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Pedestrian Safety

Madness at SoMa Crosswalk

4:48 PM PDT on July 25, 2019

Motorists blocking the crosswalks at 1st and Howard. Photo: TJ

TJ works on the seventh floor of a building that overlooks the intersection of First and Howard.

The lead image and video below show what he sees from his office--a constant stream of crosswalk violations and near collisions. "That's a crosswalk I use almost every day coming and going from lunch or wherever. And it's a mess. It's super frustrating to watch," he told Streetsblog. "I hear the constant horns... a couple of months ago somebody got hit in that crosswalk."

Word is the victim wasn't hurt badly, but he knows it's a matter of time before someone is maimed or killed trying to cross here. He's also had verbal altercations with motorists who block the crosswalks with impunity.

Frustrated, TJ, who asked that we withhold his full name, set up a camera in his office window, let it run for 20 minutes, and produced this time-lapse video:

He then posted the video to reddit to try and get some attention--and maybe prevent a disaster.

"There's just way too many close calls," he said.

"Data shows that pedestrians are at serious risk when... drivers block crosswalks," wrote Walk San Francisco's Jodie Medeiros, in an email to Streetsblog about the video.

TJ also sent the video to Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the district. "Unfortunately this trend of vehicles 'blocking the box' and endangering pedestrians, cyclists and other cars is all too common, especially near the Bay Bridge," wrote Courtney McDonald, a Haney staffer, in an email to TJ. She added that they have reached out to SFMTA to see about fixes.

"This corner should get quick build bulb-outs with paint and posts," wrote people-protected bike lane organizer and safe-streets advocate Matt Brezina. "And I think the real key here will be to fill these quick-build bulb-outs with bike corrals (public corrals or bike-share corrals). They open up sightlines, reduce crossing distance, increase safety AND make bike/scooter share and bike/scooter parking more visible and accessible."

Additionally, this may be more evidence that traffic signals should be placed on the near side of intersections, so motorists aren't tempted to creep past the stop line when the isn't space to clear the intersection.

At this year's Bike to Work and Walk to Work Days, Mayor London Breed called for increased enforcement. Streetsblog has an email out to the police about this intersection and will update accordingly. "Not only does SFPD need to enforce known dangerous intersections where drivers notoriously block crosswalks, but using technology, like red-light cameras, would make a huge difference too. The numbers of vehicles on our streets in the downtown core is a bigger, critical issue to tackle through congestion pricing." wrote Medeiros.

Of course, this isn't a situation that's unique to First and Howard. "This intersection-blocking sh*t is ridiculous; it's every one leading up to the Bay Bridge," said TJ. "You can see it happen at Harrison, Folsom, and Howard."

Brezina writes that making videos and other kinds of spontaneous advocacy represent a path to real change on the street. "There is a growing army of citizens that want to see their streets change to de-prioritize cars and prioritize people," he added. "Some people contribute by speaking at meetings. Some join @PeopleProtected actions. And some invent their own creative ways to contribute--like this well-executed video with a memorable 'ding' for each infraction (yes - there was an infraction at every light cycle!)."

TJ, meanwhile, said he doesn't normally get worked up about traffic violations, but he was just fed up with all the conflicts and the knowledge that a serious collision--and probably a fatality--is inevitable. He's especially fearful for the disabled, who can't dash out of the way of an errant motorist. "Someone's going to end up a pancake. I hope we can come up with a solution before it happens."

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