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Posts from the "Pedestrian Safety" Category

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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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SFPD Arrests Aunt for Leaving Two-Year-Old Mi’yana Gregory in Crosswalk

SF police have arrested 25-year-old Lorysha Gage for leaving two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory in the downtown crosswalk where she was run over and killed last Friday night. Even as police seek the driver who struck Gregory and fled the scene, Gage is set to be arraigned tomorrow on charges of “felony child endangerment, with an enhancement allegation for causing death.”

Media reports initially quoted family members saying Gage had the walk signal when she crossed Mission in the crosswalk between Fourth and Fifth Streets, with Gregory and her twin brother in tow. The SFPD now says Gage was crossing against the signal, had left Gregory in the street unattended to retrieve her brother from the sidewalk, and that the driver had a green light.

“The investigation showed some evidence that there was some child neglect that resulted in the death of the two-year-old toddler,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told KTVU.

On the day of the arrest, SFPD Sergeant John Bragagnolo targeted citations towards “jaywalking” pedestrians at the crosswalk where Gregory died, telling KTVU he pointed to Gregory’s memorial when ticketing them.

“Pedestrians feel their speed and their hurry is more important than their safety,” Bragagnolo said.

Putting aside generalizations about the feelings of people who walk, this is an unusual case among pedestrian crashes: The SFPD’s data show that the top five causes are all driver violations, which the SFPD has pledged to focus enforcement on. In May, however, we reported that although SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” citations were reportedly increasing, its tickets issued to people walking and biking were increasing far faster. After a peak of 723 citations issued to pedestrians in March [PDF], the monthly number dropped at 444 in June [PDF], the latest month for which citation data has been reported.

Police say it’s unclear whether the driver who caused Gregory’s death was even aware he or she had run over an infant.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Scheider said “it’s a really challenging case, in that the arrest is broader than just an issue of pedestrian safety at this point.”

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Eyes on the Street: Buffered Bike Lanes for Students on Ortega in the Sunset

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This school year, Ortega Street offers parents a safer street to walk and bike their kids on in the Outer Sunset, as seen here at 40th Ave. Photo: SFBC

The SFMTA has installed new bike lanes and traffic calming measures on Ortega Street in the Outer Sunset, bringing a safer commute for parents and students in time for the start of the school year. Ortega runs along Sunset Elementary School and AP Giannini Middle School, which occupy the four blocks between 37th and 41st Avenues.

The improvements, funded in part by a Safe Routes to School grant, include a bike lane with a buffer zone in the uphill direction on the stretch along the school, and a conventional bike lane in the downhill direction. Ortega also has new pedestrian islands, speed humps, continental crosswalks, daylighting, and sidewalk bulb-outs to calm car traffic and make it safer to cross the street. They were previously expected to be installed by the end of 2012, with the bike lanes in by summer of last year, and it’s unclear why the project was delayed.

The safety upgrades were championed by Nik Kaestner, the director of sustainability for the SF Unified School District, who bikes his kids to school on “a heavy Dutch cruiser,” he told the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Asked about the benefits of these projects, Kaestner pointed out that “walking school buses and bike trains also build community and allow students to arrive at school ready to learn… Ensuring that students have a variety of ways of getting to school means that students from disadvantaged areas have the means to get to the school of their choice.”

See more photos after the jump.

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Two Lost to Reckless Driving in SF: Zachary Watson and Two-Year-Old Girl

Zachary Watson and Mi’yana Gregory. Left photo via Marc Caswell. Right photo via KTVU

Two lives were lost to reckless drivers in SF this weekend: Two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory and 29-year-old Zachary Watson, whose family and friends removed life support after three weeks in the hospital.

Gregory was reportedly run over after she and her family saw a movie on Friday night. The crash occurred on Mission Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, in a signalized mid-block crosswalk that connects the movie theatre and parking garage. The driver apparently ran a red light and fled the scene, and police have released an image of the 1990s white sedan they are searching for. Family and friends held a vigil on Sunday.

The SF Chronicle reports:

The crosswalk Gregory was killed in. Image: Google Maps

Mi’yana was struck at 10:37 p.m. Friday in the crosswalk midway between Fourth and Fifth streets in the South of Market neighborhood. The crosswalk has its own traffic light to stop cars on the busy stretch of Mission, and family members said Mi’yana, her brother and aunt had the light as they crossed the street, heading toward a parking garage opposite the mall.

On Sunday afternoon, the base of that traffic light became a small shrine of clustered candles and teddy bears. Pictures held by the family showed a beaming girl with braided hair, known to relatives as “My My.”

“She was the sweetest little thing,” said her father, Michael Gregory, 20. “She liked to dance. She liked ‘Sesame Street.’ She had a smile that could light up a room.”

As he spoke, he held Mi’yana’s twin brother, Michael Gregory Jr. “He woke up this morning and asked, ‘Where’s My My?’ ” the father said.

