Fatalities in San Francisco bring Pedestrian Safety Back into Spotlight

Less than 5 months into 2013 and already 5 pedestrians have been killed by motorists on San Francisco’s city streets. If this tragic trend continues at this rate through the end of the year, than more people will be killed this year than last year. This is a frustrating statistic for many pedestrian advocates who have been waiting for the comprehensive pedestrian reform Mayor Gavin Newsom called for in 2010. The proposed reform would reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities by 25 percent by 2016 and 50 percent by 2021.

Many people, including Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF, blame the Mayor’s Office for its lack of leadership on the issue. However, Jason Henderson, an urban planning professor at San Francisco State University, says that the Board of Supervisors also shares in the blame. In general, the stifling bureaucracy at City Hall stalls any actual safety improvements.

The tragic deaths over the last four months may be the catalyst for actual change. Or they could become just another yearly statistic, a tragic commentary on the lack of progress in pedestrian safety in the City.

If you ever need a pedestrian accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.



Strong Turnout at the March 18 Polk Street Improvement Meeting Prompts SFMTA to Return to Drawing Board

Hundreds of merchants along Polk Street turned out for the March 18th meeting intent on voicing their concerns about and opposition to SFMTA’s “Save Polk Street” Project. SFMTA had drafted proposals to reduce Polk Streets parking spaces by more than 50% in an effort to decrease the number of collisions on the street after published data showed that 53 pedestrian and 69 bicycle collisions occurred on Polk Street between Union and McAllister streets from April 2006 to March 2011. The goal of the proposed significant decrease in parking spaces was create a safer path for cyclists on one of their busiest commuting streets.

Polk Street merchants were more than a little worried about the affect of the changes on their businesses and they attended the meeting to make sure that the SFMTA knew it. The Agency had a rough time at the meeting with Merchants often booing and laughing at what they had to say.

In the end, Director Ed Reiskin agreed to go back to the drawing board to see if safety improvement projects could be developed that would involve the loss of fewer parking spaces. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, argues that while this meeting was important, it was also not representative of all of the groups with a stake in the Polk Street improvements. This meeting was held with the express purpose of hearing the arguments and concerns of the Polk Street merchants. Other interested groups, like the SF Bike Coalition, were not involved. Given the one-sidedness of the meeting, she urged Director Reiskin to keep the original proposal on the table as a viable option.



Volvo Unveils New Pedestrian/Cyclist Warning System

Volvo has developed an upgrade to its 2010 cyclist alert-and-brake car system. The system functions as a second driver with a faster reaction time, automatically reacting to imminent threats. Radar in the car’s grille and a camera located between its windscreen and back view mirror work to detect collision threats. If the car senses a pedestrian or a cyclist in its path an alarm will sound and the brakes will be fully deployed. The new system can detect multiple threats at once and will be available on a very limited basis. Only 7 out of their 11 models will offer the system and it will have to be ordered up-front before the parts even make it to a factory. Altogether the new system will cost £1,850 to buy it as a part of a package of added features.

Volvo’s system can handle multiple pedestrians and cyclists at the same time

In addition to the software upgrade, Volvo has also developed an airbag that will deploy beneath its front hood if sensors in the front bumper detect they have come into contact with a cyclist or pedestrian. This airbag is designed to reduce injury to the pedestrians head and neck.

Cycling advocates agree that while these innovations are helpful, they do not address the major issues affecting cyclists and pedestrians in most cities. These issues, bad street design and lack of driver training, need to be addressed in order to reduce collisions.

If you ever need a pedestrian accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.

‘Save Polk Street’ Controversy

Merchants along Polk Street are meeting March 18th to discuss their concerns about SFMTA’s “Save Polk Street” Project. SFMTA has drafted proposals to reduce Polk Streets parking spaces by more than 50% in an effort to decrease the number of collisions on the street. 53 pedestrian and 69 bicycle collisions occurred on Polk Street between Union and McAllister streets from April 2006 to March 2011. The significant decrease in parking spaces will create a safer path for cyclists on one of their busiest commuting streets.

A couple of different changes have been proposed (all eliminating parking) and it is expected that one plan will be implemented by 2015. In order to see the short-term effects on businesses there will be a temporary trial run on a few blocks during the America’s Cup this summer.

