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Thursday, December 20, 2012

San Francisco Is Below Average When It Comes to Pedestrian Safety

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 7:15 AM

Pedestrian right of way!
  • Pedestrian right of way!

Yesterday, Mayor Ed Lee announced that the city would install a plan to improve pedestrian safety. The strategy targets the most dangerous intersections in the city, and involved more yield signs, clearer sight lines, better crosswalks, and heightened police effort to cite those who don't follow the rules of the street. The goal is to cut pedestrian traffic fatalities by 50 percent over the next eight years.

As various news outlets reported, there have been 18 pedestrian fatalities this year. Over that stretch, a car struck a person nearly 900 times.

San Francisco is, generally, statistically sub-par when it comes to pedestrian safety. Making it even safer means better managing the chaos that occurs when a high volume of pedestrians and a high volume of drivers are thrown together into the dense maze that is San Francisco.

See also: Cyclist Hit and Dragged by City Street Sweeper

According to a 2009 report by two national transportation organizations, of the 52 biggest metropolitan regions in America, the San Francisco Bay Area is the 12th safest for pedestrians. Of course, many of those 52 areas are sprawling, low-density, freeway-centric, car-dependent locales with free parking, cheap gas, and open roads. They are not designed for pedestrians and most of their people don't often walk to get here or there. Among regions where more than 3 percent of the population commutes to work on foot, the Bay Area ranks eighth out of 11.

The Bay has the third-highest rate of people who walk to work (3.9 percent), tied with Philadelphia behind New York City (6 percent) and Boston (4.6 percent). However, the region is second to New York (31.1 percent) for the percentage of traffic-related pedestrian deaths, at 27.7 percent. Much higher than Boston's 20.3 percent and Philly's 19.8 percent. In just San Francisco, that rate is 47.7 percent.

Most pedestrian traffic injuries are the driver's fault, states a November MTA report. The transportation agency found that 41 percent of car-pedestrian collisions are primarily caused by "motorist violation of pedestrian right of way." Less than one-third were caused by a pedestrian violation. Around one-fifth were chalked up under "other," which does seem to water-down the value of the data.

Pedestrian injuries, however, have dipped by nearly 30 percent over the last 20 years, from around 150 injuries per 100,000 residents to just over 100. London and New york have seen parallel trends.

Overall, San Francisco still does offer a better walking experience than almost any other city. Walk Score, a Seattle-based start-up dedicated to measuring walkability, ranks San Francisco as the second most walkable city in America. It's a clear-cut silver medal and a hair away from gold. The company's algorithm scored San Francisco as an 84.9, just behind New York City's 85.3. No other city cracked 80.

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Albert Samaha


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