Rally with Seniors for Safe Streets this Friday

Friday, July 28, 2017 – 10:30am – 11:30am Masonic Ave & Geary Blvd

It is time for the San Francisco to make its streets safe and accessible for ALL seniors and people with disabilities!

For too long seniors and people with disabilities have had to navigate poorly maintained sidewalks and potholed and poorly-patched streets, and use crosswalks designed primarily for the able-bodied pedestrians.

As a result, seniors make up only 15 percent of the city’s population, yet account for over 40 percent of all traffic deaths in 2016, resulting from traffic crashes involving people walking.

Every year hundreds of pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic crashes. Since seniors are five times more at risk of dying from their injuries as those under 65, the majority of those who are severely hurt or lose their lives are seniors and members of the disability community. This year people like 76-year old Jeannie Yee who lost her life in Cow Hollow, 93-year old Ka Ben Wong who was killed in Russian Hill, and 77-year old Meda Hacopian who died near Lake Merced when she was struck by a car, have all been victims of unsafe streets!

Speak up for Seniors and People with Disabilities this Friday

Join Walk SF, Seniors and Disability Action, and members of the San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets in urging city and state officials to experience what it’s like to try to get around local streets every day as a senior, or as a person with one or more disabilities.

Rally with members of the community as they challenge legislators to walk or roll in “our shoes.” These safe street advocates will invite legislators to use wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other mobility devices and aids, as they attempt to cross Geary Boulevard at Masonic Avenue safely (two of the city’s high-injury corridors, the 13 percent of streets that make up 75 percent of all serious and fatal crashes).

For more information, or if you need transportation to the rally, contact: Pi Ra of Senior and Disability Action at 415.225.2080 or srira@sdaction.org.

We could ask for longer lights for cross the streets and street repair to make the streets less difficult to cross. It don’t take millions of dollars to change the timing on the traffic lights, or do a little pothole repair. What does it take for the SFMTA and other city agencies to do the quick, cheap fixes that don’t take years of planning and millions of dollars?

Gov. Brown gives green light to motorized skateboards

By Bill Hutchinson : sfgate – excerpt

Move over bicyclists, e-boarders now have the legal right to share your lanes.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation reversing a 38-year-old state ban on electric motorized boards, giving riders of such mobility devices the same street cred as cyclists.
The legislation, signed by Brown on Sunday, will go into effect on Jan. 1.
But e-boarders aren’t shredding with joy just yet. The law gives municipalities the right accept all, part or none of the new rules.
“In places like Oakland where skateboards are banned on roads and many sidewalks, e-boards could also be banned,” said Ryan Price, campaigns director for the California Bicycle Coalition.
The law will give cities the choice to give operators the green light to roll on any “public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trail,” according to Assembly Bill 604, introduced by Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto… (more)

False Stop

By Chris Roberts : sfweekly – excerpt

In San Francisco, some lawbreakers are also lawmakers.

At least three members of the Board of Supervisors advocate the “Idaho Stop,” the maneuver — named for the one state in the country where it’s legal — wherein a bicyclist treats a stop sign as a yield and rolls through without coming to a complete stop as long as the way is clear.

This is a touchy subject. Bicycle etiquette — or the lack thereof — is a sore point with the motorists and pedestrians who believe that San Francisco’s cyclists, the number of whom have tripled in the last decade, are an entitled menace. This summer’s short-lived San Francisco police crackdown on scofflaw bicyclists did have support from walkers and drivers before a Bicycle Coalition-organized outcry canceled it…

The law is also unlikely to change. What San Francisco police enforce on the streets is the California Vehicle Code — state law…

The Idaho Stop isn’t a priority even among the bicycle lobby…

But it is an impediment to law-abiding peace on the streets. In the short-term, Supervisor John Avalos has introduced legislation that, if passed, would instruct police to treat cyclists yielding instead of stopping at stop signs as the “lowest law enforcement priority.”

That’s how SFPD is already supposed to treat low-level marijuana crimes. Thus, rolling through a stop sign could soon be no worse than rolling a joint in public — though judging by the size of the tickets ($100 for illicit marijuana, $200-plus for stop signs), this city has already picked its priority… (more)

How much are motorists charged for rolling through stop signs?
Hopefully someone will address the issue of liability when accidents occur due to reckless behavior on the part of anyone breaking the law. All vehicle operators on city streets should be licensed and required to purchase liability insurance. Whether or not they have insurance they should be held accountable for any damages they cause to any other persons or property regardless of what kind of vehicle they are operating. There should be no exceptions.

