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Posts from the "Pedestrians" Category

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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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Supes, SFPD, SFMTA Stand With Crash Victims and Advocates at City Hall

Crash survivor Monique Porsandeh speaks alongside Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider and city officials holding the names of those killed by drivers. Photos: Walk SF

SFPD officials, transportation department heads, and three supervisors stood outside City Hall this morning alongside safe streets advocates and people whose lives have been affected by traffic violence. The press conference served as a call to action and a memorial for victims of traffic violence in the past year, with participants holding Valentines featuring names of the deceased.

Walk SF, which organized the event, was joined by Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and John Avalos, the sponsors of the “Vision Zero” resolution introduced at the board. Also in attendance were SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum and top brass from the SFMTA and the SFPD Traffic Company, including Commander Mikail Ali and  SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, as well as SF County Transportation Authority Executive Director Tilly Chang. Mayor Ed Lee was absent.

“The violence has to end,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that since December, 11 pedestrians have been killed by drivers, four of them this year. Introducing a segment about the event today, an ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings said it “feels like open season on pedestrians.”

“We’ve acknowledged that this is a crisis,” said Schneider, “and now we’re calling on city leaders to fund the [SFMTA's] Pedestrian Strategy and implement Vision Zero — zero traffic fatalities in 10 years.”

“It’s a tragedy that it is becoming a common occurrence for children, parents, spouses, relatives and friends to lose a loved one in San Francisco because of recklessness on the roads,” Supervisor Yee, who has been hit by a driver, said in a statement. ”Let’s slow down, be alert, and be respectful. It will take our whole community to make Vision Zero a reality.”

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Speeding Driver Arrested for Killing Pedestrian, Walking Away on Van Ness

Image: KTVU

SFPD has arrested 27-year-old Mageb Hussain of Emeryville for hitting and killing an unidentified pedestrian on Van Ness at Pacific Avenue at about 1 a.m. last night. Hussain was reportedly driving a rental car and attempted to walk away from the scene of the crash.

Mageb Hussain. Photo: SFPD

Police said Hussain faces felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run charges. According to KTVU and the SF Chronicle, Hussain was traveling at freeway speeds when the unidentified victim attempted to cross mid-block. The impact of the crash was so severe, the car’s hood and windshield were smashed in.

The Chronicle reported that Hussain has a “checkered driving record”:

In March and April of 2011, he was cited twice for speeding and once for driving on a sidewalk in three separate incidents. He later failed to make court appearances, records show, and his license was suspended in November of 2011 – an action that ended in October of last year. Hussain’s license is currently valid, the DMV said.

Hussain is the fourth driver to be arrested by SFPD for killing a pedestrian since New Year’s Eve. The drivers in the previous three cases stayed on the scene. Prior to those incidents, it was unusual for police to arrest drivers who were sober and didn’t attempt to flee. But this year SFPD has adhered to its recent change in policy, which allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes when there appears to be probable cause.

In the most recent crash on Sunset Boulevard last Tuesday, 71-year-old driver Jenny Ching was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. In Hussain’s case, it appears the manslaughter charge may have been elevated to a felony since he attempted to flee.

The victim, whom police haven’t identified, is at least the third pedestrian killed by a driver this year. Today’s KTVU report said a fourth pedestrian, who was previously reported to have suffered critical injuries, has died after being hit by a driver in a crosswalk at Van Ness and Grove Street last Wednesday. That driver fled and evaded police.

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The Chron Still a Podium for Willie Brown’s Anti-Bike, Pro-Freeway Garbage

Willie Brown’s successors don’t look so bad when reading the former mayor’s windshield perspective drivel in his latest Chronicle column.

Willie Brown. Image: ##http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?id=9242261##ABC 7##

Willie Brown. Image: ABC 7

It’s hard to imagine San Franciscans once again electing a mayor who responds to a spate of pedestrian injuries by lambasting everything but the primary cause: reckless driving. But according to yesterday’s column from the increasingly out-of-touch Brown, San Francisco wouldn’t be plagued by “increasingly unsafe streets” if only we had more freeways and fewer people walking and biking:

We have only ourselves to blame for San Francisco’s increasingly unsafe streets.

We tore down the Central and Embarcadero freeways and in the process dumped thousands of additional cars onto the already crowded streets, many driving at nearly the same speed they did on the freeways.

