Today’s Headlines

  • Taxi Driver Hits, Kills Woman at Larkin and Pine Streets (SF Examiner)
  • Person Killed By Driver While Walking Up Highway 101 Offramp at Alemany Boulevard (SFBay)
  • Driver Injures Man on Castro Street Between 17th and 18th Streets (Hoodline)
  • 4/20 Car Closure Returns on Westbound Kezar Drive; Sup. Breed: Don’t Drive There (ExaminerSFist)
  • BART Proposes Designs for Street Escalator Canopies at Civic Center, Powell Stations (SFBay)
  • More on Leap, the “Non-Transit” Company That Wants to “Inspire” Muni (Al Jazeera, Overhead Wire)
  • Bike Theft Caught on Video in the Mission (Mission Local)
  • KPFA Radio Host Wesley Burton Killed in Hit-and-Run Car Crash in Oakland (ABCSFBay)
  • The Alamedan Wants Input On Alameda’s Efforts to Make Safe Streets Safer
  • Palo Alto Man, 21, Killed By Trucker While Walking on Side of Highway 101 (Palo Alto Online)
  • Concord Driver Hits Stopped Police Cruiser (SFBay); Redwood City Driver Crashes Into Home (SMDJ)
  • Stanley Roberts Learns About the Laws Around Driving With Marijuana

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • The young woman mentioned in the first article was going to be 18 today. This is very sad. Much love to her community, her parents, teachers, and friends.

  • murphstahoe
  • jd_x

    SF streets have been a slaughter ground recently due to motorists. Sickening that nothing seems to awaken our society to the fact that is utterly ridiculous we have built our cities entirely around cars.

  • p_chazz

    “Or perhaps, due to pedestrians not looking where they are going? In the cases above, the motorists do not appear to have been at fault:

    “SFPD tells us that the man walked out into the street on the 400 block of Castro (not using the crosswalk), where the collision occurred.”–Hoodline

    “The pedestrian may have been under the influence of alcohol, according to CHP. The driver of the Freightliner was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and did not suffer any injuries.”–Palo Alto Online

    “The taxi had been traveling west on Pine Street when the pedestrian reportedly ran out into the street and was struck by the vehicle, Esparza said.”–SF Examiner

  • gneiss

    You’re missing the point. We’ve created places where mistake by the vulnerable party ends in death. Wouldn’t it be far better if we slowed down traffic and re-engineered our streets so these kinds of tragedies would be less likely? You read this blog. Stop acting like we can’t change the existing infrastructure to make it more forgiving for people walking and biking rather than those who drive.

  • p_chazz

    I agree that engineering streets and roads to make them more pedestrian friendly is necessary where that is appropriate. However, in one case the accident occurred on the freeway, in another case, on Pine Street, which has lights that are timed to move traffic quickly. In all the cases, these collisions could have been prevented if the pedestrian had exerted a modicum of care.

  • jd_x

    @p_chazz:disqus Come on, you know better to know what I’m talking about. The problem here is that if, as a pedestrian or cyclist, you don’t pay attention, you effing *die*! Is that fair punishment for somebody not paying attention?! People who murder other people intentionally sometimes get the death penalty, and you think the punishment for not paying attention on a street where, for thousands of years, pedestrians were allowed to be, should be the same? Really?

    We shouldn’t be designing our streets so that 2-ton vehicles with 200 hp and drivers with dulled sense going too fast (even if under the speed limit) are anywhere near pedestrians. And much of the time it’s the damn parked cars that are blocking the motorists views as to what is going on at the side of the street to be able to better anticipate when they are near enough to a pedestrian who could make a sudden movement to slow down and give them the pedestrian space.

    This is just utterly insane that we have so redesigned our streets around these dangerous vehicles in the last 100 years and people like you continue to defend it. It is ridiculous that people find it acceptable that pedestrians should pay for not paying attention with a brutal death or serious injury. You may have been convinced by the auto industry that is acceptable, but I and many others will continue to fight this battle because it is not only inhumane, but completely unnecessary (not to mention unhealthy for people sitting on their ass all day in a car instead of actively transporting themselves, unhealthy for the planet, noisy, and dehumanizing for livable streets).