A surveillance video image released by SFPD of the vehicle used by the driver who killed Gregory. Image via SF Chronicle

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East Palo Alto’s Highway 101 Ped/Bike Bridge Almost Fully Funded

Walking across Highway 101 in East Palo Alto requires crossing wide six-lane intersections, and using a narrow sidewalk on University Avenue’s north side (far left). Photo: Andrew Boone

East Palo Alto’s decades-long dream to reconnect its east and west sides via a pedestrian/bicycle bridge has taken a huge leap forward. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) approved the city’s $8.6 million application to construct a 12-foot wide bridge over Highway 101 between Newell Road and Clarke Avenue, following East Palo Alto’s City Council’s June allocation of $600,000 for environmental review and design.

The bridge is the second-most expensive project recommended for Caltrans funding statewide, out of 145 ped/bike projects that will receive $221 million over the next two years from the state’s new consolidated Active Transportation Program. (The top-dollar project is $10.9 million for environmental studies and land acquisition for the Coachella Valley Link, a 50-mile long “mostly continuous” multi-use path in Riverside County.)

University Avenue, which runs roughly north-south across the center of East Palo Alto, crosses Highway 101 and continues as Palm Drive through downtown Palo Alto and Stanford University. University Avenue’s 1950′s-era, auto-centric highway interchange design, complete with high-speed loop ramps and six-lane intersections on both sides, practically ensures danger for pedestrians and bicyclists. Anyone on foot or bike must cram into one narrow sidewalk, on the north side of the bridge over Highway 101, since no sidewalk was ever built on the bridge’s south side, and no bike lanes have never been striped within the street.

East Palo Alto’s Woodland neighborhood (foreground) and major shopping center and schools (background) are divided by Highway 101. The curving black line in the center shows the bridge’s planned alignment. Image: Alta Planning + Design

The East Palo Alto Highway 101 Ped/Bike Overcrossing, to use its official name, will provide a safe alternative one third of a mile to the southeast, and shorten the distance between the densely populated Woodland neighborhood west of the highway and the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center on the east. Shopping trips to Mi Pueblo, the city’s only grocery store, will be faster for many residents by bicycle or even on foot than in a car, since drivers will still have to pass through a total of seven heavily trafficked signals to make the one-mile trip.

Several schools located on nearby Clarke Avenue will suddenly become accessible on foot or by bike for the many children living west of the highway. And Newell Road, running due south from the shopping center and the future ped/bike bridge, connects directly to Palo Alto’s high-quality network of bike lanes and bicycle boulevards.

The bridge “will enhance public safety, promote walking and bicycling, and reduce vehicular trips on University Avenue and other congested roadways,” stated the introduction to the bridge project’s $300,000 feasibility study, completed last year by Alta Planning + Design. “The project will also improve community health by providing recreational opportunities and linkages to the Bay Trail and City of Palo Alto.”

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List of Projects Poised for Funding From CA’s Active Transportation Program

The California Transportation Commission recommended 145 bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs for funding from the new Active Transportation Program, including this pedestrian-cyclist-equestrian bridge over the L.A. River. Image from LARRC

The California Transportation Commission has released a list of recommended projects that could get funding from the state’s Active Transportation Program. The ATP is a new statewide grant program that funds bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout California. The list is expected to be approved by the full CTC at its August 20 meeting.

Under the ATP, the CTC is preparing to distribute $221 million for projects and programs in two categories: a statewide competition and a separate competition for small rural and urban projects. A third category of funds will be distributed later this year through the state’s largest Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) (more on that below).

The $221 million for the first two categories will be matched by another $207 million in local matching funds, yielding a total of $426 million in bike and pedestrian projects that will get the green light in the first two-year funding round. The 145 successful applications include 124 statewide projects [PDF] and 21 small rural and urban projects [PDF].

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Another Death on El Camino, While Atherton Bike/Ped Plan Stays Tabled

The “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” installed last year on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, where resident Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed while crossing the street two weeks ago. Image: Google Maps

32-year-old Shahriar Rahimzadeh was struck and killed by the driver of a red 2000 Volvo S40 sedan while walking across El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue near his home in Atherton two weeks ago. It was exactly the type of high-speed, fatal collision that could have been prevented either by crosswalk improvements that Caltrans is dragging its feet on, or by the comprehensive redesign of El Camino proposed by the town’s draft bicycle and pedestrian plan. That plan still awaits approval from the Town Council, more than four months after its review in April.

“Mr. Rahimzadeh was struck hard enough to be thrown some distance from the site of the collision,” Atherton Police Sergeant Sherman Hall told The Almanac. Hall also noted that “we’re not able to place him in the crosswalk,” despite one eyewitness who described seeing both a puddle of blood in the crosswalk, and the Volvo stopped just a few feet past the crosswalk. Shahriar Rahimzadeh survived five hours before dying at Stanford Hospital at 8:40 p.m.

Shahriar Rahimzadeh (left) died on July 23, five hours after being struck by a car driver while walking across El Camino Real in Atherton. Photo: Reza Iranmanesh, via The Almanac

The 1.6-mile stretch of El Camino Real that cuts through the low-density residential town presents an ongoing hazard to residents walking or bicycling — especially for anyone crossing the six-lane arterial street anywhere other than at the sole traffic signal, at Atherton Avenue and Fair Oaks Lane. In October 2012, two women were seriously injured by an SUV driver while walking together across El Camino, in the crosswalk at Isabella Avenue. Two years earlier, 55-year-old Honofre Mendoza and 62-year-old Christopher Chandler were killed by drivers in separate crashes at the same intersection.