San Francisco Tour Bus Drivers Forced To Decide Between Driving, Narrating After New Rule Passes

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An ordinance prohibiting tour bus drivers from narrating while driving in San Francisco was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday, less than six months after a city hall employee was fatally struck by a tour bus outside City Hall…

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee, who authored the legislation, said that the ordinance would prohibit tour bus drivers from narrating while driving on public streets in San Francisco and allow those drivers to instead fully focus on driving.

Under the new ordinance, tour bus drivers who are caught narrating while driving will be cited… (more)

Pedestrian, Bicycle Plan Approved For 20-Blocks Of San Francisco’s Polk Street

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unanimously approved a pedestrian and bicycle improvement plan Tuesday that will span 20 blocks of Polk Street.

The project drew dozens of San Francisco residents, including bicycle and pedestrian advocates supporting the project and residents and businesses concerned about the loss of parking and vehicle access.

Numerous cyclists who spoke during the public comment period said they felt scared traveling on Polk Street and urged the board to approve a protected bike lane in both directions.

The plan approved by the board today includes bike lanes that are not completely separated from traffic… (more)


SFMTA Board Approves Contested Transit Signals, Bulb-Outs on Haight

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

On Tuesday, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved plans to add traffic signals and bulb-outs along Haight Street, which could speed up Muni’s 6 and 71 lines and improve pedestrian safety. The approval came despite complaints from Upper Haight merchants over removing parking for bus bulb-outs, and mixed support for new traffic signals from pedestrian safety and transit advocates…

But the speed benefits of signalization are contested by Michael Smith, the former Chief Technology Officer and General Manager of NextBus, who co-founded Walk SF. SFMTA staff have not responded to his challenge to their estimates — neither to a request from Streetsblog, nor at the board hearing — but street safety advocates say that they might not justify costly signals, which restrict movement for people walking and biking (in this case, on the Wiggle). “MTA hasn’t convinced neighbors and pedestrian advocates of that,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich

But Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told the SFMTA Board she “comes at this with some mixed thoughts. ” Planners in Sweden, the birthplace of Vision Zero, say they avoid adding signals in favor of treatments like roundabouts, which maintain slower speeds and “forgive” mistakes by street users and minimize the risk of crashes. Traffic signals, meanwhile, give motor vehicle drivers carte blanche to coast through an intersection…

Peter Straus, an SFTRU member and retired Muni service planner, told the SFMTA Board that he lives a block away from Haight and Pierce Streets, one of the intersections set to get traffic signals. “I don’t think they’re things that people should be afraid of, if they’re properly managed” by synchronizing signals for slower speeds, he said. The SFMTA says it plans to do so…

Aside from the signals, several merchants at the hearing protested the SFMTA’s plans to remove parking and loading zones to create sidewalk extensions at bus stops and crosswalks. A few, including the owners of Amoeba Music, also said they thought transit bulb-outs would cause car traffic to back up, since buses would stop in the traffic lanes to load passengers…

Breed doesn’t have a specific position on the proposals, said Johnston, but she is concerned that shelters and signals could affect public safety…

Evans said that the Muni Forward plans for Haight “are in conflict” with the Haight-Ashbury Public Realm Plan, a community planning effort that the Planning Department is undertaking, with a focus on streetscape improvements. City planners have said the two plans will work in tandem, and that the Muni improvements up for approval were vetted by the public through the Public Realm Plan…

The only SFMTA directors who voted against approving the changes were Jerry Lee and Gwyneth Borden, the board’s newest member. Borden said more time was needed to work out the issues, and that she “had a hard time with” the appearance that those voicing concerns weren’t being taken seriously. “I don’t think you can overlook when there are so many diverse groups of people, with varying problems, in a particular area,” she said… (more)

Even people who normally agree with the SFMTA disagree with this plan. Most don’t want traffic signals and many don’t like the shelters. Merchants don’t want to lose any parking. If it ain’t broke leave it alone.

