SFFD and the SFMTA Compromise on Bike Safety

By Nuala Sawyer : sfweekly – excerpt

A long-delayed yet vital project on upper Market Street has now been altered, aggravating advocacy groups and cyclists.

…In July, notorious City Hall gadfly David Pilpel appealed the decision, stating that it needed to undergo environmental review. The issue landed on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda, and they voted to uphold the project without further review.

The money was budgeted, the plan approved. So why, five months later, has construction yet to break ground?

The issue is one that we all thought was resolved: The Fire Department has a problem with the plan. From the get-go, it has argued that the reconfiguration of Market Street to create protected bike lanes would interfere with ladder trucks in an emergency.

“The design materially compromises the safety of firefighters and local residents,” Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White wrote in a letter to the SFMTA earlier this year.

The main issue centers around the distance ladder trucks will be from buildings, if parking-protected bike lanes are installed. The width of the street, combined with Muni’s overhead wires, will make it trickier for firefighters to rescue people, and adds in the threat of electrical shocks, SFFD claims….

And looking ahead, the battle between safe streets and the Fire Department doesn’t appear to be closer to a resolution. When asked if this redesign will be applied to other areas where issues of parking-protected bike lanes and overhead wires are bringing the two departments in conflict, Reiskin said there is no sweeping plan to remedy the issue.

“It will be very much case-by-case,” he said. “The geometry of each street is different.”…(more)

Why the SF Fire Fighters supported Yes on L

by Zrants

SF Streetsblog, the SFMTA mouthpiece, put out derisive messages about the SF Fire Department’s objections to installing six-foot bulb-outs near intersections. Fire Department officials claim they needed more space to maneuver around corners, and requested the sidewalks be limited to five feet wide. An excerpt from the article is below.


 

Dismissing SFFD’s Irrational Protests, SFMTA Approves Bulb-Outs at School
By Aaron Bialick : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

The SF Fire Department continues to make increasingly bizarre claims in opposition to sidewalk bulb-outs and narrower roadways. Last week, the SFMTA Board of Directors dismissed SFFD’s protests against six-foot bulb-outs at E.R. Taylor Elementary School in the Portola neighborhood. According to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, one of SFFD’s claims was that fire truck drivers would be ticketed by the SFPD for entering an oncoming traffic lane to make a wide turn.

The SF Examiner reported on the dispute yesterday, though the paper didn’t question SFFD’s claims about the supposed hazards of six-foot bulbs (SFFD pushed for five feet). According to the Examiner, SFFD spokesperson Mindy Talmadge said “the department has been ‘vilified’ for voicing concerns on pedestrian safety.”…

Following an SF Examiner op-ed penned by Walk SF calling on SFFD to support sidewalk extensions, the department issued a statement responding to what it called “allegations being made by special interest groups.” Although SFFD’s Talmadge told the Examiner yesterday that “we don’t want to be the cause of a pedestrian fatality,” the December statement indicated that SFFD officials don’t comprehend how sidewalk extensions improve pedestrian safety.

“We haven’t seen pedestrians being hit by vehicles on sidewalks because the sidewalks are too narrow,” said the SFFD statement from last month. “Proposals such as these cannot possibly make our streets, pedestrians and bicyclists safer.”

SFFD Fire Chief Johanne Hayes-White also made the erroneous yet unchallenged claim in a recent Examiner article that 74 percent of pedestrians were at fault for their own injuries, though she later said she was “misinformed.” SFFD also tried, unsuccessfully, to quietly nix a provision in a piece of legislation last year that allowed the city to approve street widths of less than the state guideline of 20 feet. At hearings on pedestrian safety issues, Hayes-White and other officials have neglected to comment on these matters, though a representative is scheduled to make a presentation to the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee tomorrow evening… (more)


 

This anti-Fire Fighters attitude explains why the Fire Fighters supported Yes on L. They are as tired of dealing with the SFMTA and staff as we are. Since when are street designers experts on what emergency responders need? Who wants to slow emergency vehicles to save pedestrians two feet of road to cross? How many seconds does it take to walk two feet anyway? This from the agency that wants its riders to walk longer distances between bus stops. Where is the logic in this?