We encouraged more people to ride bicycles, then all but exempted them from following traffic rules.

We brought thousands of pedestrians into downtown, then allowed them to jaywalk at will, often with their heads buried in their latest mobile devices.

We tell the cops to write more tickets, then when they do, some supervisor accuses them of racial profiling or picking on the poor.

And now, in the name of tech, we’re allowing hundreds of ride-share gypsy cabs onto the streets without commercial driver’s licenses.

Ten years after Brown left office, even the SFPD is re-shaping its policies around what its data shows — that the vast majority of pedestrian injuries are caused by reckless driving. Not that we should expect data to be relevant to a man who seems to base his transportation and street safety views on no data or empirical evidence whatsoever.

Apparently, little has changed since September 1996, in Brown’s first year as mayor, when his limo driver hit Karen Alexander in a crosswalk. Hold on to your jaw as you read the Chronicle’s report of Brown’s casual dismissal of the incident:

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SFPD Arrests Driver for Manslaughter for Killing Man on Sunset Boulevard

Photo: CBS 5

The SFPD has arrested, cited, and released a driver for killing 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon as he crossed Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in the Outer Sunset Tuesday at about 11 a.m. This is the third known instance of the SFPD arresting a driver who killed a pedestrian, and wasn’t drunk or fleeing the scene, since New Year’s Eve. Previously, such drivers typically faced no legal penalties.

Jenny Ching, 71, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, police told the SF Chronicle:

Berenzon was walking east across Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in or near a crosswalk just before 11 a.m. when Ching, traveling south, hit him with a Toyota Corolla, police said.

The road has three lanes in each direction, separated by a median. The crosswalk near where Berenzon was struck features warning lights that flash when a pedestrian hits a button to cross, but police have not said whether the lights were in use at the time of the crash.

Berenzon was pronounced dead at the scene. Ching and her two passengers were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Chuck Nevius: People Who Don’t Walk in Fear Are Part of a “Militant Cult”

When KQED asked Jason Henderson in a recent interview whether distracted pedestrians are contributing to a rise in traffic injuries and fatalities, he countered the nonsense. “Well, let’s think of it this way,” said Henderson, the author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. “A pedestrian talking on the phone that bumps into another pedestrian is probably not going to result in a fatality.”

The Chronicle’s Chuck Nevius begs to differ in his column today. Nevius apparently has nothing but scorn for people who “step confidently into the crosswalk” — “even when they’re right” — saying they’re part of a “militant cult.”

For Nevius, ranting from behind the windshield is old hat, so his latest drivel is not exactly a big surprise. Still, it’s kind of astounding that the Chronicle thinks it’s okay to publish a column ranting about seniors who enter the crosswalk near the end of a countdown signal. Nevius is taken aback, for instance, by a “little old lady, carrying a cane, who stepped blithely off the curb with one tick left on the crossing clock. She tottered across three lanes of traffic with cars waiting, but I can’t say she was oblivious. She held her free hand up in a ‘stop’ gesture.”

Nevius apparently feels that San Franciscans need to be reminded that they should expect to get run over when they walk. “The pedestrians in San Francisco are freaking nuts,” Nevius wrote. Yet he admits he, too, crosses the street — gasp — and dabbles in the cult’s “nutty” way of life:

We have lots of jaywalkers near The Chronicle building. Which is understandable — long blocks, people downtown in a hurry. I’ve jaywalked and I am likely to do so again. But I also think I’d better watch it. I’m in the middle of the street, no crosswalk, and cars may not stop.

At least Nevius starts off his column with “the necessary stipulation” that “granted, drivers in San Francisco are a menace… and generally scare the bejeebers out of all of us. Bad, drivers, bad.” Then comes the follow-up: “having fulfilled our politically correct responsibilities, we can get back to the real topic.”

To Nevius, the “real topic” is not the drivers piloting multi-ton motor vehicles through the streets, who can maim or kill a human being when they mess up. The focus must be on the behavior of those pesky, unarmored human beings. (“He might as well tell us that he has lots of friends who are pedestrians too,” one Streetsblog commenter remarked.)