Someone needs to request a hearing before the Board of  Supervisors to amend the contract.

SFMTA Board Approves $6.6M Project Along 71 Haight-Noriega Route

Dancing Traffic Light Helps Pedestrians Moonwalk Safely

mashable – excerpt

Cities can be dangerous places if you don’t have the right directions.

Smart, the company behind the original smart car, has devised a clever way to help pedestrians wait for the walk signal and keep the streets safer — a dancing traffic light. By projecting real movements from people nearby, the dancing traffic light entertains people at the intersection until it’s a safe time to cross the street. The company built the signal at an intersection in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this summer. (There are no evident plans to implement the lights elsewhere yet.)

The ad is part of Smart’s #WhatAreYouFor campaign, which emphasizes the company’s dedication to safety.

Your morning commute just turned into a daily dance-off… (more)

Safety on Top of Safety: The City Rips Out a Pedestrian Upgrade to Install a Pedestrian Upgrade

By sfweekly – excerpt

City dwellers residing in the vicinity of Franklin and Turk streets can be forgiven for peering out their windows and experiencing a sense of déjà vu. City crews recently tore up and rebuilt the sidewalk roughly a year after tearing up and rebuilding the sidewalk and just over two years after tearing up and rebuilding the sidewalk…

The most recent work was the installation of a pedestrian bulb, an extension of the sidewalk into the parking lane, shortening the distance required for pedestrians to cross the street.

That’s well and good — but area residents couldn’t help but notice that the new bulb required the obliteration and reinstallation of a wheelchair access ramp installed in 2012, as well as the replacement of a sidewalk itself replaced in late 2013 for electrical traffic signal work.

Bulbs are the city’s new favorite method of ensuring pedestrian safety. Department of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon says to expect many more streets to be upgraded with one. These upgrades will supersede prior upgrades — even ones undertaken mere months ago.

You can’t put a price on safety. But you can put one on a pedestrian bulb — $30,000, in this case… (more)

Not only are these projects redundant, but one needs to consider that concrete is comprised of 30% water.
The city that expects residents to cut back should put some of these unnecessary projects on hold.

Did Cooper Stock really have to die?

: news.yahoo – excerpt

Different traffic laws could have saved his life and the lives of thousands of others. What the U.S. can learn from Sweden.

… It is possible, even probable, experts say, because of the way Americans have designed their streets for hundreds of years — essentially viewing pedestrian fatalities as the cost of doing business, as the collateral damage of speed and progress.

“Traditionally we build assuming that drivers and pedestrians will do the right thing even though we know that humans are flawed,” says Claes Tingvall, the director of Traffic Safety for the Swedish Transport Administration, in an interview with Yahoo News. “You don’t design an elevator or an airplane or a nuclear power station on the assumption that everyone will do the right thing. You design it assuming they will make mistakes, and build in ways that withstand and minimize error.”…

Voting for problem solving over finger pointing, they view collisions as warnings that some fix — a differently timed light, a better lit intersection — is needed…

In these ways, Sweden has lowered its pedestrian death rate dramatically. It is now the lowest in the world, with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people annually, compared with an average of 6 across the European Union and 10 in the U.S…

“Speed,” says Nicole Schneider, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco, in an interview with Yahoo News…

“Street design,” says Schneider.  If fatality is a function of speed, she says, then speed is a result not only of the speed limit and its enforcement, but also of the way a street is laid out in the first place. That is why 6 percent of San Francisco streets account for 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, she says. And why wide arterial roads account for 15 percent of New York City’s road network but also 60 percent of fatal and serious injuries

Politics are slowing things down in San Francisco, too. The heads of many large public agencies have signed on to a plan to bring the death count effectively to zero by 2024, but the mayor himself has given only lukewarm support. While the police department has responded by increasing traffic citations 70 percent since the beginning of the year, Mayor Lee barely mentioned Vision Zero in his State of the City address, saying “I also support the goals of Vision Zero to eliminate traffic-related deaths in our City, but to get there, we need a little more common sense.”…

Why are numbers heading upward after years of inching down? One possible reason can be found in Sophia’s death. There have always been distractions for drivers (the man who hit Henry Bliss 115 years ago had been trying to navigate around a stopped streetcar), but never has their been the technological gadgetry — GPS maps, texting, cell phone calls, electronic cab hailing — that we see today.  “All these are inherent driver distraction tools,” Dolan says. “To solve the broad problem of pedestrian safety you have to account for that in a way that wasn’t as relevant even a few years ago.”

