San Mateo seeks safer routes for pedestrians 

click to enlarge Dangerous streets: Of the 400-plus pedestrians hit by cars in San Mateo in the past decade, nine were killed. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The SF Examiner
  • Dangerous streets: Of the 400-plus pedestrians hit by cars in San Mateo in the past decade, nine were killed.

More than 400 San Mateo pedestrians were hit by cars during the last decade and nine were killed, a rate that exceeds the county average. Now a group of residents and city officials hopes a new pedestrian master plan will cut that rate in half.

An early version of the plan, which has been in the works for the past year and is being drafted to make San Mateo’s streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians, is expected to head to the San Mateo City Council in April.

The plan was an outgrowth of city leaders’ efforts to promote environmental sustainability.

“How can you be green if you’re not out there using your body and your muscles?” said Jay Michlin, a San Mateo Depart of Public Works commissioner who helped craft the plan.

Many of the new retirees that Michlin knows would love to walk to stores, churches and other daily destinations. But he said they fear it’s too dangerous for them to try to cross San Mateo streets on foot. Michlin is hopeful that they will soon be able to take advantage of the plan’s recommendations.

Some 63 percent of 475 people surveyed by the city as the plan was being drafted said they walk if they’re traveling less than a mile. Key travel areas included downtown, parks and other retail districts. 

Barriers to walking included concerns about safety, insufficient lighting, and poorly maintained or obstructed sidewalks or a lack of sidewalks, the survey results showed.

Better lighting, more prominent crosswalks and more time for pedestrians to cross near retail centers and in areas frequented by children and seniors are some of the 49 suggestions to be considered in the draft plan. Also included are better signage, proposed parklets where outdoor restaurant seating could be placed, and other improvements that would make it easier for pedestrians to cross streets.

The improvements outlined in the plan are expected to cost nearly $84 million over 20 years, with more than $51 million of that for more pedestrian-scale lighting, a presentation on the city’s website shows.

Project manager Ken Chin said the lights would be put in place during major street reconstruction and as private development occurs. Even though the pedestrian plan isn’t yet in place, at least one planned development — at 888 North San Mateo Drive — has pedestrian-friendly lighting incorporated into its development plan, Chin said.

Better lighting and wider, greener sidewalks are improvements Anna Kuhre would like to see made. Kuhre, who is past president of San Mateo’s United Homeowners Association and a member of the group that helped create the plan, is hopeful the city can replace tall cobra-head streetlights with the old fashioned green lanterns that line the city’s Baywood development.


Hazardous walking

The average rate of auto collisions involving pedestrians per thousand residents was about one-third higher in San Mateo than throughout the entire county between 2001 and 2009.

.46: San Mateo city average

.37: San Mateo County average

Source: Draft San Mateo pedestrian plan

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Michele Ellson

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