A new report on The City’s most dangerous intersections reveals that many continue to be troublesome, leaving safety advocates to wonder why more is not being done to improve conditions.
In 2011, a combined 10 pedestrians and bicyclists were hit by cars at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, making it the least safe crossing in The City, according to a report by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which compiled data from the Police Department.
Market-Octavia has a long history of being a danger zone for pedestrians and bicyclists, as do the intersections of Oak and Divisadero streets and Market and Valencia streets, both of which recorded nine accidents last year.
Fell Street and Masonic Avenue and Sixth and Market streets, two other intersections with long histories of high incident rates, also were among the most dangerous crossings in 2011, with six and five accidents, respectively.
Leah Shahum, executive director of the bike coalition, questioned why the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Police Department have not focused more resources on known danger zones.
“When we look at cities like Chicago, which has a strategic plan to beef up enforcement and focus on known problem areas, it’s clear that San Francisco is behind,” Shahum said. “We want to know what the SFMTA’s strategic plan is for these intersections.”
Shahum said the intersections could improve from engineering changes, increased enforcement and technology upgrades, such as the right-turn traffic camera that Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has proposed for the intersection of Market and Octavia.
The recent changes to restrict automobiles on portions of Market Street could be expanded, Shahum said, since the artery is such a trouble spot for pedestrians and cyclists.
“We know where the problems are,” she said. “We’d like to see police and the SFMTA target those areas.”
Paul Rose, a spokesman for the SFMTA, said the agency has recently undergone signal-timing and engineering changes to ensure compliance with the right-turn ban at Octavia and Market. The agency also widened the crosswalk markings at the site. The SFMTA installed a red-light camera in late 2011 at Fell and Masonic and is working on further signal design changes to improve conditions at that intersection, Rose said. Changes designed to improve left-turn conditions from Market to Valencia are coming this year, he said.
Across The City, the SFMTA has added more pedestrian countdown signals, improved crosswalk markings, installed more stop signs and added sidewalk extensions to improve conditions, Rose said.
Still, one of the issues plaguing The City is the variance of reliable traffic data, according to Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF, a pedestrian safety group. Police and the SFMTA often compile different sets of traffic incidents for different intersections, making it hard for the two agencies to delineate a clear pattern of danger.
“It’s hard to come up with a solution if you don’t know exactly what the problem is,” Stampe said.
Stampe did say she is encouraged by the scope of The City’s long-awaited Pedestrian Action Plan, which is
due to be released next month.