“We have received requests for student crossing guards from two dozen other schools,” said Yee. “Principals, parents and students have commented how pick-up and drop-off times have improved because of the presence and visibility of our student crossing guards.”
Yee requested a hearing “to explore the possibilities of expanding [the program] citywide.” The school crossing guard program has been partially funded by the American Automobile Association, according to a KPIX report on the pilot program last year:
The school crossing guard program faded away citywide in 2010, after AAA moved out of its San Francisco headquarters, but AAA is now providing the neon green hats, sashes and badges that will be worn by the young guards.
Supervisors Katy Tang and Norman Yee announced measures on Tuesday they say could help reduce dangerous driving on SF streets, bringing the city closer to Vision Zero.
Supervisors Katy Tang and Norman Yee. Photos: Aaron Bialick
Yee called for a study into whether city-owned vehicles could have “black boxes” to record evidence in the event of a crash, and for banning tour bus drivers from talking to passengers. Tang proposed a resolution urging the state to “re-evaluate” fines levied for five dangerous driving violations in SF.
“We recognize that it takes a combination of enforcement, education, and engineering to keep our community safe,” Tang said in a statement. “However, we continuously hear from the community about the prevalence of these dangerous driving behaviors. It is our hope that reevaluating, and perhaps raising, the cost of engaging in these behaviors will prove to be an effective deterrent.”
Tang’s resolution would urge the California Judicial Council “to reevaluate the base fines, and related fees, for violations of the California Vehicle Code related to some of the most dangerous driving behaviors in San Francisco,” says a press release from her office. “This includes: running stop signs, violating pedestrian right-of-way, failing to yield while turning, cell phone use while driving, and unsafe passing of standing streetcar, trolley coach, or bus safety zones.”
Three of those violations are part of SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, a pledge by police to target what the department’s data have identified as the five most common causes of pedestrian crashes. Speeding and red-light running by drivers are on the SFPD’s list, but not on Tang’s, which instead calls for higher fines for cell phone and unsafe passing citations.
“While the baseline [fine] for running a stop sign, violating a pedestrian’s right of way, and unsafe passing of a standing streetcar is $35, the baseline for violating a red light is $100,” Tang said at a board meeting.
Yee, meanwhile, called for the City Budget Analyst to evaluate the cost of installing “black boxes,” also known as event data recorders, on every city vehicle in order to record evidence in the event of a crash. Yee said that he and Supervisor Jane Kim learned about the idea at the recent Vision Zero Symposium held in New York City. Yee said NYC has black boxes on all of its municipal vehicles.
A coalition of safe streets advocates, community organizations, and city supervisors have launched a campaign for San Francisco to join leading cities in adopting a “Vision Zero” goal — an end to traffic deaths on city streets within ten years.
“We need a culture shift in San Francisco, and it has to start from the top down,” said Supervisor John Avalos, also the chair of the SF County Transportation Authority, in a statement. “We’re calling for our mayor, our police chief and our SFMTA director to commit to allocating resources to the three areas that we know can save lives,” he said, referring to engineering, education, and enforcement efforts to reduce crashes.
Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee. Image: Board of Supervisors
Leaders in Chicago and New York City have adopted Vision Zero policies, following the lead of Sweden, which launched the official campaign in 1997, though the country’s traffic deaths have been declining since the 1970s despite increasing population.
In a press release, Supervisors Avalos, Jane Kim, and Norman Yee said they’ll introduce a resolution calling for a “Vision Zero Plan” based on three major components:
The establishment of a “crisis intervention” team by the SFMTA that would be tasked with getting at least two dozen pilot projects into the ground over the next two years, using “near-term, low-cost safety improvements in the areas with repeat traffic collisions.”
SFPD to direct its traffic enforcement resources to “cite the most problematic dangerous behaviors and locations.”
A “citywide safety awareness program for drivers.” Supervisors Yee and Avalos are “targeting state funding opportunities through the Transportation Authority” to fund it, and Supervisor Kim has called for the formation of “an interagency work group to develop a large vehicle and city fleet driver education program for all city employees or drivers who contract with the city.”
Last year, the number of people killed while walking and biking — 21 pedestrians and four bicyclists –- was the highest since 2007, noted a statement from Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition:
Despite calls for critical safety improvements to the streets and more data driven enforcement of traffic crime and widespread education, the Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney and SFMTA Director have made only small commitments to street safety and have not committed to any larger vision toward keeping our residents safe on increasingly chaotic streets.
The district’s three pedestrian deaths within the last two months each took place on streets known to be dangerous for walking. On February 19, 72-year-old Eileen Barrett was killed by a Muni driver on Lake Merced Boulevard and John Muir Drive. On March 4, Hanren Chang, a 17-year-old Lowell High School student, was run down by an allegedly drunk driver on her birthday on Sloat Boulevard at Forest View Drive in a crosswalk, less than a block from her house. On March 21, 68-year-old Tania Madfes, a retired teacher, was crossing West Portal Avenue at Vicente Street with her husband when a driver ran them down. Madfes died from her injuries a week later.
Most of the district’s pedestrian crashes take place on streets designed for drivers to speed, like Sloat, O’Shaughnessy Boulevard, and 19th Avenue, according to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. Residents said even in crosswalks where the agency has added treatments like more visible crosswalk markings and signs that instruct drivers to yield to pedestrians, they don’t.
