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Posts from the Pedestrian Safety Category


North Beach Meeting on Sidewalk Bulbs Gets Tense; SFMTA to Paint Demos

A public meeting in North Beach became tense yesterday as residents and firefighters opposed to basic street safety measures continued to assert that sidewalk bulb-outs are dangerous. To appease skeptics, the SFMTA announced that the bulb-outs planned at four intersections on Columbus Avenue will be tested first by installing painted “safety zones” in August. Construction of concrete versions will begin next year.

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that "there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer" to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

A sidewalk extension on Columbus Avenue at Washington Square Park. One man complained yesterday that “there should be a warning saying that you are now much closer” to motor traffic. Photo: SFMTA

The Columbus bulb-outs were approved months ago, and have already been heavily watered-down during a planning process that’s lasted years. The SF Fire Department signed off on them as safe for turning fire trucks.

The bulb-outs “being proposed for Columbus Avenue are not that scary,” said D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen, who told attendees she convinced the SFMTA to implement the painted versions as a trial. “We’ve been looking at all these really carefully… modifications were made, and what we’ve got now is kind of a river stone that’s been smoothed over by all kinds of forces.”

“Nobody that I know is particularly freaked out by what we ended up with,” she added. “But just to make sure, we’re going to paint these on the street. And if somehow, something comes up with the templates, and the reviews, and the tens of hours of community meetings that was not brought to our attention, I guarantee I will go and fix it.”

It was the second recent meeting about bulb-outs held by North Beach Neighbors. At the first meeting on April 30, Hoodline reported, members of SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 protested life-saving curb extensions claiming they hinder fire trucks. Since that meeting, the union’s president also sent a letter [PDF] to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White calling the department’s approvals of bulb-outs “very troubling.”

Unlike the first meeting, officials from SFFD and the SFMTA made presentations and answered questions on the issue, which seemed to quell fears among some attendees.

A few people remained unconvinced, however, and raised their voices. Here’s one of the arguments between an opponent and SFMTA planner Oliver Gajda, about whether it’s safe to assume that trucks can turn around bulb-outs without conducting a field test:

Firefighter Tony Rivera also repeated an anecdote to scare people about the prospect of wider sidewalks that he told at the April meeting, according to Hoodline.

At Columbus and Union Streets, where the block of sidewalk along Washington Square Park was extended last year to make the bus stop more efficient, Rivera said he became alarmed when his six-year-old son bent down to pick up a penny at the curb.

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SF Firefighters Take Campaign Against Safe Street Design to North Beach

At a community meeting about bulb-outs in North Beach tomorrow evening, some residents and firefighters are expected to speak against the curb extensions on the grounds that they make streets more dangerous.

Image: KTVU

As Hoodline has reported, the leadership of the North Beach Neighbors and the SF Fire Fighters Union have drummed up opposition to bulb-outs proposed at four intersections along Columbus Avenue. NBN will hold its second public discussion on the issue tomorrow.

While the SF Fire Department’s top brass has shown signs of letting go of its opposition to curb extensions, SF Fire Fighters Union Local 798 has maintained a campaign for wider, more dangerous roadways.

Now there’s tension between the union and the fire department about street design. In a June 18 letter to SFFD Chief Johanne Hayes-White [PDF], Local 798 President Tom O’Connor protested the department’s “very troubling” approval of “obstacles” that “will require our members to knowingly drive into oncoming traffic” (yes, some firefighters still make that claim):

We further assert that any and all obstacles that have already installed [sic] should completely [sic] removed on the basis that they are a danger to public safety, to our members and to the integrity of our apparatus and finally as a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

NBN President Trish Herman has fueled the flames. She told Hoodline that “bulb-outs in the Castro have caused traffic back-ups,” presumably referring to Castro Street’s recent sidewalk expansion, which narrowed its excessively wide traffic lanes. She also complained about sidewalk space removing parking: “They’re not considering the vehicle public,” she said.

Bulb-outs improve the visibility of pedestrians, shorten crossing distances, and keep drivers from barreling around turns at high speed and hitting people. They are an increasingly common street safety measure in SF.

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Safer Path Could Help Untangle the “Alemany Maze” Highway Interchange

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

Image: SFCTA via D10 Watch

The “Alemany Maze,” the deadly Highway 101 and 280 interchange in the southeast city, could get a safer crossing for walking and biking. Funding to study a walking path and bike lanes through the junction was approved this week by the SF County Transportation Authority Board of Directors, comprised of the Board of Supervisors.