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“Pissed-Off Voters” to Mayor: “Be Nice, Look Twice” an Insult to Victims

The League of Pissed Off-Voters says the mayor’s message to drivers to “be nice” and not run people over is an insult to victims of traffic violence. Here, a Lyft driver injured an elderly woman in a crosswalk at a stop sign at at Larkin and Jackson Streets last Friday. Image: ABC 7

The League of Pissed-Off Voters is, well, pissed off about Mayor Ed Lee’s lighthearted tone in his “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign — his answer to the maiming and killing of San Franciscans by reckless drivers.

Mayor Lee at his “State of the City” address last week.

In an open letter to Mayor Lee, titled “Don’t be a Zero: We need public service, not lip service,” the League — a non-profit that works to increase young people’s involvement in politics — posited whether the mayor would ever take such an offensively blithe approach in addressing gun violence:

A cute rhyming slogan is not only worthless, it is deeply offensive to the hundreds of victims of traffic violence and shows that the Mayor is clearly not taking this issue seriously. Imagine how the you would react if Mayor Lee proposed a plan to reduce gun violence with a Public Service Campaign called “Give a Hoot, Don’t Shoot.” We need leadership from the Mayor – not pandering to the vehicular class.

Will you join the rest of the city and call for zero deaths in the next ten years? And will you prioritize the funding in your budget to get the engineering, education and enforcement necessary to save lives? It WOULD be nice, wouldn’t it, to not have to worry about getting killed every time you step into a crosswalk on a green light.

Note the difference between the city’s message to drivers and what it tells pedestrians. While drivers are asked to “be nice” and not run people over, pedestrians get flyers from SFPD depicting a body lying on the street, alongside the words, “It’s of little comfort to know you had the right of way, while you recover from serious injury in the hospital.” How nice.

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SFPD Commits to “Vision Zero” With Policy Reforms to Back Up the Rhetoric

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[Editor's note: Streetsblog will not be publishing Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.]

The conversation is changing when it comes to the SFPD’s approach to traffic violence. That much was clear at a four-hour hearing at City Hall last night, where SFPD Chief Suhr and Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali pledged to pursue Vision Zero, the call to end traffic fatalities within ten years.

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr speaks at the hearing alongside SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Photo: ##http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/01/17/san-francisco-pledges-to-boost-traffic-safety-after-deadly-crashes/##CBS 5##

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr speaks at the hearing alongside SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Photo: CBS 5

Suhr told city supervisors and the Police Commission, in a room packed with citizens, the SFPD’s command staff, and every police captain, that “we are committed to a new normal in San Francisco.” And the SFPD backed up the rhetoric by announcing real performance metrics and procedural changes.

The raft of SFPD changes to investigations, citation issuance, and arrests marks a “seismic shift in policy,” Suhr told the Bay Guardian in a video interview after the hearing. It’s too early to say how deep and lasting these reforms will be, but there is real substance to them.

For the first time, SFPD presented a goal to measure the performance of its “Focus on the Five” program: At least 50 percent of tickets issued should be for the five most common violations in crashes in pedestrian crashes — drivers’ violation of pedestrian right-of-way, speeding, running red lights, running stop signs, and turning violations. In 2013, during which the program was in effect, the number was 22 percent, according to Ali.

A policy change initiated in 2013 also allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes where there appears to be “probable cause,” Ali said. That appears to explain the unusual instance of two drivers being arrested for killing pedestrians on New Year’s Eve.

In a new policy change for 2014, Ali said SFPD can now also issue citations to a party found to be at fault. Previously, police policy was not to issue a citation in a crash unless the officer witnessed the violation him or herself. One major reason SFPD said they often refrained from issuing tickets was to avoid double jeopardy — charging someone for the same crime twice — the theory being if the SFPD issued a citation, the district attorney may not be able to legally file charges as well.

Police will also issue citations or make arrests off-scene, when an investigation later determines fault in a case, said Ali. In fact, Suhr said that SFPD would review collision cases throughout the past year for such opportunities, including that of Jikaiah Stevens, who was hit by a driver who admitted to running a red light, yet faced no penalties. Stevens spoke at the hearing after a short documentary telling her story was shown.

“That driver will be issued a citation,” Suhr said. “Going forward, we’re committed to making a decision at the scene and/or doing a mailer if it requires follow-up investigation.”

