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Release date: 2/15/11

*** Press Release ***

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates the Municipal Railway (Muni) and oversees all surface transportation in the City, today presented to the SFMTA Board of Directors an update regarding pedestrian safety in San Francisco. The comprehensive presentation included the implementation of new Better Streets Plan policies, current pedestrian statistics, and plans for targeted goals and further coordination with City partners as outlined in the Pedestrian Safety Executive Directive.

Over the past few decades, street design has experienced a growing shift toward accommodation of all users (“complete streets”) and walkable neighborhoods planning. San Francisco has been at the forefront of that thinking. From the Transit First policy, reduction in parking requirements, removal of freeway segments and other livability polices, the shift has been to focus more on people movement rather than just moving people in their cars as quickly as possible.

“San Francisco has consistently been named one of the most walkable cities in the country,” said Tom Nolan, Chairman of the SFMTA Board of Directors. “The overall pedestrian safety trend is positive, but we must do more; it’s still a very serious problem.”

“San Francisco’s streets can been designed as successful public spaces and many have been,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., Executive Director/CEO. “The growth of our City is focused on creating walkable neighborhoods and the SFMTA will continue to plan and engineer streets for all users. This will keep our City moving while providing better options for walking and bicycling.”

San Francisco is a multi-modal city. Most residents and visitors use various types of transportation to get around. While some use bicycles, transit or cars more than other types, most people start or end their trip as pedestrians. In San Francisco walking is more common than in most other U.S. cities. Its compact size makes San Francisco a city of short trips. As the SFMTA creates a vision for integrating transportation modes, it will seek to take advantage not only of San Franciscans’ desire to incorporate walking into their routines, but also the density of the City. This means a greater need for improved pedestrian safety.

Since the City launched an innovative pedestrian program in 2000, injury collisions involving pedestrians declined by 25 percent in San Francisco. Fatalities tended to be more variable year to year, but the overall trend was also downward. Through better design and operation of the transportation system along with improved driver and pedestrian attention, most collisions are avoidable. Looking more closely at the 2008 statistics, staff found that San Francisco Police Department listed motorist violation of pedestrian right-of-way as the leading factor 42 percent of the time. Pedestrian violations followed with a third of the cases. Violations of traffic signals and signs and speeding only accounted for five percent respectively.

Good street design is critical to safe walking conditions. Complete streets improve walking conditions and safety through design by reducing exposure for pedestrians. Through the City’s interdepartmental Better Streets Plan, SFMTA Sustainable Streets is developing new pedestrian safety policies that incorporate best practices and leading research from around the country. According to the new SFMTA policies, the Agency has implemented various pedestrian safety strategies, some new and some continued practices, such as roadway narrowing or “road diets” and sidewalk widening; ongoing neighborhood traffic calming projects; pedestrian countdown signals, which reduce accidents at intersections by 22 percent; and other pedestrian safety engineering improvements.

SFMTA traffic engineering improvements for pedestrian safety include a focus on major streets with intersections that lack stop signs or traffic signals, “uncontrolled” intersections, and streets with more than one lane in each direction. On such streets, a car that stops to yield to a crossing pedestrian may block the view of other approaching cars, creating a hazard for the pedestrian.

To alleviate these hazards, the SFMTA is retrofitting existing marked crosswalks on arterial streets by installing continental crosswalks with wide horizontal stripes, advance yield lines or “sharks teeth” and “Yield Here to Pedestrians” signs. Additionally, the pedestrian safety program is restricting parking in advance of some crosswalks where parked vehicles might otherwise obscure the sight lines between motorists and people stepping off of the curb. Since the crosswalk improvements began in November 2009, 46 intersections have received the complete set of improvements. The SFMTA has identified 12 strategic locations that will be completed next. Overall, 180 intersections have been identified citywide to receive these improvements.

To support the pedestrian safety planning and engineering efforts currently underway, including the Better Streets Plan, WalkFirst, an interdepartmental planning study including the SFMTA, the Planning Department and the Department of Public Health, will identify popular pedestrian streets and establish criteria for pedestrian safety improvements. A new Pedestrian Safety Task Force, formed from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s December directive, will further build on these collaborations to focus on a strategic coordinated vision.

The core of this vision is comprised of two targeted goals: the reduction of serious or fatal pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016 and by 50 percent by 2021. Along with these challenging but attainable goals, San Francisco must also continue to increase walking and lower the disparity of pedestrian safety between neighborhoods.

The Pedestrian Safety Task Force is comprised of 13 City entities, including the SFMTA, and has been tasked with the following near-term actions, some of which were already in progress:

  1. Review a proposal for 15 mph speed limits near schools
  2. Pilot an innovative “home zone” project, a holistic approach to reducing speeds and making neighborhood streets more walkable.
  3. Build upon the engineering efforts of the SFMTA pedestrian safety engineering program in targeted areas identified through the WalkFirst study.
  4. Continue coordination between SFMTA, SFPD and DPH on the enforcement efforts targeted at high-need areas and work to tie enforcement in with education and physical improvements.
  5. Develop an injury prediction model
  6. Evaluate the Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI)
  7. Research international safety practices
  8. Identify new and existing funds
  9. Reach out to community organizations

The Pedestrian Safety Task Force has also been asked to begin drafting a Pedestrian Action Plan by the end of this year.

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