“I’m told that traffic patterns there, they flow differently than the grid type patterns that we have here, and so people may be accustomed to a different type of traffic pattern,” Ali told ABC 7.
It’s hard not to cringe when watching law enforcement officials sidestep the clear message the city needs: Drivers need to be more careful to protect the most vulnerable people on the streets — people who aren’t in cars, especially those young and old. SFPD’s data shows that the top factors cited in pedestrian crashes have nothing to do with pedestrian behavior.
Sure, everyone can benefit from using some caution, but the dangers facing San Franciscans on the streets are not immigrants unwittingly hurling themselves in front of cars.
Mayor Ed Lee seemed to be on board with the strategy of educating immigrants on how streets work. According to ABC 7, he supports “more bilingual campaigns to educate immigrants to the American traffic system.”
The fact that many victims killed by drivers are elderly and Asian probably has more to do with them being elderly — it’s well-known that the older we get, the more physically susceptible to injuries and less nimble we become. Consequently, designing cities to favor the movement of cars disproportionately hurts the elderly and minorities who walk.
Ali makes it sound like most pedestrian victims just got off a plane after a lifetime on chaotic streets in Asia and were unable to grasp San Francisco’s practice of prioritizing the streets for cruising drivers. Although, 84-year-old Isabell Huie, a longtime Chinatown activist, may have indeed been confused by the traffic pattern she saw when an elderly driver lost control of her car while trying to park, plowing into her and a man, killing Huie. We have yet to hear the SFPD say much about confused elderly drivers, though (these types of crashes happen more often than you might think).
We shouldn’t go too hard on Ali. He’s been making the right type of statements recently that other law enforcement officials haven’t. He told the SF Examiner last week that “grossly negligent” drivers will “find themselves in jail.” And in a presentation to the Police Commission yesterday, he made it clear that he’s keenly aware of the impetus to follow the department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, which targets the five most common violations cited for causing pedestrian crashes (all driving violations) and the five most dangerous intersections in each police district.
SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, meanwhile, appeared to edge away from his apparent fixation on pedestrians who use cell phones in his comments at the commission meeting. Suhr promised an escalation in traffic enforcement as SFPD recoups its currently low staff in the coming months: