Walking in San Francisco – Beautiful, But Look Both Ways

By: Ben Shore

San Francisco’s streets and landmarks make it one of America’s best walking cities. But, over 800 people a year are hit by cars. San Francisco is, without question, one of the premier walking cities in the country – if not the world. Whether you stroll along the Embarcadero, across the Golden Gate Bridge or through the Mission, San Francisco’s streets, landmarks and unique neighborhoods lend themselves nicely to foot traffic.

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But while the touristy vision of San Francisco as a walking haven still brings an abundance of people to our city, many San Franciscans may have a different perspective of what it means to walk in The City. That’s because there are more than 800 pedestrian crashes every year – that’s 2-3 people per day hit by a car as they walk.

This unfortunate statistic also has a fiscal component - $76 million a year. That’s the cost for injuries suffered by pedestrians, according to the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee. Pedestrians hit by cars who are admitted to hospitals rack up a roughly $80,000 bill and more than three quarters of that is paid for by the public.

For a city as advanced and innovative as San Francisco, one would assume City Hall is taking the necessary steps to correct this problem. One would be wrong. But, as District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said, “pedestrian safety is not viewed as an urgent issue.” Kim understands the dangers first hand as her District 6 neighborhoods of SoMa and the Tenderloin have higher rates of pedestrian crashes than almost any other part of San Francisco.

We see how difficult it is for our city government to be proactive most of the time. Just recently we learned it takes longer to build a stoplight than it took to build AT&T Park. How can San Franciscans feel safe crossing the street knowing that, in the time it will take to put a stoplight in the ground, 2400 pedestrians will have been hit?

Groups like Walk San Francisco are working hard on our behalf, fighting for upgrades like wider sidewalks and improved street crossings. But we need to take our safety into our own hands. This is especially true given that, according to Walk San Francisco, the accident statistics aren’t readily accessible.

Cities across the country are using Gov 2.0 and Web 2.0 tools to make their streets safer for pedestrians through systems like SeeClickFix where people report problems as they see them. In San Francisco, the 311 system sees these reported issues and works to improve them. But they can only be improved and fixed if we do something about it and not wait for the next person.

So, next time you’re walking through your favorite San Francisco neighborhood minding your own business and a truck whizzes by going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit because the stop sign isn’t visible, take a picture, upload it, report it and make sure it gets fixed. This is a great walking city but 800 people per year getting hit while they walk is a step in the wrong direction.

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Eric Jaye's picture

Not just a San Francisco Problem

Just saw this posted from Mayor Bloomberg today. They are taking an international approach.


PR- 151-11
May 12, 2011


This Week, the United Nations Announced the Decade of Action for Road Safety, a Multinational Campaign Focused on Saving Lives on Streets Around the Globe 

New York City is a Model for Traffic Safety Efforts, with Record Lows in Traffic Fatalities Over the Last Four Years 

New Pilot for Neighborhood 20 MPH Zones and Targeted Speed Boards

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced new traffic-safety initiatives to further drive down already record-low traffic fatalities and injuries in New York City as the United Nations launched its Decade of Action for Road Safety campaign to draw global attention to the growing need to address roadway safety and implement measures to reduce traffic deaths in 120 countries. New York City has become a traffic safety model over the last nine years, with sweeping efforts to re-engineer streets with safety in mind, resulting in a 32 percent decline in traffic deaths from 2001 to 2010. By targeting efforts to calm traffic in all five boroughs, the last four years have seen the lowest number of traffic fatalities in the city in recorded history. The Mayor announced a slow-speed zone pilot program starting in the Bronx this summer and the installation of temporary speed boards along corridors known for chronic speeding, encouraging motorists to slow down. The Mayor, Secretary-General and Commissioner made the announcement at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, where a major street re-design program recently cut traffic crashes by 32 percent and injury crashes by 41 percent.

“Since the beginning of our Administration, we’ve been committed to taking action to reduce traffic deaths,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We are now wrapping up our own ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety,’ which has produced record lows in traffic fatalities and dramatic reductions in crashes and injuries. I want to thank the Secretary-General for his leadership in taking on this issue, which has been a relatively neglected global challenge. The slow-speed zones and increased speed boards we are announcing today will target the biggest killer on our roads – speeding – in the most dangerous locations.”

“The need for this Decade is clear: road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.3 million people every year, and leave millions more injured or permanently disabled,” said the Secretary-General. “I commend Mayor Bloomberg for the steps he has taken in recent years to make the streets and highways of New York City safer, not only for drivers and their passengers, but also for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.”

“Across New York, we have made safety history with our unprecedented engineering, education and enforcement on our streets,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Safety is one of those things that’s hard to define, yet it’s something that’s impossible to live without. And there is no clearer example of a threat to our safety than speeding, which is why we are focusing on many fronts to reduce its dangers.”

On May 10, 2010, the United General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/64/255, which proclaimed the period 2011-2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. By highlighting the need for increased activities at the national, regional and global levels, the Decade of Action for Road Safety aims to rethink approaches to building streets citywide. Traffic fatalities and injuries constitute a major public health concern worldwide, with nearly 1.3 million people dying as a result of road crashes, and between 20 million and 50 million more injured, according to the United Nations.

The Administration has launched innovative measures that have successfully reduced traffic fatalities to record lows in large part by preventing speeding, which accounts for crashes that twice as deadly as other types of accidents.

Since 2004, there have been fewer traffic fatalities each year on city streets than at any time since 1910 – which was the first year these kinds of statistics were kept. There were 35,500 fewer vehicle crashes in the five boroughs in 2010, than there were in 2001. New York City’s traffic fatality rate is now less than a third of the nation’s, and less than half the rate seen in the nation’s next 10 biggest cities.

The new measures announced today – the slow-speed zone and additional speed boards – are a part of the Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan released last summer.

The slow-speed zone will first be implemented in the Claremont section of the Bronx this summer, where a 20 m.p.h. speed limit will be installed. Potential locations for the slow-speed zone were evaluated by crashes per square mile and neighborhood characteristics, including the number of schools, subway stations and truck routes in the area. The City will work with the local community to refine the project’s plans, with the goal of implementing changes this summer.

This spring, new, portable electric speed boards are being installed to combat speeding along streets with histories of excessive speeding. These devices use radar technology to record the speeds of oncoming vehicles, giving motorists clear, unmistakable cues to slow down if they are speeding.

Temporary speed boards are now positioned at Bruckner Boulevard/Kearney Avenue between Hollywood and Waterbury Avenues, in the Bronx, and Richmond Avenue between Ada and Regis drives, in Staten Island – roads that saw 96 percent and 66 percent of motorists speeding, respectively.

This month, a new series of speed boards will be installed featuring digital displays of skeletons when drivers exceed the posted speed limit. The speed boards complement the Department of Transportation’s “That’s Why It’s 30” ad campaign, which was re-introduced this spring. The ads focus on a key statistic that highlights the danger of speeding just 10 miles over the speed limit: if a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling 40 m.p.h. or faster, there’s a 70 percent chance that the pedestrian will be killed; at 30 m.p.h., there’s an 80 percent chance that the pedestrian will live.

In the last four years, the Administration has taken steps to expand street safety engineering in all five boroughs, including through the Safe Streets for Seniors and Safe Routes to Schools program. Safety improvements continue be installed in neighborhoods throughout the city, such as through the installation of pedestrian countdown signals at 1,500 locations in all five boroughs, making safety upgrades for 60 miles of streets each year for improved pedestrian safety, and the installation of more than 1,500 speed bumps citywide.


Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137