital where she died of her injuries:

Image: KTVU

Investigators found that the truck driver, who stayed at the scene and cooperated with officers, was not at fault, [SFPD Sergeant Eric] Mahoney said. The driver had just crossed through the intersection at California Street when he came to a stop behind a couple of other vehicles, according to police. As the other vehicles started moving again, the woman stepped in front of the truck and was hit.

Of the four other drivers who have killed pedestrians in San Francisco this year, the SFPD has cited three, except one who fled and evaded police.

SFPD won’t cite or charge the driver in this case because, as Mahoney told KTVU, he “did not do anything to violate the vehicle code.” The victim was apparently jaywalking (an offense which, as the BBC recently pointed out, was invented by the American auto industry, and is not illegal in most countries, including the UK)

There are, however, two sections of the CA vehicle code that the driver may have violated.

The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU

The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU

CVC Section 21954 is the clause that requires pedestrians to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of a crosswalk, but it also says, “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

In addition, CVC Section 22106 says a driver may not “start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway… until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

KTVU footage also shows the truck stopped with its rear encroaching on the crosswalk, indicating that the trucker could have been blocking it when the woman attempted to cross.

What it comes down to is this: Does the SFPD really believe this truck driver, before stepping on the pedal, exercised all due care to look for people crossing a bustling, two-lane shopping street like Fillmore?

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Eyes on the Street: SFPD Tickets Illegal U-Turners in the Castro

Photo: Bryan Goebel

Here’s another sign that the SFPD is continuing to make good on its pledge to increase enforcement against reckless driving.

This update comes from Bryan Goebel, Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, who lives in the Castro. He said he’s noticed a recent uptick in enforcement in his neighborhood against illegal u-turns. Illegal turns are on the SFPD’s list of the five violations most commonly cited as a primary cause in pedestrian crashes.

Goebel said he spoke to one of the officers, who confirmed that the enforcement efforts are a response to the recent rise in pedestrian injuries. He told Goebel that drivers pose the greatest danger on the streets.

“Pedestrians are distracted, yes, but cars are what’s going to get you,” the officer reportedly told Goebel.

“It was refreshing to hear,” Goebel said.

Richmond Station officers have also been spotted recently performing crosswalk stings against drivers who violate pedestrians’ right-of-way on Fulton Street along Golden Gate Park.

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A Reminder: Congestion Pricing Will Save Lives

The Department of Public Health estimated in 2011 that a $3 congestion fee would prevent loss of life due to air pollution and traffic violence.

Congestion pricing resurfaced this week thanks to an SF Examiner article that was picked up by several other media sources, rightly framing it as a way to save lives.

The Examiner highlighted a Department of Public Health report from 2011 [PDF], which estimated that in 2015, if drivers were charged $3 for heading into downtown SF during rush hours, pedestrian injuries would be cut by 5 percent citywide, and 9 percent within the fee zone in the city’s northeastern quadrant. For people on bikes, those numbers are 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

Hyde at Turk Street. Photo: ibtsteward/Flickr

As we’ve written, congestion pricing is a crucial tool to make streets safer for walking and biking and allow transit to move more efficiently, all while raising a sorely-needed $60 million per year for transportation improvements to make non-driving options more attractive. Cities like Stockholm and London have reaped major public health and economic benefits from their congestion pricing programs.

But the SF County Transportation Authority, which completed a study of congestion pricing scenarios in 2010, quietly shelved the idea after it was met with fierce political opposition. If San Francisco is serious about achieving Vision Zero — an end to traffic deaths within ten years — however, congestion pricing must be revisited as part of the strategy sooner rather than later. The life-saving benefits have been demonstrated in London, which implemented a fee of roughly $15.60 to drive into or within the charging zone between 7 am and 6 pm on weekdays in 2003. London saw its lowest annual traffic fatalities on record in 2011.

The current administration seems to be in no rush to back congestion pricing. A spokesperson from the Mayor’s office told the Examiner that it is not a priority for Ed Lee. “There are more effective pedestrian safety measures Mayor Lee believes we should fund and prioritize before pursuing so-called congestion pricing, which is more a regional traffic-management proposal,” he said.

Supervisor Jane Kim, a leading proponent of Vision Zero, told the Examiner that the city should revisit the idea, while Supervisor Scott Wiener said he opposed it until the city first takes other steps to enforce traffic laws and redesign streets.

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Ped Signal at Sunset and Yorba, Where Man Was Killed, Sped Up by a Year

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Sunset at Yorba, where 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon was killed earlier this month. Image: Google Maps

On deadly Sunset Boulevard, the SFMTA’s plans for a new pedestrian-activated stop light at Yorba Street have been advanced by a year. The signal, originally scheduled to go in by the end of 2016, is now set to be activated by the end of 2015, according to SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose.

Currently, the Sunset and Yorba crosswalk has a push-activated beacon that flashes a yellow signal to warn drivers when someone is crossing. That wasn’t enough to save 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon, who was killed by driver Jenny Ching, 71, on February 4. Ching was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Plans were already underway for a traffic signal at Yorba, but Rose said the project would have taken two years to design and construct, due to a lengthy procurement process and coordination with the Department of Public Works to improve curb ramps and street pole “relocation and consolidation.” Rose said the SFMTA was able to streamline its latest round of signal installations by adding engineering staff.

Last week, “we just started two new junior engineers,” he said. “And we are working more closely with DPW in coordinating our projects, especially with paving.  That said, we are now looking to improve on our project schedule to complete design by December 2014.”

“I’m glad to hear they’re coordinating more, but the fact that they were able to advance the signal by one year overnight raises questions,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We’re speeding projects up after someone has died on streets that we know see the most pedestrian injuries.”

A similar traffic signal project was sped up last year after 17-year-old Hanren Chang was killed on Sloat Boulevard at Forest View Drive, not far from Sunset and Yorba. DPW advanced the project by nearly a year, installing bulb-outs, more visible crosswalks, street lights, an extended pedestrian refuge median, and a button-activated pedestrian signal, like the one planned for Yorba.

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Paging Ed Lee: How a Mayor Shows Real Commitment to Vision Zero

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing his Vision Zero Action Plan yesterday: “We have to act right now to protect lives.” Photo: NYC Mayor’s Office

While they’ve both uttered the phrase “Vision Zero,” Mayor Ed Lee continues to be put to shame by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio when it comes to making a real commitment to drastically reduce traffic violence.

Mayor Ed Lee making his State of the City address. Image: Mayor’s Office

Lee’s only direct mention of Vision Zero so far came in his State of the City speech, with a brief assurance toward the end of his transportation spiel that “I also support the goals of Vision Zero to eliminate traffic-related deaths in our City, but to get there, we need a little more common sense.” The urgency from City Hall was not exactly palpable.

De Blasio, meanwhile, told New Yorkers yesterday, “We have to act right now to protect lives.”

Here’s the letter he included in his Vision Zero Action Plan:

Dear Friends,

A life lost is a life lost.

And it is our collective responsibility to save every life we can, be it a life taken in a violent crime or in a crash with a motor vehicle.

In the first days of our administration, we made a commitment to decisively confront the epidemic of traffic fatalities and injuries on our streets. And with this implementation report, we are laying out an ambitious roadmap to live up to that commitment.

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