SAN FRANCISCO STREETS AMONG MOST DANGEROUS FOR PEDESTRIANS

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Pedestrians get help from a crossing guard at 19th Avenue and Holloway Street,
near San Francisco State University in San Francisco. T
he city is the second most dangerous in the country,
after New York, for walkers.

BY JEFF MITCHELL
The Sacramento Bee

Native San Franciscans have known for years that the city can be rough on its pedestrians. But a recently released report confirms those suspicions.

In fact, San Francisco and the wider Bay Area region have gained the dubious distinction of being No. 2 behind New York in pedestrian fatalities among the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas, according to “Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths.”

The report, by Transportation for America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, ranked the San Francisco region at No. 40 on its overall “Pedestrian Danger Index.” The index is the area’s total number of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents divided by the percentage of people who walk to work each day.

The report showed that the broader San Francisco region – where 3.9 percent of commuters walk to work – had 1.6 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2008.

But San Francisco-specific numbers extracted by Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, found that the rate of fatalities per 100,000 people in the city itself is 2.60 percent – 70 percent higher than the national average.

“(We) need to do a better job of protecting people when they are walking. It’s time for our funding commitment to match the severity of the problem,” said Manish Champsee, Walk San Francisco’s president.

The report’s authors note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable because they occur on streets that encourage speeding and which lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other protections.

Fixing these problems is a matter of will on the part of state departments of transportation, such as Caltrans, and county and municipal transit agencies.

“In a city that should be prioritizing pedestrian safety, we need to re-double our efforts to find local funds to augment federal, state and regional monies,” San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar said in a statement.

San Francisco isn’t the only place where pedestrians are in danger.

The report shows, for instance, that the Sacramento-Arden-Roseville metropolitan area came in at No. 22 nationally on the study’s danger index with 1.64 deaths per 100,000 people.

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara study area wasn’t far behind, coming in at No. 26 on the PDI with 1.3 traffic fatality deaths per 100,000 people.

“These numbers are disturbing, but they fit with what we’ve been seeing here,” said Anne Geraghty, executive director of Walk Sacramento.

“The most dangerous places for pedestrians in this area are places like Fair Oaks and Sunrise boulevards. These are high-speed, multilane arterials that were designed primarily around cars and not people.”

Geraghty said that while pedestrian safety master plans have been drawn up, they lack full funding.

“If we seek to make Sacramento a more walkable community, then we will need to fully fund these (safety) plans that have been drawn up,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Back in San Francisco, authorities and residents alike are very familiar with “problem area” roads such as Van Ness Avenue and McAllister and Irving streets – thoroughfares where dozens of pedestrians have been killed or suffered injury over the years.

But the city’s biggest problem road is 19th Avenue – a multilane street which runs from the city’s southern edge near the San Francisco State University north through Golden Gate Park and into Park Presidio.

In recent years there has been more than a dozen pedestrian deaths and thousands of pedestrian injuries recorded on the avenue, authorities say.

One lawmaker whose district encompasses the road is state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Over the years Yee and his staff have worked to reduce the hazards of the avenue – which in one stretch runs as state Highway 1 – by getting the speed limit lowered to 30 mph and by designating the road as a “double-fine” zone for speeders.

Under pressure by Yee, Walk San Francisco and other pedestrian advocates, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority is now working to add more pedestrian countdown signals, sidewalk bulb-outs and stop signs to try to slow the traffic on the avenue.

“Fortunately, we have made a number of positive changes along 19th Avenue,” the senator said.

“However, we must continue to be vigilant in making additional improvements on this dangerous corridor to prevent further collisions, injuries and loss of life.”

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