Pedestrian safety data compiled by transportation officials. Graph: SFMTA
Pedestrian safety data compiled by transportation officials. Graph: SFMTA

San Francisco transportation officials have unveiled a new round of street safety initiatives to curb pedestrian deaths and injuries by targeting the city’s most dangerous intersections for makeovers. While pedestrian advocates praised the measures, they remained concerned the bulk of the plan lacked funding.

“Any pedestrian death or serious injury is one too many,” said Mayor Ed Lee, who held a City Hall press conference to announce the recommendations of “Walk First,” a data-driven effort in which transportation officials and planners analyzed more than 2,000 vehicle collisions involving pedestrians.

They found that 60 percent of pedestrian injuries and deaths occur on just 6 percent of streets, which are mostly concentrated in the Tenderloin, SoMa and North Beach. On average, they said, more than 100 pedestrians are “severely injured or killed” citywide each year, while 800 pedestrians are injured.

Officials have identified the biggest trouble spots, and have recommended that these intersections undergo “quick, cost-effective improvements.” They include better crosswalks, reduced lane widths, turn prohibitions, speed humps, protected left turns and temporary pedestrian refuge islands.

While $17 million has been “leveraged” to improve “170 priority locations” over five years, the SFMTA still needs $33 million to fix all 265 intersections identified in the plan. To fund all of the plan’s recommendations, the estimated price tag would be $240 million.

City officials are hoping two transportation funding measures that are expected to appear on the November ballot would also help boost funding.

Advocates say $17 million isn’t much when you compare it with the $564 million in “health-related economic costs” and $15 million in medical bills that pedestrian injuries generate each year, according to the Walk First data.

“While a little can go a long way in improving pedestrian safety, Walk First is going to take money to build the most effective solutions that save lives,” said Nicole Schneider, executive director of Walk San Francisco.

Advocates are pushing the Vision Zero plan, which has a goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2024, and say the city needs to take more immediate action. This year alone there have already been five pedestrian fatalities. Last year, there were 21 pedestrian deaths.

At a City Hall hearing today, SFMTA Deputy Director of Planning Timothy Papandreou announced the agency was moving to prioritize 24 street safety projects that would be implemented under Vision Zero in the next two years.

“We are committed to design, deliver and fund and implement these projects,” said Papandreou. “Vision Zero is really about human life-saving, and these projects have to have the highest priority. We can’t do business as usual.”

He said the SFMTA was still working to identify which streets would fall under those priority projects.

Lee also unveiled a multilingual “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign targeting all street users.

San Francisco to Focus on Most Dangerous Intersections for Pedestrians 6 March,2014Bryan Goebel

  • Chava

    hi Bryan! The stat is over 2000 collisions (not 200). Thanks for your otherwise excellent reporting! -WalkFirst team

    • Thank you for the correction. We’ve updated the post.

  • sfparkripoff

    In 2004, there were 20 pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco – sourced
    Pedestrian Safety Project, San Francisco Department of Public Health.

    In 2013, there were 21 fatal pedestrian fatalities. Of the 21 pedestrian
    fatalities police determined that 14 were the driver’s fault and that 7
    were the result of the pedestrian’s behavior.

    Over a ten year span the City of San Francisco has dumped MILLIONS of
    tax dollars on traffic calming, road diets, and bicycle lanes and
    pedestrian safety projects and what was the outcome of all of this
    spending? Pedestrian and cyclist collisions INCREASED ACROSS THE CITY!
    City Hall is now proposing to spend MORE MONEY on strategies that have ALREADY proven to be ineffective in reducing collisions on city streets.

    You don’t need to install another ill conceived bureaucracy to address
    the vehicle-pedestrian situation, but you can start with simple low cost

    1. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition ignorantly and blindly “promotes
    the bicycle for everyday transportation” to increase ridership. They use
    their non-profit status to endorse political candidates who will
    rubber stamp their bicycle projects. City Hall then encourages more
    residents to ride a bike without requiring them to take safety training
    or know the rules of the roads. Since the city has an agenda to promote
    more bike riding then cyclists should be required to take mandatory
    safety and training courses.

