SF police, city officials carry on latest push to improve pedestrian safety 

click to enlarge pedestrian safety hearing
  • Jessica Kwong/The S.f. Examiner
  • Police Cmdr. Mikail Ali (far right), who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, talks about pedestrian fatalities and police enforcement efforts at a joint hearing Thursday.
In a week already packed with pedestrian safety pushes at City Hall, a joint hearing before the Police Commission and Board of Supervisors’ Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee on Thursday convened policy makers and enforcement officials who say they are focused on collaborative solutions rather than finger-pointing.

Police enforcement and investigations on a spate of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities was the crux of what Supervisor David Campos, who called the hearing, hoped would be a “constructive and productive meeting.”

“It’s important to focus on how we move forward instead of pointing fingers,” he said. “We have the best police department in the country. I really believe that we can always look at what we can do better.”

The joint hearing included a presentation given at the Jan. 8 Police Commission meeting highlighting the rise in fatalities juxtaposed with a drop in both officer and citation numbers. Two-thirds of the 21 pedestrian fatalities last year – the most since 2007 – were the driver’s fault, police say.

Referencing comments made at the Police Commission on the need for pedestrians to be less distracted, commission vice president Joe Marshall said, “We’re not here to blame the victim.”

“We don’t want our citizens, pedestrians or bicyclists to feel like there’s a threat when they’re on the streets of San Francisco,” Marshall said.

The solution, according to Supervisor Eric Mar, will entail putting money toward efforts that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco have been working on for years. One such measure, the Pedestrian Strategy, still has no funding attached. The meeting follows a Vision Zero plan to eliminate pedestrian fatalities within 10 years, introduced by Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee and John Avalos on Tuesday, as well as a “Be Nice, Look Twice” driver education campaign pitched by Mayor Ed Lee on Wednesday.

Walk San Francisco placed a human face to the issue with a video depicting Jikaiah Stevens, 31, who suffered permanent injury from being hit by a vehicle.

“I find it insult to injury that the person responsible is not paying for the bills,” Stevens said. “What is the incentive to be a safer driver when there are no consequences?”

San Francisco police are not waiting to start issuing more citations as their officer numbers steadily increase, assured Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Officers issued 55 citations within a two-hour period at two locations on Thursday, he noted.

Before opening the floor to public comment, Police Chief Greg Suhr referenced 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was hit and killed by a vehicle on New Year’s Eve.

“I think if we can get to this zero fatality goal for this little girl,” he said. “At least she would not have passed in vain.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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