    In just about every other aspect of our society, when we see a design that is causing great harm, even if technically somebody made a mistake, we put in safety measures. For example, why have guard rails on highways like Route 1 that run along a cliff? I mean, after all, the only reason you are driving off the road is if somebody screws up. So by your logic, we should remove the rails and let people fall to their deaths because, hey, they messed up, right? But of course not, because we acknowledge people make mistakes and try to minimize the harm in the *design*. It’s just utterly amazing to me that some (i.e., you) don’t think this same logic should apply to urban streets when it involves vulnerable road users (though we’ll be happy to put in safety measures if they protect those in the massive steel cages who already pay nothing when they screw up and hit a pedestrian or cyclist).

  • p_chazz

    I take your point. As I commented to @gneiss123:disqus, I agree that more pedestrian-friendly streets and roads are needed. It’s telling that the pedestrian who survived was struck on the 400 block of Castro Street, which was recently redone to make it a more pedestrian-friendly street.

    But not all streets and roads can be so designed. One of the pedestrians who was killed was on the freeway, The other was on Pine Street, which has timed signal lights to move traffic quickly. These places carry more risk and consequently more care should taken

  • Andy Chow

    The issue about balancing the different demands and reducing risks, rather than creating a harm-proof system.

    I think that a lot of people living in these areas want some level of vehicle and transit access, so either eliminating all vehicle traffic or slowing them down too significantly would not be acceptable options. One may argue that we don’t need motor vehicles at all, but it is more in the same line as other behaviors that some people also disapprove of: drink soda, eat meat, smoke, etc

    With the recent deaths in Caltrain and BART, a sure way to cut it is to stop running trains, or run them at 5-10 mph where either the trains can stop in time or not fast enough to cause death, but I doubt that would be acceptable to riders. That can also lead to intended consequences that can be more unsafe.

  • jd_x

    I agree about freeways: there are some places where pedestrians just cannot be, and that is one. So are subway tunnels. We have to acknowledge that some places truly are dangerous for pedestrians, and these are such examples. You’ll note though, that both of these are designed to keep pedestrians away. So I think that is appropriate.

    But I disagree about Pine or any other route that is freeway-like smack in the middle of a city. These roads should not be in our cities and they blast right through residential areas. If one wants to operate a 3-ton, 200 hp machine anywhere near a pedestrian, then they must be going 20 or less and paying attention. And we must create the roads so that it’s very difficult to do anything else and so it is made clear, both through design and the law, that the repsonsibilty is on the driver. You see kids milling about, slow way the hell down and be ready to stop. We all exercise such caution in all other parts of our lives and it’s past time this caution was applied to our streets.

  • jd_x

    “The issue about balancing the different demands and reducing risks, rather than creating a harm-proof system.”

    I don’t disagree with this general idea. When something provides a benefit to society, then we weight the costs and decide if those costs are acceptable.

    But, in the case of our city streets, a couple things:

    1) Regardless of how feel about it, it is now official policy to have zero pedestrian deaths on our streets. Not one, not two, not 0.01%, but zero.

    2) When you have put effort into minimizing the costs (which in the case of cars, are pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths), then we can have a conversation. Instead, nearly all our streets (save a few which have been redesigned in recent years under the Livable Streets movement) are designed almost exclusively for vehicles and not for pedestrian safety. We have forced pedestrians off the street, only allowed them to cross at certain points often only after “begging” (hitting the walk button), and basically told them:
    “Danger, stay away from the infrastructure that you need to use to get anywhere … unless you too want to get a car and drive down it. If you enter the street, it’s at your own risk. And if you make a mistake, you could die, but it’s your fault.”
    This is not acceptable. When you design a street around pedestrian safety, and put the legal structure in place to accompany it (i.e., motorists are acknowledged to have the most responsibility and get severe punishment when they mess up and hurt somebody), then we can talk about accepting some injuries or even deaths. But we aren’t even *trying* right now and we have put motorist *convenience* (and safety) above pedestrian safety.

    3) Caltrain is another beast. Very few of the incidents are because people messed up. Most are suicides where people intentionally went out of their way to get hit. You know that, and that is irrelevant. Further, there is ONE train track in the entire Peninsula whereas there are thousands upon thousands of roads.
    But, you can be damn well sure that, if Caltrain was designed so that tracks ran right along streets with no barriers and people kept messing up and accidentally stepping in front of them and getting killed, we as a society would be outraged and would fix it. But with cars, that some logical mental process evaporates and we just throw our hands up and say, “Oh well, the pedestrian screwed up. Nothing we can do here. Move along.” That is the sign of irrationality and addiction to cars. Not a good way to make policy decisions.