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The Life-Altering Impact of Traffic Violence: Jikaiah Stevens’ Story

Reminder: Today at 5 p.m. at City Hall, a hearing on the SFPD’s treatment of pedestrian and bicycle crashes will be held by the Police Commission and a Board of Supervisors committee. You’re invited to share your thoughts at the Board of Supervisors Chamber, Room 250.

We’ve heard the story too many times. A reckless driver strikes a person, at no fault of the victim’s, and the motorist faces no legal repercussions. It happens even in cases like that of 31-year-old Jikaiah Stevens, who was hit in a crosswalk by Wren Coe in September as she crossed on a green light. Even though witnesses attested to Coe running a red light, and Coe herself admitted fault, she didn’t get so much as a ticket.

Dolly Totes and her team produced this superb mini documentary, “Walk at Her Own Risk,” which tells Stevens’ story in the broader context of pedestrian safety in San Francisco. Stevens was also featured in an SF Chronicle story yesterday.

Stevens was left with medical bills of $143,000 and has suffered ailments like brain injury that caused a loss smell and taste, “extreme unexpected social anxiety,” and short-term memory loss. Police say they can’t cite or charge the driver because they didn’t witness the crash themselves. Stevens says no lawyer will take her case to sue Coe because Coe doesn’t have enough assets. An online fundraiser has been set up to help pay her bills.

“I say, I got hit by a car in a crosswalk, and they go, oh, so that person’s in a lot of trouble now, huh?” Stevens says. “I go, actually no, none. She doesn’t have to pay anything, and she got her license, and she can go hit anyone else she wants.”

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NYC Mayor de Blasio Pursues “Vision Zero” While Ed Lee Displays Zero Vision

“There is an epidemic of traffic fatalities and it can’t go on… Every one of us thinks: ‘What if that was my child?’” The mayor of a major American city said this today, announcing efforts to pursue Vision Zero, the goal of ending traffic deaths within ten years. Standing at the site where a child was killed by a driver, he said, “That is, in fact, how we have to make public policy and how we have to implement public policy.”

Meanwhile, Ed Lee put out a press release. Photo: Asian Week

The mayor who spoke those words was not SF’s Ed Lee — it was Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City. Coincidentally, Mayor Lee did issue a press release today addressing traffic violence, but unlike the message de Blasio sent at his press conference, Lee’s statements appeared to be aimed more at placating city residents who’ve been calling for safer streets than demonstrating a serious commitment to making that a major priority.

Lee’s press release, which he did not hold a press conference to announce, touted a new SFMTA safe driving awareness campaign, an increase in SFPD traffic enforcement staff, and the SFMTA’s procurement of funds for planned traffic signal upgrades along Polk Street and South Van Ness Avenue — in 2017. A safe driving training program for truckers contracted by the city will also start in 2015.

The “Be Nice, Look Twice,” campaign will comprise a safe driving fact sheet to be distributed starting next month. Nice, yes, but the campaign is being produced by the SFMTA, not the SFPD — the agency that has the force of law behind it. (The only traffic safety flyers recently issued by the police department were basically a middle finger to pedestrian victims.)

While de Blasio stated today that he and his top commissioners “are standing with” the families of traffic violence victims (and they literally stood with victims’ families at the announcement), and that “we’re starting immediately to make changes to protect our children, and to protect all New Yorkers,” Mayor Lee’s printed statement was essentially a tepidly generalized “be careful, slow down” PSA, softened to the point of near meaninglessness:

Pedestrian safety continues to be a key focus as our City grows. San Francisco is a City that walks, and we all have a shared responsibility to protect and care for the most vulnerable users on our City streets. By looking out for each other and by driving more slowly and carefully, we can make a big impact on improving safety for those walking in San Francisco. This new campaign will be culturally competent and will touch all corners of San Francisco.

“The mayor’s announcement acknowledges the long-standing and pervasive problem of traffic crimes on our city’s streets, but it does little to end the preventable injuries and deaths from the daily crashes plaguing our streets,” said Natalie Burdick of Walk SF. ”When there are solutions that can save lives, no loss of life should be acceptable. Rather than taking a scattershot approach that doesn’t even offer safety training until 2015, or engineering improvements until 2017, the city should adopt a Vision Zero goal now to eliminate every traffic death, whether it’s a driver, bicyclist, or pedestrian, over the next 10 years.”

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