Pedestrians walking fine line on San Francisco streets 

The dense, hilly layout of San Francisco may be a haven for pedestrians who want to take a stroll and catch views of the scenic vistas, but there’s some risk for walkers on those ventures.

Nearly half the traffic fatalities in San Francisco are pedestrians, a rate that is more than four times the national average, new data show.
The gamble of walking down the streets of The City was part of a nationwide survey that found the San Francisco region, which includes Oakland and Fremont, to have the second-highest percentage of traffic deaths among major cities in the country.

About 27 percent of traffic deaths in the region are pedestrians, a ratio that is trumped only by the 31 percent registered in the New York metropolitan area, according to the study by Transportation for America, which is a coalition of transit, housing and planning groups. It studied safety and traffic statistics for 52 major cities and their surrounding areas.

When San Francisco is looked at independently, however, those numbers are even worse, according to Walk San Francisco, a local pedestrian advocacy organization.

Using the same data that Transportation for America collected, Walk S.F. and its president, Manish Champsee, broke down the statistics for San Francisco alone and found that The City has a pedestrian fatality rate of 2.6 deaths per 100,000 people, a total that is 70 percent higher than the national average. Additionally, nearly 48 percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians, a rate that is more than four times the national average of 11.8 percent.

Champsee said only 0.5 percent of transportation funding in San Francisco goes toward pedestrian-related projects, but the national average is 1.5 percent.

“We need to find some permanent funding source to really bring this city forward,” he said. “We can do that by exploring all options at the state, local and federal level, and really prioritizing pedestrian upgrades here.”

The Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages pedestrian policies in San Francisco, plans to lobby federal officials for increased funding for pedestrian projects, according to spokesman Judson True.

In the meantime, the transit agency has worked with the Planning Department to create the Better Streets Plan, a comprehensive set of improvements aimed at enhancing the pedestrian experience in The City. It also installed countdown signals at about 900 traffic lights and undertook a series of pedestrian upgrades on 19th Avenue.

The pedestrian study by Transportation for America did find that aside from pedestrian deaths, the San Francisco region fared well in pedestrian safety, ranking safer than 39 of the 52 areas detailed.

“San Francisco is a great walking city, but we can always do more,” True said. “We’ve got the pieces in place to continue ongoing pedestrian improvements.”

Where pedestrian deaths are highest nationwide   

City* Pedestrian fatalities 2007   Pedestrian  fatalities 2008  Percentage of residents who walk to work   Percentage of traffic deaths involving pedestrians
New York    316    317    6.0    31.1
San Francisco    64    72    3.9    27.7
Los Angeles    247    244    2.7    26.9
Miami    178    151    1.7    22.5
Tampa, Fla.    98    94    1.7    22.4

* Metropolitan areas
Source: Transportation for America

Taking a risk every time you walk

Pedestrian deaths in The City are much higher than the national average.

Traffic deaths involving pedestrians:

San Francisco 47.7% 

National Average 11.8%

 

Pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people:

San Francisco  2.6% 

National Average  1.53%
  
Source: Walk San Francisco

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Will Reisman

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