  • murphstahoe

    People aren’t supposed to ever be on a Caltrain or BART track. Streets on the other hand – have crosswalks.

  • p_chazz

    Faster-moving streets are no different from rail lines that have at grade crossings in residential areas. Passenger trains travel much faster than 20 mph, weigh over 200,000 lbs and have 8,600 hp engines. As Andy Chow stated above, the issue is about balancing demand and reducing risk. To my way of thinking, it is permissible to have higher speed limits on some streets in residential areas to efficiently move traffic through those areas. Expecting pedestrians to not dart into traffic is not an unreasonable demand, just as it is not an unreasonable demand to expect them to stop and look both ways when crossing a train track.

  • Andy Chow

    Caltrain and other light rail lines have legal crossings too for pedestrians and vehicles. We are not about to shut those systems down because people have gotten themselves killed when they stayed on the train crossing for whatever reason. People who trespass may have legitimate complaints that legal crossings are too far apart.

    A lot of cars got hit by light rail trains when turning left illegal in front of the trains, especially in Southern California. If the burden is harm-proof, then light rail should be discontinued. Instead we rightly blame the driver of not following the signal lights and the law.

    It is one thing to improve design and offer safer options for pedestrians to cross through traffic, but to offer them a harm-proof environment would be another.

  • On an expressway, sure, people don’t belong there, but why is a city street designed to move cars instead of protect the lives of citizens of the city using that road.

  • p_chazz

    That’s a false dichotomy. The two are not at odds. It is possible to protect lives and move cars.

  • p_chazz

    Caltrain tracks have at-grade crossings.

  • Gezellig

    A city committed to Vision Zero would ensure that even a pedestrian “in the wrong” needn’t die for it. Even short of changes like road diets there’s a major factor helping to determine likelihood of survival:

    http://safety.transportation.org/htmlguides/peds/ex_images/ex_III-04.jpg

    The truth is that Pine’s official 30mph speed limit–already probably too high–is exceedingly often exceeded exceedingly.

    And as the stats show even 30mph is far more dangerous than 20mph. Streets like Pine–with their dense nature serving many residents–shouldn’t be public spaces where both the official high speed and unofficially accepted even higher actual speeds are the norm.

  • EastBayer

    That’s a nice thought and all, but in a dense city like SF, there are very few win-wins left anymore.

  • murphstahoe

    Possible, true. But with our leadership? Improbable. Given that I have such little faith in achieving that goal, the only rational move is to try to get that leadership to optimize with what they *can* achieve.

  • SF_Abe

    Let’s not forget that much of the high-speed traffic on Pine is cutting through the neighborhood. Very few residents in that area own cars, and most destinations are within walking distance.

  • p_chazz

    “It is now official policy to have zero pedestrian deaths on our streets. Not one, not two, not 0.01%, but zero.”

    It is also official policy to have 20% of all trips be made by bicycle.

    It’s nice to have goals to aim for, but realistically I don’t see either one happening.

  • gneiss

    They are absolutely not the same. If you every have lived near train tracks, you know that trains blow their horns, having ringing bells, the brightest lights on the planet and other safety measures to warn people of the presence of a train. Not to mention that there are cross guards and signs warning of the impending approach of a train.

    We simply couldn’t tolerate the same kind of noise and light pollution in a city that we do near active train corridors. But, for whatever reason, we seem to tolerate the same level of danger for people (vehicles of metal traveling at speeds that will kill) to exist within feet of where people walk across streets on a regular basis.

    It is absolutely *not* permissible to allow these corridors to exist unless we expect that it will be a statistical certainly that people will get killed along them. When you say “unreasonable for people to dart into traffic” you are saying that it should also be unreasonable to have air bags, seat belts, guard rails, and other safety measure that protect drivers from harm.

    The quick answer is simple – lower vehicle speeds. At 20 mph, the changes of getting killed by a car is far less than at 30 mph. Longer term, let’s rebuild the streetscape to get rid of these kinds of corridors in our dense, urban spaces.

  • p_chazz

    And yet, enough people are hit by trains (about one ever three hours) that there is a program called Operation Lifesaver whose mission is to change people’s behavior around railroad tracks and crossings. Why? Because they go around the crossings that have been put up for their safety to get across the track before the train. Imagine that! Pedestrians similarly must accept responsibility for their actions when crossing a street with a speed limit of 30 mph or higher.