Polk Street merchants are more than a little worried about the affect of the changes on their businesses.  “It’s going to kill business,” said 90-year-old Rita Paoli, owner of City Discount, a kitchen supply store at 1542 Polk St. “Go pick up a few dishes. Just weigh them. You try and carry them.” However, advocates of the change have cited numerous studies in San Francisco and New York City in which similar renovations have actually helped businesses.

Meeting: Concerns about ‘Save Polk Street’

Who: Polk Street Merchants

Where: It’s A Grind coffee shop on Polk and Washington streets

When: 6:30 p.m. March 18

If you ever need a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.



San Francisco’s Mayor Lee to Take on Transportation Issues

In his State of the City speech Mayor Ed Lee made it known that he was planning on creating a task force to take on San Francisco’s complicated and worn-out transportation system. This task is by no means an easy one. San Francisco’s public transportation network is a complicated web of city and regional agencies. These agencies each have their own complicated network of funders and these funders (and by proxy the agencies they fund) don’t always have the same agenda.

It looks like the task force’s main focus will be the aging MUNI system. However, the task force will need to partner with BART and Caltrain to help create a functional regional system. One of their first tasks may be to coordinate with the two agencies to put forth a measure for voters to approve new funding such as a vehicle license fee, a general bond measure or another tax-based initiative. All three agencies would benefit from such a measure.

Many task forces have been convened on this very issue in the past, all with limited success. However, “Lee has a history of getting results from such panels. Similar groups helped push through major reform plans for public pensions, the payroll tax and affordable-housing measures.”

So far, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, Tom Nolan, chairman of Muni’s board of directors, and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu are top candidates for the task force. Although his nominatins have yet to be finalized, there are two groups that seem to be unrepresented in Ed Lee’s task force. First, the group is all male. Second, the pedestrian and cycling advocacy groups in the bay are unrepresentted. These oversights may be corrected before the task force is finalized, but it is important to recognize their absence.

In spite of these obvious oversights, this panel may see some actual results. “If Mayor Lee were not the person convening this, I would be very pessimistic,” Wiener said. “But his track record has shown that he knows how to take on these intractable long-term disputes.”




Hit and Run Suspect Still at Large

SFPD are investigating a hit and run in Cow Hollow that occurred on February 24th at around 2 a.m. Video surveillance and evidence left at the scene implicate a 2008-2012 Honda Accord.  It is described as “dark in color with major damage to the right front headlight, right fender, right side of the hood and the passenger-side windshield.” No other information has been released about the suspect

The accident occurred when the two pedestrians were walking along Green and Fillmore streets. The driver was traveling westbound on Green when they hit both pedestrians. The driver then fled the scene.

One victim was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries and subsequently releases. The second victim remains hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

Anyone with information is asked to contact San Francisco Police anonymously at 575-4444 or Text-a-Tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD.



New Year’s Day Accident leaves Two Dead and Third with Life-Threatening Injuries

A tragic New Year’s Day accident leaves two people dead and a third in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a man fleeing the scene of a shooting hit another vehcile and sent it flying into a building. The incident began near the Valencia Gardens housing complex at 14th and Guerrero streets at around 7:45am Tuesday morning. Police responded to a call reporting gunfire in the area and once they arrive on the scene they began to pursue a suspect in a vechile. The suspect fled the scene heading east on 21st Street when they collided with another car driving north on South Van Ness Avenue. The force of the collision sent the second vehicle careening into Muzio’s Wines and Liquor store at the northeast corner of the intersection.

The crash killed 26-year old Francisco Gutierrez, a pedestrian entering the liquor store, and an unidentified female passenger of the second vehicle. The driver of the second vehicle was transported to San Francisco General with life-threatening injuries. The suspect of the shooting at Valencia Gardens was arrested and transported to the hospital for treatment of their injuries. The unidentified person will face charges in connection with the deaths.



It’s About Time…

The stoplight at 12th Street and Market has become more of guideline than a rule for many cyclists because the timing of the light is just so inconvenient. The wait often prompts cyclists to cross early when they do not have the right of way. This preemptive crossing results in heavy fines when the cyclists are caught and is dangerous to pedestrians when they are not.

