Rising numbers of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco and San Jose are drawing attention to what many walking and cycling advocates say is a longtime problem.

There were 21 pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco last year. It was also a particularly deadly year in San Jose, with 26 fatal pedestrian accidents. That’s the highest number in nearly two decades.

“We don’t know exactly why they’re rising but we know what the solutions are, so we’re focused on making a change,” Nicole Schneider, executive director at Walk San Francisco, said during a panel discussion on KQED “Newsroom.” Her group is working with the city on how to improve traffic enforcement, engineer better roadways and educate the public.

Schneider said police data shows that in 66 percent of pedestrian fatalities, drivers are at fault. But rather than focus on who is to blame, solutions should drive the conversation.

“For many, many decades, we’ve been designing our streets to bring cars through the city as quickly as possible,” said Chris Wong, board president of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. As city populations grow, and more people seek alternatives to driving, the city must update its traffic analysis techniques to consider all users of the roadway.

Other solutions mentioned in the KQED “Newsroom” segment:

  • Educate the public, especially paid drivers, about sharing the road.
  • Make bicycle and pedestrian traffic a consideration during every traffic study.
  • Enforce current rules. Up until recently, drivers in San Francisco were cited or charged only if they killed people. Now drivers are also held accountable when they injure pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Avoid using the term “accident” because somebody is at fault. Instead, San Francisco police are using the term “collision.”
  • Increase penalties for the at-fault party.
  • Slow cars down. A pedestrian has only a 5 percent chance of living when hit by a car traveling 40 mph. Those chances increase to 85 percent if the car slows down to 20 mph.
How Can Cities Keep Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safer? 22 November,2016Olivia Allen-Price

  • Sans Soleil

    It’s sad to read that city officials didn’t even mention building safer bicycle lanes. There is absolutely zero enforcement when it comes to cars driving in lanes dedicated to bicycle traffic. So, why would cars bother to adhere to staying in their own lanes? What we need are bicycle lanes that are physically separated from moving cars along with the change in education and semantics. Many cities in Europe have had these for decades and some here in the US have begun to implement them. Moving here from Chicago, I see how far behind San Francisco and, to a lesser extent, Oakland are when it comes to embracing bicycles on the road.

  • sfparkripoff

    “Schneider said police data shows that in 66 percent of pedestrian fatalities, drivers are at fault.” Of the 21 fatal pedestrian accidents in 2013, police determined that 14
    were the driver’s fault and that seven were the result of the
    pedestrian’s behavior.

    Walk SF and the Bicycle Coalition ALWAYS neglect to mention the number
    of pedestrians who were hit because they were walking while distracted, or ignoring the traffic laws. City Hall and the planning department brought thousands of pedestrians into downtown, then allowed them to jaywalk at will, often with their heads buried in their latest mobile devices.

    Walk SF also neglects to mention all of the people who have gotten killed because they fall, or throw themselves onto MUNI / BART tracks. Does that mean that the city should re-design all of the transit tunnels for pedestrian safety? As pedestrian advocates Walk SF should be lobbying City Hall to to treat everyone committing offenses equally.

    Unrepresentative and mostly inexperienced individuals should not be permitted to define San Francisco’s transportation future. The proposed infrastructure improvements that Walk SF are suggesting should be thoroughly vetted and scrutinized before being included in large funding programs.

  • In fact we don’t really know how many people are injured on the streets of San Francisco, which is the takeaway from that UC study that found that the city was radically under-counting cycling accidents on city streets between 2000 and 2009. The city has been relying only on police accident reports and ignoring all the cycling accidents at San Francisco General Hospital. The question is, If the city has under-counted cycling accidents, has it also under-counted pedestrian and other accidents?


Olivia Allen-Price

Olivia Allen-Price is producer and host of the Bay Curious series. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Olivia worked at The Baltimore Sun and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. She holds degrees in journalism and political science from Elon University. She loves to talk about running, ice cream and curly hair.

Follow: @oallenprice
Email: oallenprice@kqed.org

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