The Alemany Maze. Photo: Chuck B. / my back 40 (feet)

The study, set to be completed by next June, will look at creating a “multi-modal pathway” where residents already cross the “nasty mess of ramps” to reach the Alemany Farmers Market, SFCTA planner Colin Dentel-Post told an SFCTA board committee this week.

“People currently use an informal pathway and dangerous, unsignalized crossings through the interchange,” he said. The maze “creates a barrier between the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Bernal, Portola, Bayview, and Silver Terrace neighborhoods.”

The $100,000 approved for the study was requested by D9 Supervisor David Campos. Campos was apparently swayed by the Portola Neighborhood Association to push for a safer crossing, according to a recent post by Chris Waddling at D10 Watch.

Waddling, chair of the SFCTA Citizens Advisory Committee representing District 10, lauded the advancement of the project:

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SFMTA Plans to Install Painted “Safety Zones” at 40 Intersections This Year

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A painted bulb-out, a.k.a. “safety zone,” at Sacramento and Stockton Streets, where 78-year old Pui Fong Yim Lee was killed. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA has ramped up its roll-out of painted curb extensions, which the agency calls “safety zones,” at some of the city’s most dangerous corners. Twenty-one have been installed at at least 11 intersections, and the tally should reach 40 intersections by the end of the year, said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose.

Painted bulb-outs are a low-cost measure to slow down turning drivers, using khaki-colored gravel and epoxy to expand sidewalk corners. When the bulb-outs replace parked cars at street corners, they also make people more visible to drivers approaching intersections, a measure known as daylighting. Once funding becomes available, they can be upgraded to concrete sidewalk extensions.

“We are installing painted safety zones on the city’s pedestrian high-injury network, where just 6 percent of city streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities,” Jose wrote in a recent blog post. “Painted safety zones are one of the elements we are quickly installing to improve safety in support of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths.”

So far, most of the bulb-outs can be found along Howard Street in SoMa and as part of the first phase of safety upgrades on Polk Street.

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Parking-Protected Bike Lanes, Ped Safety Upgrades Coming to Division at 9th

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The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

The bike lanes on a block of Division, between 9th and 10th Streets, will get a parking-protected redesign this fall. Photo: Google Maps

Bike lanes on the block of Division Street between 9th and 10th Streets will get some much-needed protection this fall. Earlier this week the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a design that will put people on bikes between the curb and parked cars. The massive 9th and Division intersection will also get safety improvements like large painted curb extensions.

The upgrades would complement other bike and pedestrian safety improvements going in along Division, which becomes 13th Street as it runs beneath the Central Freeway.

SF’s first parking-protected bike lane on a city street was expected to be constructed this spring on westbound 13th, from Bryant to Folsom Street. SFMTA officials haven’t explained why that project has been delayed, though some of the other striping improvements included in the package have been implemented.

Altogether, the upgrades along Division and 13th, from the traffic circle at Eighth Street to Folsom, will create a continuous curbside westbound bike lane that could set a precedent for how low-cost redesigns can make dangerous SoMa streets safer.

“It’s turning out to be a really good cycling route,” Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the SFMTA board on Tuesday.

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

Plans for Division near Ninth and 10th include large painted bulb-outs and a installation of a missing sidewalk on Ninth. Image: SFMTA

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Driver Kills Ai You Zhou, 77, at Clay and Kearny; Christensen Calls for Action

Photo: Parker Day

Yesterday at about 6 p.m., Tim Pak Wong, 59, ran over and killed Ai You Zhou, 77, in the crosswalk at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets near Chinatown. Safety improvements have been planned for the location, and today Supervisor Julie Christensen called for swifter action on pedestrian safety from the SFMTA and SFPD.

SFPD issued Wong a citation on suspicion of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and misdemeanor manslaughter, reports the SF Chronicle.

Zhou appeared to have the walk signal, according to Parker Day, who witnessed the crash from about a block away as he biked toward the intersection. He said Wong was turning left onto Kearny from Clay.

When Day took the photo of the scene above, Zhou “had just stopped breathing and [Wong] was about to pull her out from under the car.”