In order to tackle the problems at this intersection, Bert Hill, chairman of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee citizen oversight group, is recommending the implementation of a separate cyclist-crossing light. This light would speed up the timing for cyclists, cueing up a green light for cyclists when it is activated. The trade-off, argues local disability advocate Bob Planthold, is that disabled pedestrians will have less time to safely cross the street. His proposed solution is separate sensors for pedestrians and cyclists. Although this would be more expensive, it would better accommodate all interested parties.

Although no plan has been approved yet, committees are working on finding a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

If you ever need a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.



Green Connections

Green Connections is a two year project that will “increase access to parks, open space and the waterfront, by re-envisioning City streets and paths as ‘green connectors’. This project builds on current efforts to create sustainable corridors that enhance mobility, green neighborhood streets, and improve pedestrian and bicycle access to community amenities and recreational opportunities.”


The Wayfinding Signs recently implemented by the SFMTA for the Americas Cup are one crucial part of this plan. The signs tell distance in time rather than miles. This trend puts San Francisco in the same boat as many other tourist-heavy cities since the signs allow people to better judge the advantages of walking. Especially in a city like San Francisco where walking is often not easy and flat, having estimated times can be encouraging.

These signs have been implemented in many of the more tourist-central areas like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. The goal is to create a network around and within the city with pedestrian and cycling friendly walks connecting many of San Francisco’s major sights much as is envisioned in the following map.






Supervisorial Candidates Debate Streets, Parks, and Public Space at Upcoming Forums and Town Hall Meetings

Walk San Francisco, the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and Friends of the Urban Forest are pleased to announce a series of  Supervisorial Candidate Forums and Town Halls focusing exclusively on the topic of the city’s public space: streets and parks.  Our goal is to ensure that strong voices for a greener, more walkable city are elected across the city’s districts.


For the first time, Supervisorial town halls and candidate forums in all odd-numbered SF districts will focus on issues of public space from streets to parks.

Residents are invited to submit their questions on pedestrian safety, sustainable transportation, trees and urban forestry, parks, recreation, open space, and greening.


Wednesday, October 17, 7 – 8 p.m.
District 9 Town Hall with Supervisor David Campos
Moderated by Elizabeth Stampe, Executive Director, Walk San Francisco
Mission Recreation Center, 2450 Harrison St. at 20th

Thursday, October 18, 7 – 8 p.m.
District 11 (Excelsior) Town Hall with Supervisor Avalos
Moderated by Elizabeth Stampe, Executive Director, Walk San Francisco
Minnie Lovie Ward Recreation CenterMontana between Plymouth & Capitol

Thursday, October 25, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
District 3 (Chinatown/North Beach) Forum with Candidates Marc Bruno, Joseph Butler, David Chiu, and Wilma Pang
Moderated by Matthew O’Grady, Executive Director, San Francisco Parks Alliance
Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center, 1199 Mason St. at Washington St.

Tuesday, October 30, 6 – 8 p.m.
District 7 (Sunnyside) Forum with Candidates Francis Xavier Crowley, Joel Engardio, Michael Garcia, Julian Lagos, and Norman Yee
Moderated by Dan Flanagan, Executive Director, Friends of the Urban Forest
San Francisco Zoo’s Great Hall, Sloat Blvd. and 47th Ave.

Thursday, November 1, 6 – 8 p.m.
District 5 (Hayes Valley/Haight) Forum with Candidates London Breed, Julian Davis, Christina Olague, and Andrew Resignato
Moderated by Matthew O’Grady, Executive Director, San Francisco Parks Alliance
Hamilton Recreation Center, Geary Blvd. at Steiner


Walk San Francisco (WalkSF.org) and its members are making San Francisco a more welcoming place for everyone to walk. Walk SF speaks up for the safety and priority of pedestrians, and works to reclaim streets as shared public space.


San Francisco Parks Alliance’s (SFParksAlliance.org) mission is to inspire and promote civic engagement and philanthropy to protect, sustain and enrich San Francisco parks and green open spaces.


Friends of the Urban Forest’s (FUF.net) mission is to promote a larger, healthier urban forest as part of San Francisco’s green infrastructure through community planting, tree care, education, and advocacy.