Ambulance slow to respond to Mayor wife’s accident scene

By Tara Moriarty : ktvu – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO —

An ambulance responding to a vehicle accident involving the wife of Mayor Ed Lee arrived at the scene beyond the 10-minute time limit standard set by the San Francisco Fire Department for such a response, department sources told KTVU.

The fire department union and other employee groups have been at odds with Lee and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White over staffing within the department’s ambulance division.

The union claims the staff shortage has delayed response times to emergency medical calls within San Francisco. It and the other fire department employee groups have demanded Hayes-White’s ouster… (more)

The other side tells a different story… Who do you trust?

Fire chief, mayor say ambulance got to crash involving mayor’s wife quickly
 : sfgate – excerpt
One week after critics called for her resignation over ambulance response times, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White is defending her agency again, this time over whether it got an ambulance quickly enough to a car crash involving Mayor Ed Lee’s wife on Monday afternoon… (more)

 

The Week This Was

Not much is going well this week for the heads-in-the-sand SFMTA and friends. While SFMTA supporters make false allegations against Prop L proponents, and play the blame game, the headlines tell the stories that best explain why residents and commuters are demanding change.

Media blitz September 25, 2014:
How a $900 parking citation became a $25,000 federal lawsuit against SF
No Free Rides: Finally, Inevitably: Muni Is Suing Muni
Rank-and-file S.F. firefighters call for chief’s ouster
S.F. supervisor makes case for fire chief’s ouster
How Transbay Transit Center deal’s collapse would alter S.F.
Possible Golden Gate Bridge District Strike Would Cripple Commute
Carshare reserved parking not favored by everyone
Despite Free Parking, San Francisco Meters Continue Collecting On Sundays
SEIU Local 1021 backs motorist measure and a Republican. WTF?!?!

We generally suggest leaving comments at the source site, but a number of publications have recently removed comments, so please leave your thoughts here.

Supervisor Scott Wiener steps up heat on S.F. Fire Dept.

by Marisa Lagos : sfgate – excerpt

(04-29) 21:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Supervisor Scott Wiener has railed for years against the Fire Department‘s opposition to wider sidewalks and narrower streets – and on Tuesday, he declared an all-out war.

At the heart of the debate is a conflict between safety advocates, who want to see physical changes to city streets that make pedestrians safer, and fire officials, who contend their trucks are too big to navigate narrow streets and intersections.

The issue has been brewing for some time, but apparently boiled over because the Fire Department has been pushing for streets at the Hunters Point and Candlestick Point developments to be 26 feet wide, 6 feet more than what’s legally required. On Tuesday, Wiener accused the department of reopening a planning discussion years after neighbors, community leaders and city officials agreed on a development plan… (more)

The SF Fire Department is responsible for saving lives and property and nothing else. Who is qualified to tell them how to do that?  We put our lives in their hands each time they are called. Slowing down traffic and creating traffic gridlock is adding to their response time and if they don’t object they may be held liable for not doing their jobs.

We should all support emergency responders unless we think we can do a better job of putting out our own fires and rescuing ourselves the next time we need help. If you have had enough of people putting our lives in danger to meet their own objectives, tell the city officials you want to amend the Charter to Fix the MTA:  http://fixthemta.org/

Firefighters concerned about narrowing SF streets

By Eric Rasmussen : KTVU – excerpt

The recent efforts to make San Francisco streets more pedestrian friendly may have the unintended consequences of slowing the response time of fire trucks answering emergency calls.

San Francisco streets can be frustrating and dangerous for pedestrians and drivers alike. Just ask San Francisco firefighters.

KTVU recently rode along with teams on two hook-and-ladder trucks in the city. They said some tight streets are getting tighter.

“They’re making bike lanes and putting palm trees in the middle, taking out a lane of traffic,” said firefighter Jim Fewell as he navigated down a stretch of Cesar Chavez.

Streetscape plans for the busy thoroughfare include a wider median, trees and something called “corner bulb outs.”…

But San Francisco firefighters argue the changes could make navigating city streets even more difficult.

“We don’t want to keep piling on these challenges,” said San Francisco Fire Dept. spokesperson Mindy Talmadge. “That will affect our response time.”

Response times are already ticking up.

