The most dangerous streets for pedestrians in San Francisco will be getting extra attention over the next five years as The City puts more resources into safety improvements proposed by WalkFirst, a new initiative being unveiled today.
WalkFirst seeks to implement a Pedestrian Safety Capital Improvement Program to address corridors and intersections that represent 6 percent of city street miles but account for 60 percent of severe and fatal injuries.
From November to February, more than 400 people provided feedback on the WalkFirst website and 80 percent of respondents wanted the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to fix streets and intersections where the most collisions between pedestrians and vehicles occurred.
“Now that the process is over, it’s going to be shovels in the ground and the priorities have been identified through a very comprehensive effort,” mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.
Projects that will get attention first are those that are the least expensive and have the quickest turnaround, followed by areas needing more permanent solutions.
The downtown, the Tenderloin and South of Market areas have the most high-injury corridors. Among the intersections that have been identified as locations needing improvement are Mission and 23rd streets, Mission Street and Excelsior Avenue, and Kearny and Sacramento streets.
WalkFirst, according to SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin, is in lockstep with The City’s Vision Zero goals to eliminate pedestrian fatalities within a decade.
“The near-term approach is the part of WalkFirst that is consistent with what Vision Zero is looking to achieve, to get stuff off the ground sooner,” he said. “So I see them very well-aligned.”
But the $17 million over five years secured so far for WalkFirst is not enough to cover the improvements needed. Measures in the works for the November ballot could boost that to $50 million, which would cover the capital improvement program costs, but $240 million is needed to implement all the needed projects under the initiative.
The money allotted over the five-year span is about the same amount The City spends treating pedestrian injuries per year, noted Walk San Francisco Executive Director Nicole Schneider.
“That shows that this is not yet a priority,” she said. “If we want to take this seriously, we really need to follow up with the funding.”
In his State of the City address in January, Mayor Ed Lee said he hoped to bring a half-billion dollars to transportation initiatives through a general-obligation bond and an increase in the vehicle license fee on the November ballot. That could help increase funds for the initiative, Falvey said.
WalkFirst was born out of the pedestrian strategy the mayor issued in April, directing city departments to implement solutions to reduce serious and fatal pedestrian injuries by 25 percent by 2016 and 50 percent by 2021.
Agencies involved include the SFMTA, City Controller’s Office, and Planning, Public Health and Public Works departments.
The combination of public engagement and statistical analysis makes WalkFirst the first of its kind in the U.S., Reiskin said.
“It’s really the most advanced and data-driven capital planning we’ve done as a city,” he said.
The mayor, along with other city leaders, is expected to unveil the initiative this morning.
At 10 a.m., after the announcement, the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the next steps to make Vision Zero, which has not been voted on by the board, into a city ordinance.