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Monday, June 13, 2011

Seniors to S.F.: Stop Killing Us!

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 4:08 PM

click to enlarge Would you want your grandmother crossing that street?
  • Would you want your grandmother crossing that street?

San Francisco seniors are tired of being killed crossing streets -- and understandably so. That's why on Wednesday they plan to do something about it. They're inviting the public to watch them attempt to cross a dangerous intersection on the way to a senior center without getting hit by speeding drivers.

"Too often, all the planning is done by looking at a piece of paper, and talking to people of like-minded experience, without planning for people with babies and strollers, or for the idea that a group of preschoolers may cross the street to get to a park, or that seniors may be on the way to a senior center," says Bob Planthold, a member of the Senior Action Network.

But seniors will brave it anyway; they'll attempt to cross Third and Yosemite streets while

singing pedestrian-safety-themed songs. The plan is to bring some much-needed attention to San Francisco's horrid street designs. And it's only apropos that they call the event DeathRace 2011.

But that moniker could apply to many city intersections.

As of May, 51 seniors have been injured in pedestrian accidents, 16 of whom were hospitalized or killed. That's a 100 percent increase over last year, according to event organizers. Ironically, while San Francisco is known as a pedestrian city, many of its streets are difficult to traverse.

Sixth Street, for instance, which connects Interstate 280 and downtown, is where thousands of elderly and disabled residents live -- without cars. And as Planthold points out, this roadway operates more like a semi-expressway.

"We can't get the city to go put in midblock crosswalks," he says. "So the SRO population, they aren't protected." But this problem isn't unique to Sixth Street. The city is failing pedestrians everywhere.

San Francisco's seniors face a disproportionate risk of death on its streets, compared to seniors nationwide or even the city's population overall. According to a Transportation for America report, San Francisco is the No. 4 county in the nation when it comes to pedestrian deaths. Even worse, we are No.1 in the state.

It's a combination of having more pedestrians and crappier safety measures.

According to Senior Action Network state and federal data:

Seniors suffered a pedestrian fatality rate of 8.1 per 100,000 within San Francisco, during the 2000-2007 decade -- almost three times the 2.92 senior national and 2.9 S.F. pedestrian fatality rates.

Even pedestrians under the age of 65 find San Francisco's streets dangerous: San Francisco's overall pedestrian-fatality rate was 2.9 --  almost double the national rate of 1.26.

Ironically, the corner of Third and Yosemite streets was recently rebuilt to accommodate pedestrians getting on and off of Muni. But it's still a mess; there is no place for slower walkers to safely stop if they can't make it across in time.

Instead, those slower-moving seniors get stuck on the Muni tracks in the middle of the street when they don't make the light. "The planning is defective," Planthold says.

If you agree, join them at the protest Wednesday at 10:30.

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Matt Smith


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