Yee pushing for safety on busy Highway 1 

One of San Francisco's busiest crosstown arteries is also its most dangerous, and while police set up sting operations to bust speeders and red-light runners, legislators have been stymied in trying to more closely regulate state Route 1.

The seven miles of city blocks that make up 19th Avenue and Park Presidio — the highway’s route across town — have seen some 1,205 injuries and deaths from collisions between 2000 and 2005, according to San Francisco police. Of those 786 collisions, 80 involved pedestrians. Six of the 12 deaths over the five-year period were pedestrians.


SIDEBAR: Students unfazed by road dangers


The San Francisco Police Department patrols and enforces traffic laws on the unique stretch of state highway along with the California Highway Patrol. While the road is physically a city surface street, it comes under the jurisdiction of the state because it is part of the state highway system. While local lawmakers have pushed for increased enforcement and awareness campaigns, changes along the corridor must ultimately come from the state government.

State Sen. Leland Yee, a former San Francisco supervisor and state assemblyman, has introduced two bills that would create a double-fine zone along 19th Avenue, neither of which gained Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature.

In his veto statement, the governor claimed that, according to a 2002 Department of Transportation report, double-fine zones without additional safety measures "do not have any statistically significant effect on traffic safety."


Highway 1 isn't the only danger zone in The City



Yee said Friday that his efforts to make The City portion of state Route 1 safer include educational outreach, countdown crosswalk signals and a plan to synchronize the traffic signals.

The 19th Avenue throughfare connects San Mateo and Marin counties, so it’s an important transportation point in the Bay Area, Yee said Friday. But he added, "A highway that is right in the middle of a city and a neighborhood makes it extremely dangerous for the pedestrians in the area."

San Francisco police Sgt. Bob Guinansaid the biggest cause of crashes is drivers traveling at unsafe speeds. He said drivers average between 40 mph and 45 mph on the 35-mph street. "But we see speeds up into the 60s in the park because they feel it’s an expressway," Guinan said.

To combat speeding and red-light running, Guinan said the traffic enforcement company conducts radar enforcement operations at least once a week. Officers are also encouraged to do individual enforcement on the route when not working in a group, he said.

But Highway 1 is not the only danger zone in The City, Guinan said. Other trouble spots include Alemany Boulevard, Lincoln Avenue, Geary Boulevard west of Gough Street and the South of Market and Tenderloin neighborhoods. "I wish I had more officers to spread around, but we kind of have to go from one hot spot to the next," Guinan said.

Both Guinan and Yee indicated that enforcement and education go hand in hand. "It gives meaning to the education when the drivers know they’ll be held accountable for their actions while they’re driving," Guinan said.

Students unfazed by road dangers

As police crack down on speeders and red-light runners along state Route 1 through San Francisco, students at San Francisco State University — which is situated at one of the highway’s busiest intersections — appeared concerned but resigned to the danger Friday.

At the corner of 19th and Holloway avenues, the main entrance to the university, students crossed 19th Avenue in hurrying clusters, racing for buses, trains and evening classes. They darted around gridlock traffic that hovered in the crosswalk regardless of the green "walk" signal.

"People run way too many lights," a freshman child development major who gave her name only as Melanie C said. "This street seems a lot more dangerous than some others." But Melanie has to cross the avenue to get to class, so, "I make sure everybody’s stopped and the walk signal’s on."

"People definitely drive faster [here] than other areas," senior civil engineering major Liquiang Sun said. "I wait for the light and then run." But, he said, "It’s OK." He said he doesn’t worry too much about it.

"I grew up here so I feel as safe as I’m going to feel," said Aileen Wilson, an undeclared junior who said she’ll probably major in art history. "It could be a lot worse, so I won’t complain."

Recently, crossing guards have begun patrolling the crosswalk in front of the university, senior economics major Sean Holden said. But no crossing guards were visible Friday. Regardless, Holden said he feels more secure when someone in an "official looking vest" escorts pedestrians across the street.

"I don’t know if it’ll prevent accidents, but it gives me peace of mind," Holden said.


Worst intersections for pedestrians

These are some of San Francisco's most dangerous intersections for pedestrian injuries/deaths 2000-2005:

1. Taraval Street and 19th Avenue: 9 (one fatality)
2. Irving Street and 19th Avenue: 9 (one fatality)
3. Noriega Street and 19th Avenue: 7
4. Holloway/Crespi Avenue and 19th Avenue: 4 (one fatality)
5. Eucalyptus Drive and 19th Avenue: 4
6. Quintara Street and 19th Avenue: 4 (one fatality)
7. Clement Street and Park Presidio: 4 (one fatality)
8. Lake Street and Park Presidio: 4
9. California Street and Park Presidio: one fatality
10. Lincoln and 19th avenues: one fatality


Top causes for accidents involving pedestrians

Autos ignoring pedestrian right-of-way: 48 crashes
Pedestrian violations: 17
Red light violations: 2
Auto right-of-way: 1
Improper passing: 1
Unsafe speed: 1
All others: 10


Year-by-year breakdown

In 80 pedestrian-involved collisions in San Francisco during the years 2000-2005,  81 pedestrians were injured and six killed. Here is how that broke down, by year.

2000: 15 crashes
2001: 7
2002: 16
2003: 14
2004: 14
2005: 14


amartin@examiner.com  

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