Groups seek solutions as pedestrian incidents increase on Van Ness 

Despite the recent introduction of double fines for traffic citations — a deterrent that has proven effective elsewhere — pedestrian accidents on Van Ness Avenue have skyrocketed in the past two years, increasing the calls for more traffic-calming measures there.

In 2008, there were nine such incidents on Van Ness, which doubles as U.S. Highway 101 in San Francisco. In 2009, that total increased to 27 — a 300 percent hike — and last year rose to 30.

The intersection with Market Street has been the most dangerous, with eight pedestrian injuries since 2007. Six people were injured at both the Geary Boulevard and Broadway crossings. On Aug. 4, a man crossing Van Ness near Broadway was hit by a car and carried on its hood for two blocks while the driver fled.
The man suffered serious injuries.

Dawn Trennert, president of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, which borders Van Ness, said pedestrian safety is a serious issue on the street. She said the main problem is the lack of pedestrian countdown signals, and the quick timing of the traffic lights, which makes it difficult to cross the thoroughfare.

“There are a lot of senior citizens who live in the area, and crossing Van Ness can be especially difficult for them,” Trennert said.

Tina Moylan, president of the Russian Hill Neighbors, said she avoids walking on Van Ness because of the heavy traffic and fast speeds.

“There is just too much going on there for pedestrians,” Moylan said.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian advocacy organization Walk San Francisco, said walkers would benefit from better enforcement. Motorists who run stop signs and red lights should be cited on a consistent basis, Stampe said. Also, she said, lower speed limits would help increase pedestrian safety.

And conditions could be improved by the delivery of bus rapid transit service, according to Tilly Chang, the deputy planning director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

As part of the plan to use bus service in a dedicated transit lane on Van Ness, The City would add pedestrian countdown signals to all intersections and install sidewalk bulb-outs that would shorten the distance walkers would have to travel on crossings, Chang said. Also, the bus changes are expected to increase us of public transit, thus decreasing vehicular traffic. Such service on Van Ness is scheduled to start in 2015.

Look both ways

Despite their success elsewhere, double-fine zones for drivers have not reduced pedestrian accidents on Van Ness Avenue:

Year Injuries
2010 30
2009 27
2008 9
2007 12

Most dangerous intersections:

Place Injuries from 2007-10
Market Street and Van Ness 8
Geary Boulevard and Van Ness 6
Broadway and Van Ness 6
California Street and Van Ness 4

Source: SFPD

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