“It was a terrible thing to witness,” Day added. “I hope I don’t ever see something like it again.”

D3 Supervisor Christensen held a press conference at the site of the crash today to call on the SFMTA to expedite pedestrian safety improvements and the SFPD “to step up enforcement at our problem intersections along our high injury corridors.”

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SFMTA Bucks Uber, Bans Private Autos From Turning On to Mid-Market Street

Uber's Wayne Ting told the SFMTA board the company opposed "preferential treatment" for taxis on Market Street. Video screenshot from Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/YouTube

Uber’s Wayne Ting told the SFMTA board the company opposed “preferential treatment” for taxis on Market Street. Video screenshot from Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/YouTube

Private auto drivers will be banned from turning on to Market Street between Third and Eighth streets after the restrictions were approved unanimously by the SFMTA Board of Directors yesterday.

The board dismissed the last-minute protest from Uber, who complained that its ride-hail drivers would be included in the ban, while taxis wouldn’t. In the roughly three hours of public comment, the vast majority of speakers supported the bans — safe streets advocates and taxi drivers alike.

Uber had initially criticized the plan outright, saying that it would “increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.” But reps from Uber and Lyft, which have long fought the kind of regulations applied to the taxi industry, told the SFMTA board they support turn bans to make Market safer as long as they’re also applied to taxis.

“It creates a preferential treatment for one form of transportation over another,” Wayne Ting, Uber’s SF general manager told the board, eliciting jeers from members of the audience.

“If Uber wants to be regulated like a taxi then they can have the benefits of being regulated,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara told Bay City News.

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Memorial for Wilbert Williams Calls on Caltrans to Fix SoMa’s Freeway Ramps

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara speaks with safe streets advocates  near Fifth and Harrison, where Williams was run over in his sleep. Photo: Walk SF

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara speaks with safe streets advocates near Fifth and Harrison, where Williams was run over in his sleep. Photo: Walk SF

One year ago yesterday, 62-year-old Wilbert Williams was sleeping in a tent next to a Highway 80 off-ramp at Fifth and Harrison Streets at about 1 a.m. when he was run over and killed by a drunk SUV driver who veered off the road.

Wilbert and Yvette Williams. Photo courtesy of Yvette Williams

Wilbert and Yvette Williams. Photo courtesy of Yvette Williams

“That morning, I woke up and got ready to see my husband,” wrote Williams’ widow, Yvette Williams, in a statement:

I turned on the television, and heard the story of a man hit by a car in his sleep. The car drove straight through the 5th Street offramp into an adjacent park. I saw my husband’s friends talking to the camera. As I searched for Wilbert on the screen, all I could see were his belongings — a sign written in his handwriting, his hat, his pillow and his wagon. My heart began to drop. I raced over to the scene as quickly as possible. As I was driven to the morgue — not the hospital — I prayed I would not find my husband… that it was someone else.

That day, my hopes were shattered and my life forever changed. I lost the love of my life. And on top of it, I faced prejudice.

Safe streets advocates held a memorial yesterday near the site where Williams was killed, highlighting the dangerous driving encouraged by the freeway ramps.

The Vision Zero Coalition, led by Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition, called for urgent action from Caltrans, the state agency that controls highways and the city streets where freeway ramps touch down. With a decades-long legacy of gouging highways through cities, the agency still tends to disregard the burdens that grade-separated limited-access roads impose on urban neighborhoods like the South of Market District.

“Caltrans is notorious for focusing their engineering on facilitating vehicle traffic, and regularly misses the mark on safety goals,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara in a statement. “Today, we’re asking Caltrans to stop with business as usual, and start building roads to protect the lives of people who travel on them.”

Caltrans recently pledged a new focus on safer streets, and took a first step by “piloting a pedestrian safety program, which uses injury data to inform investments,” according to the coalition’s press release. But “waiting for a potential program to help address the dangerous conditions freeways have created on our local streets is no longer an option,” said Ferrara. “Caltrans needs to prioritize safety and take steps to make corrective improvements now.”

The data collected by the SF Department of Public Health in recent years reinforces what’s already known by just about anyone who walks in SoMa: The city’s most dangerous streets are those designed for speed, and they’re the deadliest at freeway ramps.