But do Americans have the same love of screens as they do of speed? Can street redesign create an environment that has the same chilling effect on distraction as on urgency?

“Vision Zero is a blueprint for cultural change,” says Megan Wier, an epidemiologist with the San Francisco Department of Health and the co-chair of the city’s multiagency Vision Zero Task Force. “Like drunk driving, like other health epidemics, we need to get across the message that no, it’s not an accident, it’s something that’s preventable, and we have the tools to prevent them.”…

“What we used to think of as fun we now understand as danger,” he says. “It feels wrong in a way it didn’t decades ago.” Vision Zero will only succeed, he warns, if it also changes the way we view driving just a little over the speed limit, or glancing at your phone while driving, or inching into a crosswalk that’s crowded with pedestrians.

This new moral order, more than any new traffic light sequence or redesigned intersection, or even a null death count, is the real goal of Vision Zero, he and others suggest. What is yet to be seen is how — and whether — American cities can get there… (more)

Most enlightening article. We need a serious discussion about the root causes and the best solutions to designing safer streets.

Even the SFMTA is confused by those crosswalk countdown signals

No wonder everybody’s confused by those countdown clocks at crosswalks that alert pedestrians to how many seconds remain before the solid red “don’t walk” hand lights up. Even the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency can’t get it right.

We asked the agency’s spokesman, Paul Rose, to clarify matters after a spate of letters to the editor in The Chronicle debated whether pedestrians are allowed to enter the crosswalk throughout the countdown or not.

Rose told us in Sunday’s City Insider column that the countdown is “an awareness tool” for pedestrians and that they cannot be ticketed for entering the street as the countdown clock flashes, even as it approaches zero.

“They can start whenever they want,” Rose said.

Shockingly, just because a government official says something doesn’t mean it’s right.

Sure enough, several readers e-mailed to say Rose had it flat wrong and that pedestrians cannot legally start crossing after the countdown clock has started. They may only enter the crosswalk when the walking person is illuminated in white lights, but can finish crossing if they’ve already entered when the countdown begins.

Rose acknowledged his flub. “I passed on wrong information,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

One city official who does know the in’s and out’s of crosswalk signals is Commander Mikail Ali of the San Francisco Police Department, who e-mailed to say pedestrians cannot enter the crosswalk after the countdown has begun — or risk a citation or being struck by a vehicle.

One thing isn’t so clear: whether countdown clocks work. Ali said some studies show they’re helpful for pedestrians, while others show they contribute to erratic behavior on the part of walkers such as trying to sprint across the street with two seconds left on the clock.

Pedestrians behaving erratically in San Francisco? There’s something we can probably all agree on…. (more)

We finally have something everyone agrees on. Lack of consistency does not make the streets any safer. It breeds confusion, which leads to erratic behavior.

There are state laws on the books which could be followed if we all agreed to abide by them and quit trying to create exceptions.

The SFMTA has avoided following state laws by setting up quasi-legal exceptions under the guise of pilot programs and now we see the results. Different driving patterns and changing lanes from one street to another has added to the confusion and the stress levels.

Elected officials should take note of this and restrain the SFMTA from any further deviations from state laws. That way we could all go back to following the same set of rules.

Next, we need to communicate more clearly with the public what the state rules are.

Traffic signals are designed to do more than start and stop traffic. They should give us the ability to predict the behavior of everyone else on the road. When no one knows the rules you have a lot of stressed people acting erractically. How do we get back to the point where everyone knows the rule?

We start by agreeing on what they are.

Let’s start by following the state laws and limit the number of “exceptions to the rules”.

  • Yellow lights should be timed so that a pedestrian crossing the street has enough time to reach the other side before the light turns red, not set for a couple of seconds to catch cars running red lights. 
  • Countdowns should be treated like yellow lights. Maybe the countdown color should be yellow instead of red and the hand should go away.
  • Everyone should stop at red lights, and stop signs.
  • Whoever is in the intersection first should have the right of way to pass through it regardless of how they got there. Civilized behavior is the safest approach.