After the October 2012 injuries, Atherton officials began lobbying a reluctant California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to implement safety improvements, resulting in “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” at the town’s five existing crosswalks on El Camino — including Almendral Avenue, where Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed on July 23.

Caltrans also agreed to install pedestrian hybrid beacons on El Camino at Almendral Avenue and Isabella Avenue, but only after Atherton town staff insisted on a solution that would require drivers to come to a complete stop for pedestrians crossing the street. Pedestrian hybrid beacons are similar to standard traffic signals: They display yellow, then red, lights to stop vehicle traffic after being activated via a push-button by a person wishing to cross the street on foot or by bike. Caltrans agreed to pay for, and install, the beacons at a cost up to $150,000 for each intersection — but not until 2017. Caltrans engineers initially proposed using much cheaper rectangular rapid flashing beacons, which flash yellow lights from a roadside sign but do not require drivers to stop.

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Ocean Ave to Get Spruced Up, But Real Transformation Will Have to Wait

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Ocean and Geneva Avenues, outside the City College Main Campus. Photo via the SF Planning Department

City planners are shaping up plans for Ocean Avenue, following public workshops that will help develop a vision for both near-term and long-term improvements. The near-term plans, for the commercial stretch of Ocean west of Phelan Avenue and the City College campus, are far along in their development. Meanwhile, a long-term plan for the remainder of the avenue, stretching eastward to the Balboa Park BART Station, is still in its earlier stages.

Thus far, no major changes have been proposed on Ocean. Most of the street has narrow sidewalks, no bike lanes, and heavy car traffic turning from 280 — making the street dangerous to cross and snarling Muni. A separate plan is in the works to remove and re-configure those ramps years down the road, but a redesign of Ocean could present the opportunity to free up room for walking, biking, and transit.

On Ocean between Manor and Phelan Avenues, the near-term plans — set for construction next spring — include a handful of bulb-outs, new sidewalk greenery, seating, and other street fixtures at three “key” T-intersections: Ashton, Capitol, and Granada Avenues. At those intersections, Lily Langlois, the Planning Department’s project manager, said “the street dead-ends at Ocean, so there’s this kind of focal point, and an opportunity to build on that street pattern by creating those community gathering spaces.”

Community members have already taken proactive measures to improve the public realm on Ocean. Today, an event was held to celebrate a mobile parklet that was developed, designed, and built by high school students from the Youth Art Exchange. It will be placed in front of at least five different local businesses, six months at a time, starting at Fog Lifter Cafe.

Alex Mullaney, publisher of the neighborhood newspaper The Ingleside Light, said he helped push the Department of Public Works to create a plan for streetscape improvements on long-neglected Ocean, and created the Ocean Avenue Association’s Street Life Committee.

The near-term streetscape improvements “will go a long way to modernize Ocean Avenue, and bring it up to speed with a number of other neighborhoods,” he said. ”The new landscaping and amenities will improve quality of life and slow down traffic. Ocean Avenue has one of the highest vacancy rates in the city, along with three extremely dangerous intersections. I have zero doubt that the near-term project will turn around those two issues.”

A mobile parklet now sits on Ocean and will be moved every six months. Photo: Youth Art Exchange via Facebook

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Reckless Driver Leaves Urban Data Maven Zachary Watson Fighting for Life

Zachary Watson seen in a panel discussion about Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network, which he helped map in 2012. Image: ZERO1 via Youtube

Zachary Watson, a noted 29-year-old city data visualizer, remains hospitalized in critical condition after a driver fleeing police in a stolen minivan caused a two-car wreck Monday night. Watson was apparently walking with his bike or locking it up when the vehicles hurtled toward him. He is known for creating works like a map of private shuttles that connect San Francisco to Silicon Valley.

Watson's bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

Watson’s bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

The crash occurred at Post and Jones Streets at about 10:15 p.m. Police had attempted to pull over Anthony Wisner, 25, at Post and Hyde Streets, according to reports. The officers did not pursue Wisner, but he sped through red lights and crashed into a taxi at Post and Jones, sending the two vehicles flying into Watson and one other pedestrian. All six people involved were injured, but Watson was the only one to suffer life-threatening injuries.

Although Watson was found with his bicycle and wearing a helmet, there is reason to believe he was not on the bike when he was hit, according to social media posts by Marc Caswell, a former staff at the SF Bicycle Coalition who is a friend and former roommate of Watson’s. Watson may have been walking with or unlocking the bike.

Wisner was reportedly caught by police attempting to flee on a 38-Geary Muni bus, and faces ten felony charges.

Watson, who is currently employed by the Exploratorium, previously worked for Stamen Design, where he helped create a map of Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network that gained attention in the transportation planning world in 2012. He was one of three members on a panel about the role of private shuttles in December 2012, along with Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck and SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan.

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