“Freeway ramps in San Francisco are where fast moving traffic merging on and off freeways literally meets our local streets — and the people walking and biking along them,” said SFDPH’s Megan Wier, co-chair of the city’s Vision Zero Task Force. “This can be a fatal combination. Tracking these deaths and where they occur helps us to recognize patterns and opportunities to save lives.”

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Tomorrow: Support Car Restrictions for a Safer Market, Which Uber Opposes

Image: SFMTA

Image: SFMTA

You can email public comments on the “Safer Market Street” car restrictions to the SFMTA board at

The SFMTA Board of Directors is set to vote tomorrow on whether to ban private auto drivers from turning onto mid-Market Street, part of a package of safety improvements and transit upgrades.

While the improvements seem to be backed by a wide coalition, Uber doesn’t belong to it. At the eleventh hour, the ride-hail app company launched a petition to exempt Uber drivers from the restrictions. Though Hoodline reported that the petition had gained 15,000 signatures after Uber’s email blast, the petition webpage was hacked and subsequently taken down by Uber, according to Business Insider.

The “Safer Market Street” improvements are short-term measures aimed at reducing injuries, SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire told reporters last week. “Our most iconic street should be our safest street.”

On Market between Third and Eighth Streets, where the turn bans would go into effect, private auto drivers make up just 10-30 percent of roadway traffic but were involved in 82 percent of the 162 injury collisions in 2012 and 2013, according to Maguire. Most pedestrians were injured in crosswalks.

The mid-Market stretch contains four of the city’s top 20 intersections for pedestrian injuries, and the two intersections with the most bicycle injuries citywide.

“These types of crash patterns are just not acceptable to us,” said Maguire.

“The Safer Market Street Project is a strong example of a data-driven proposal that is purely focused on safety,” SF Bicycle Coalition wrote in a blog post today. “It’s important that the project moves forward promptly in its strongest form to help protect the thousands of people who walk and bike on Market Street every day.”

Uber dismissed the data while demanding that its drivers be exempt from the turn bans, as taxis will. Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend told the SF Chronicle last week, “Market Street is a major artery of the city, and cutting off riders and driver-partners from accessing this thoroughfare will increase gridlock around town, with no improvement to safety.”

D6 Supervisor Jane Kim stands by the car restrictions, her aide told Hoodline:

When she championed the legislation to establish the Vision Zero policy citywide two years ago, this is the type of engineering change that she had in mind. Engineering to create safer streets, with a priority focus on the corridors and intersections with the highest rates of collisions between vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, is a critical component of the Vision Zero policy. This change will target four of the worst collision intersections where drivers fail to yield to pedestrians.

Andy Bosselman, a transit activist who uses Uber regularly, blasted Uber’s opposition in an open letter to the SFMTA board.

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Fisherman’s Wharf Parking-Free Street Revamp Boosts Sales, Will Expand

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Two years after the city gave Fisherman’s Wharf a people-friendly redesign on two blocks of Jefferson Street, business is booming. Despite merchants’ fears that removing all car parking on the blocks would hurt their sales, they now say it had the opposite effect.

The second phase of the project, which will bring a similar treatment to three blocks of Jefferson from Jones Street east to Powell Street, is taking a step forward. D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen and other city officials announced today that $1.7 million has been allocated for design and engineering for the expansion. The rest of the funds for the second phase, totaling $13 million, haven’t been identified, but it could be constructed as early as 2017.

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman's Wharf CBD

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman’s Wharf CBD

In June 2013, the two blocks of Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets were made safer and calmer with wider sidewalks, textured pavement to calm motor traffic, and the removal of curbside car parking. One-way traffic was also converted to two-way.

Since then, sales on the street have risen. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District surveyed 18 of the 33 businesses on those blocks, and they reported month-over-month gross sales increases between 10 to 21 percent on average:

From July through November 2013, these 18 businesses generated an additional $1.5 million dollars in gross sales from the previous year. This added approximately $140,000 more in sales tax for the city during this 5 month period.

“People are staying longer and spending more money,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD. “Drivers are a little more cautious, I would say.”

Removing car parking to widen sidewalks provided more room for crowds and made storefronts more visible, said Campbell. “You look down the street, and you don’t have a string of cars that are part of the landscape. The businesses become the landscape.”

“A lot of the merchants came back to me and said, you know what, I thought losing the parking was going to be a problem, but I feel like people can actually see my windows now, and they’re engaging with us more.”

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