Spate of fatalities again raises concerns about pedestrian safety in San Francisco 

click to enlarge Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom called for a comprehensive pedestrian safety plan in 2010, which has failed to materialize despite activists’ pleas. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom called for a comprehensive pedestrian safety plan in 2010, which has failed to materialize despite activists’ pleas.

Lee promises to release action proposal soon
By Will Reisman
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer
A high school student struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver after celebrating her 17th birthday. A beloved teacher fatally hit while crossing Vicente Street. A young girl whose legs were crushed by a dump truck on The Embarcadero.
So far this year, five pedestrians have been killed by motorists on San Francisco streets, and pedestrian advocates are wondering why more isn’t being done to improve protections.
At this rate, last year’s 20 will be eclipsed, according to data from the Police Department. In 2010, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive directive for an action plan that would reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities by 25 percent by 2016 and 50 percent by 2021. Much to the chagrin of activists, that plan still has not been released by Mayor Ed Lee.
“These recent accidents have truly been awful,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of
advocacy group Walk SF. “And what’s been really frustrating is that we’ve seen no leadership from the Mayor’s Office. If we don’t see an action plan, how can we see actions to improve street conditions?”
By holding off on a release of the action plan, Lee cannot direct various city agencies on how to address pedestrian safety and funding mechanisms for those projects cannot be pursued, Stampe said.
Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said pedestrian safety is a priority for Lee and an executive directive is expected to be
released soon.
“The mayor has included many pedestrian safety enhancements as part of the capital plan and pedestrian safety is being prioritized as part of the mayor’s new transportation 2030 task force,” said Falvey, referring to a advisory group assembled by Lee that met for the first time last week.
Jason Henderson, an urban planning professor at San Francisco State University, said a lack of leadership at City Hall leads to an endless bureaucracy that stifles implementation of important
pedestrian safety upgrades.
“We go on and on and on about planning, but that’s not the problem,” Henderson said. “The real issue is that these plans never get implemented, and when they do they’re completely watered down.”
While Lee should take some blame, Henderson said, the Board of Supervisors also deserves criticism. As the governing body of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a financing agency, the board has the opportunity to fund many pedestrian improvement projects. Progress is rarely made, however, because Henderson said supervisors are not committed enough to the responsibility.
Supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee have both called for pedestrian safety hearings at board committees this month. Yee’s District 7 has been the site of two fatal accident. On March 2, 17-year-old Henren Chang was killed by a suspected drunken driver on Sloat Boulevard, an expansive avenue with fast-moving traffic. Less than three weeks later, Tania Madfes, a respected teacher, was fatally struck on Vicente Street.

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