According to the department, first units are arriving on scene in about five and a half minutes after a call is received. That is as much as eight seconds slower than during the first part of last year… (more)

I hope the folks who are pushing narrow streets against the concerns of emergency personnel don’t mind the extra time it will take to pick them up and deliver them to the hospital next time they need that service. I think I speak for the rest of us and I would prefer to make it easier for them to do their job.

More SFPD Pedestrian Victim-Blaming: Taraval Station’s Insane Flyer

by : sf.streetsblog – excerpt

If you’d like to make your voice heard by policymakers on the SFPD’s handling of bicycle and pedestrian safety issues, the Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee will hold a joint hearing next Thursday, January 16, at 5 p.m. at City Hall in room 250. If you can’t speak in person, you can also email comments to Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov.org(more)

Question: Why is the SF Bicycle Coalition taking on the SF Fire Department, SF Police Department, most of the supervisors and all the drivers in San Francisco, and encouraging dangerous behavior on the part of pedestrians? What is wrong with the SFPD warning people to be careful playing with electronic devices on the streets? They are at risks of being mugged, ripped of, or hit by a car.

 

Fire Department hindering street safety

by : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco has a long way to go to become safe for people on foot. Half of all people who die in traffic crashes are people who walk — that’s about four times the national average.
What can The City do about the massacres happening on our streets, which now outweigh the number of violent crimes at a rate of 2.5 to 1? It can choose to invest in proven tools to reduce traffic crimes, like curb extensions (or bulb-outs), which increase the visibility of people in a crosswalk (tackling one of the top reasons pedestrians are hit by drivers). It can also support medians, which provide a safe place to wait, reducing the risk of a crash by nearly 50 percent. These upgrades help seniors and people with disabilities cross the street by shortening both travel distances and exposure times to traffic…

So why is the Fire Department blocking these street improvements? After all, the majority of emergencies the Fire Department responds to aren’t fires — 75 percent of their responses are for medical emergencies, often related to traffic crashes. At 2010 budget levels, San Franciscans are paying more than $200 million in taxes for the Fire Department to respond to preventable collisions….

There are state laws describing street designs for a reason. The dimensions were designed to handle the wider fire engines and trucks moving at a fast pace and making wide turns when necessary. Until you shrink the vehicles, you have to accommodate them. This is science, not a virtual reality game.

As for the argument that the bulbouts and islands are protecting pedestrians, how do you explain the recent rash of accidents? The SFMTA has been hard at work reducing lanes and lane widths for the last two years. If that was going to result in fewer accidents the number of casualties should have declined, not gone up.

The easiest way to help pedestrians and drivers avoid colliding with each other is to lengthen the duration of yellow lights and add countdown lights at the most dangerous intersections. All modes follow the same traffic signals. The short yellow lights are stressful for everyone. When the light turns yellow, people start to rush if they don’t know how much time they have. Adding countdowns will relieve some of the anxiety.

Another easy and cheap thing that can be done is to paint the stop signs on the street, and indicate where they are 2 or 4 way stops.

There are state laws describing street designs for a reason. The dimensions were designed to handle the wider fire engines and trucks moving at a fast pace and making wide turns when necessary. Until you shrink the vehicles, you have to accommodate them. This is science, not a virtual reality game. We support the Fire Department in upholding their standards.

If you think the bulbouts and islands are protecting pedestrians, how do you explain the recent rash of accidents? The SFMTA has been hard at work reducing lanes and lane widths for the last two years. If that was going to result in fewer accidents the number of casualties should have declined, not gone up.

The easiest way to help pedestrians and drivers avoid colliding with each other is to lengthen the duration of yellow lights and add countdown lights at the most dangerous intersections. All modes follow the same traffic signals. The short yellow lights are stressful for everyone. When the light turns yellow, people start to rush if they don’t know how much time they have. Adding countdowns will relieve some of the anxiety.

Another easy and cheap thing that can be done is to paint the stop signs on the street, and indicate where they are 2 or 4 way stops.

We posted a few photos of a fire truck turning into a parking lot at SF General. The truck had to slow down and wait for traffic to make the turn into the lot, and would not have been able to make it if the new Potrero plan with a median and trees where in place. https://metermadness.wordpress.com/sfpark-compaints/fire-trucks/