Anyan Cheng, who was a close friend of Chang’s, said she did a one-hour study this week of a pedestrian crossing on Sloat, the speedway where Chang was killed. Even as elderly residents tried to traverse the roadway, she said, “not one car stopped.”
“On Sloat, on 19th Avenue, on Ocean, on Monterey, we need to fix our streets to tame speeds, calm traffic, and prevent more tragedies,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF.
While District 7 carries a generally proportionate share of pedestrian injuries, those injuries are more likely to be fatal, said SFMTA traffic engineer Ricardo Olea. Of the estimated two to three pedestrians injured every day in San Francisco, District 7 sees 8 percent, but 16 percent of the city’s pedestrian fatalities occur there.
An allegedly drunk driver was arrested for hitting and killing 17-year-old Hanren Chang on Sloat Boulevard near Vale Avenue on Saturday night. According to CBS 5, 29-year-old Keiran Brewer was driving westbound on Sloat at about 11:20 p.m. when he hit Chang, who was crossing the street in the northbound direction, and dragged her “a short distance.” Update: According to ABC 7, Chang was a student at Lowell High School and had just got off a Muni bus on her way home after celebrating her birthday.
Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe said the organization “is saddened to learn of San Francisco’s fourth pedestrian death this past weekend. Hanren Chang was a young girl who lost her life in an awful way, killed and apparently dragged by a car on Sloat Boulevard, one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.”
“It’s time for Mayor [Ed] Lee to mobilize city agencies to make our streets safer for everyone, and prevent more needless tragedies,” she added.
Despite some recent safety improvements, Sloat, a state highway run by Caltrans, remains a deadly speedway dividing the Parkside neighborhood. In January 2012, Caltrans put Sloat on a road diet (converting two of six traffic lanes to buffered bike lanes), upgraded some crosswalks with more visible markings, and lowered the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph. However, without further physical traffic calming measures, the lives of residents crossing the street are still at serious risk.
Two pedestrians were injured on Sloat in 2011, and as Streetsblog reported in January 2010, 54-year-old Feng Lian Zhu was killed by a driver on Sloat near Forest View Drive.
“We were encouraged by the recent improvements Caltrans made on Sloat,” said Stampe. “Clearly much more needs to be done, and the city and the state need to work together quickly to add lights and further traffic-calming to fix this deadly road.”
Sloat runs along the border between District 4 and District 7, whose new supervisor, Norman Yee, expects to hold a hearing later this month to review dangerous spots for pedestrians and the status of safety projects. Eileen Barrett was killed by a driver two weeks ago on Lake Merced Boulevard, another high-speed road in Yee’s district.
As of last week, District 4 is represented by newly-appointed Supervisor Katy Tang, who replaced Carmen Chu. On the Board of Supervisors, Chu pushed Caltrans to initiate last year’s safety improvements. Although Tang didn’t initially mention pedestrian safety when asked about her transportation priorities, she followed up with Streetsblog saying she’d like to discuss the issue further. If you have a pedestrian safety question you’d like us to bring to Tang’s attention, let us know in the comments.
Update: Tang told ABC 7 that pedestrian improvements are slated for the intersections of Sloat and Everglade Drive, Forest View Drive, and 23rd Avenue.
San Francisco has two new faces on the Board of Supervisors: London Breed, representing District 5, and Norman Yee, representing District 7, both inaugurated last month after winning election in November. At a meeting of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors last week, Streetsblog asked the two San Francisco natives to talk about their priorities for improving streets and transportation, both in the neighborhoods they represent and throughout the city.
District 5 is undergoing some major transportation improvements, including bike/ped upgrades on the Wiggle — one of the city’s most heavily-cycled routes for commuters in the western neighborhoods — and planned improvements on the N-Judah, Muni’s busiest line.
Representing neighborhoods like the Western Addition, Japantown, the Upper and Lower Haight, North of Panandle, the Inner Sunset, and Cole Valley, Supervisor Breed emphasized the long view of how transportation planning can accommodate a growing population. “We have to do more, because we have more people walking, more people using public transportation, more people riding bicycles, and the projections in the next 10 to 15 years are really high,” Breed said. “We’re going to have more people in San Francisco, and more people using these modes of transportation.”
“As supervisor, my goal is to look at data, to look at what’s happening, to look at ways in which we can improve the ability for people to get around,” she added. “We have to look at it from a larger scale. We can’t just piecemeal it together.”
Breed noted the challenges of procuring funding for transportation improvements like the unfunded $20 million plan to redesign Masonic Avenue for better walking, biking, and transit. “Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight solution, because the costs associated with making those changes are expensive,” she said.
Breed didn’t go into other specifics on pedestrian and bicycle safety at the meeting, but the “Transportation” page on her campaign website says she supports the SF Bicycle Coalition’s “Connecting the City” vision for a network of protected bikeways, and specifically endorses the Fell and Oak bike and pedestrian improvements underway:
As a kid, my friends and I used to roller skate the Wiggle long before we even knew it was ‘The Wiggle.’ I think the Wiggle should be an economic gateway and a shining example of what bike transit can be.