    2. The city brought thousands of pedestrians into downtown, then allowed
    them to jaywalk at will, often with their heads buried in their latest
    mobile devices. If City Hall were serious about making the streets safe
    the first step should be to treat everyone committing offenses equally.
    Enforce the existing traffic laws equally for pedestrians, bicyclists,
    and cars. It’s all about fairness. No more entitlement for cyclists and
    pedestrians to break the law while insisting on a police state for

    3. City Hall says that they want to reduce the number of fatalities and
    serious injuries on our City streets but they are providing free WIFI
    on Market Street so that people will be more distracted by their
    cellphones. Do we really need to have more people watching
    videos and checking their email when they should be looking both ways as
    they cross streets and exit public transit vehicles. How does providing free WIFI on Market work with San
    Francisco’s Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian and bicycle
    related traffic deaths?

    4. The city needs to reconsider building a 20,000 seat arena at the foot
    of Market Street that will add to an already over-congested area with
    poor traffic flow plans to avoid the area and the foolish idea of razing
    the 280 downtown extension. The last thing that San Francisco needs is
    more commuter traffic running across residential neighborhoods.

    5. The proposed infrastructure improvements that The Bicycle Coalition
    and Walk SF are suggesting should be thoroughly vetted and scrutinized
    before being included in large funding programs. All of the “advocacy
    organizations” who derive their incomes from donations, government
    grants, and the SFMTA Budget also need to register with the city as
    *lobbying organizations* so that Taxpayers know what their true motives

    City officials want to push $3 BILLION in taxes, fees and bonds before
    voters in 2014. We are encouraging city motorists to stop contributing
    to an anti-car Transit Agency that uses city motorists like an ATM
    machine. Remember this the next time the city of San Francisco requests
    more bonds to improve your driving experience. VOTE NO! If you drive a
    car, VOTE NO on any more funds for MUNI or the San Francisco Municipal
    Transit Agency (SFMTA). Regardless of what they promise, the funds will
    be used against you to enforce the MTA’s predatory anti-car policies.
    The next time you elect a Mayor, or a City Supervisor VOTE NO if they
    start parroting ‘transit first” as an excuse to bleed your wallet. If
    your city Supervisor wants you to give up the safety of your family car
    to ride a bicycle on busy city streets then VOTE THEM OUT!

  • sforick

    I’m a driver who strongly supports pedestrian safety. I also want our money spent
    wisely. Part of the city’s “toolbox” is to add more countdown pedestrian
    signals. But a recent study shows pedestrians struck by cars at crossings increased by 26 per cent after the countdown timers were introduced. It also shows a 51 per cent increase in serious injuries and fatalities:

    My experience on the streets of SF shows that many
    pedestrians start crossing on the red hand because they see think there is still time to make it before the light changes. This is illegal but is encouraged by the
    countdown signal. Drivers also use the countdown to judge the signal change
    and often hurry up to make it, unsafely. These behaviors also tie up
    traffic unnecessarily and cause more risk because the time after the red hand
    and countdown start is designed for pedestrians to clear the intersection and
    legal right turns to be made by motorists.

    For safety, the city should be removing, not adding countdown signals..

  • sforick

    SFMTA is exacerbating the Safety problem.

    SFMTA has taken away street design from professional engineering experts and made it a fragmented “community” and committee process at the will of politicians and lobbyists. The results are unsafe streets. Bicycles should be given routes of their own on a network of streets dedicated to bicycles and local traffic only. Mixing cars, bicycles and buses on major streets (e.g. Van Ness, Division, 3rd, Potrero, Caesar Chavez, etc.) is dangerous. The street designs being rubber stamped all over the city under the euphemisms of “traffic calming” and “streetscaping” are misguided in their

    Studies have shown traffic calming costs over 4 lives lost through delayed emergency response for every pedestrian saved, yet our politicians fight input to these projects by SFFD. These lives lost are as important as those of pedestrians. I am an engineer and I believe in engineering solutions, not political solutions. Let engineering do its job if
    you want better safety



Bryan Goebel

Bryan Goebel is a reporter focused on transportation and housing issues. He was previously the editor of Streetsblog San Francisco, and an anchor/editor at KCBS Radio. He's a lifelong Californian and has also worked at radio stations in Barstow, Redding and Sacramento.

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