  • Andy Chow

    One of the ways to achieve Vision Zero is to ban automobiles, but that’s not one of the strategies because people do want and value mobility. The end result is a balancing act.

    If drivers are asked to obey the law and respect the right of ways for peds and bikes, at least peds and bikes can do is to act predictably. In reality, it may be impossible because of human factors. We need to recognize that some of the traffic deaths are due to those human factors. Some of the factors can be mitigated but not all of them.

    Suicides may be intentional, but for many it is one of the mistakes that a lot of us would want to give people a second chance. Why would we put up suicide barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge? If we think that suicide is an acceptable option we should encourage people to use the bridge since it doesn’t impact anyone else around them.

    We build and improve ped/bike facilities so that peds and bikes are accommodated and be able to act predictably. While all transportation facilities can and should be built to allow some mistake tolerances due to human factors, harm proof infrastructure will require significant trade offs.

  • @p_chazz:disqus is not _missing_ the point, he’s belaboring his particular point.

    What he’s missing is perspective: The streets used to belong to the people. They now belong to the motorist. Taking them back will be a long and bloody struggle, unfortunately.

  • “Caltrain tracks have at-grade crossings.” Yep, and there are how many Caltrains per hour vs. how many cars without all the safeguards Caltrain has, whizzing by with impunity at any moment of any day in SF?

    Of all the crap usually put out there by defenders of Motordom, this goes _way_ out on the logical limb.

  • At 20 mph.

  • I’m not intended to present a dichotomy. The street is designed to move cars, and not designed to protect lives. That’s the actual conditions. Whether or not, you still move cars, protecting lives should be the first goal every time.

  • p_chazz

    Where I grew up, near the tracks in East Oakland there are plenty of UP freights whizzing by every hour.

  • p_chazz

    Streetsblog likes to create a false impression of carnage on the streets. In point of fact, pedestrian deaths are not showing strong increases. Over the past 10 years ending in 2013, the number of pedestrian deaths has ranged from a high of 4,892 in 2005 to a low of 4,109 in 2009 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a Washington Post article, Christopher Ingram cites NHTSA data showing that “among children under 13, the number of pedestrian deaths has gone down sharply. Data shows that between 1993 and 2013, the number of child pedestrians struck and killed by cars fell by more than two-thirds, from more than 800 deaths to fewer than 250. The number of traffic-related pedestrian injuries in this age group fell by a similar percentage over the same period. Again these are raw numbers, and as the population has grown over that period, the actual rate has fallen even faster.”

  • murphstahoe

    Streetsblog likes to create a false impression of carnage on the
    streets. In point of fact, pedestrian deaths are not showing strong
    increases.

    You are the king of the logical fallacies, so please help out here and point out which fallacy should be invoked to say that “lack of increase” in deaths means that there is no carnage. War deaths in Afghanistan might be steadily decreasing but that doesn’t mean that it’s a big old peace party.

  • murphstahoe

    I live on a cul-de-sac in the boondocks, and more cars pass my house every hour than UP freights whiz by those Oakland tracks.

  • p_chazz

    Perhaps I was not clear. What I meant was this: In order to focus attention on the problem, Streetsblog creates a false impression that pedestrian deaths are increasing, when this cannot be born out from the statistics. This is not to minimize the pain and suffering of those whose lives have been adversely affected, or the need to make streets more pedestrian-friendly. The numbers aren’t going up significantly, but neither are they going down, and they should be.

  • murphstahoe

    “Streetsblog creates a false impression that pedestrian deaths are increasing”

    Example?

  • @p_chazz – National statistics aren’t really what’s in play here. San Francisco has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the West, and that’s worth focusing on. (BTW, motorists kill each other at much the same rate in this city.)

    The numbers do vary from year to year, and sometimes headlines in the newspapers (not Streetsblog) portray these changes in terms of percentages to exaggerate emphasis. That aside, it is an actual substantive problem that deserves actual substantive attention.

  • Your impression. Please speak for yourself.

  • p_chazz

    No, not my impression Aaron, your headlines, such as this one:
    “Abisai May Dzul, 24, Victim of the “Alemany Maze” Highway Tangle”
    This is a needlessly screaming headline, which upon closer reading is about a person who was struck not in a crosswalk, not on a sidewalk, but on a freeway offramp, where pedestrians are specifically forbidden.

    Look, I get it–you do advocacy journalism, which by definition is not unbiased. But sometimes you go over the line, and there is no cause so just that it’s OK to mischaracterize or misrepresent the facts.