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Transportation

San Francisco Still Among Most Dangerous For Pedestrians 278

dkatana writes: The city of San Francisco averages 200 injuries per year and 30 deaths. This is almost double the number of Barcelona, Catalonia, which has about the same population. The city started a Vision Zero program, aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminate pedestrian deaths by 2024. But after a year-long Vision Zero education push called Safe Streets SF, whose key message is that pedestrians always have the right of way, the results have been modest. Now a series of banners on light poles in the South of Market neighborhood with the message: 'Slow down! We live here!' are trying to convince drivers to respect people on foot.
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San Francisco Still Among Most Dangerous For Pedestrians

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2015 @05:59PM (#50639679)
    If only we force people to engage in a diverse, non-confrontational conversation that raised awareness of this community issue, it would solve the empathy-deficit problem practically overnight.
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @07:46PM (#50640643)

      If only we force people to engage in a diverse, non-confrontational conversation

      I know you are trying to be funny, but this is exactly what SF is failing to do. All of their effort is focused on changing driver behavior, when much of the effort should be on pedestrian behavior. When pedestrians step into traffic without even looking, the metal in my bumper isn't going to care that they "always have the right of way".

      Another problem is that driving in SF can can very confusing, draining driver attention. Try to make a left turn onto Market Street on a busy day. Some streets should just be shut down and turn into pedestrian malls, such as Grant Street through Chinatown, since all the tourists are already oblivious to the cars.

      • by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @09:31PM (#50641271)

        Another problem is that driving in SF can can very confusing, draining driver attention. Try to make a left turn onto Market Street on a busy day.

        A few months ago, SF made private vehicles turning onto Market Street illegal [sfgate.com]. Today, biking home, I saw half a dozen cars flout those new laws.

        As part of Vision Zero SF, the SFPD have pledged to Focus on the Five (PDF, sorry) [sf-police.org] "violations that are most frequently cited in collisions with people walking [visionzerosf.org]. These violations are"

        • Driving at unsafe speed given conditions of roadway
        • Red light signal violations
        • Failure of driver to yield to pedestrian at a crosswalk
        • Failure of driver to yield while making a left or U-turn
        • Failure to stop at a STOP sign limit line

        I cannot tell you (yeah, yeah, anecdote) how many times I've encountered while riding my bike motorists speeding through the streets of SF as if they were Karl Malden in a 1970s era TV cop show.

        So, I'm in perfect agreement with you, ShanghaiBill, that a number of downtown SF city blocks should be turned into pedestrian malls strictly controlled for public transportation only.

        As a side note, the first week or so Market Street had SFMTA employees keeping private vehicles from turning onto Market Street was the day public transit drivers and cabbies started racing down Market at over 35 miles per hour and jockeying to beat every. Single. Light. and running them if they couldn't.

      • by WarJolt ( 990309 )

        I once had a conversation with someone who proclaimed that if a "pedestrian" hid behind a parked car and jumped out into the lane of traffic, then it's still the cars fault. That seems ludicrous to me, but I'm not a lawyer.

        The fact that every intersection is a potential unmarked cross walk also seems a little bit insane. Suppose you have a 6 lane road and a small 2 lane street intersects with it. Now extend an cross walk from the corners of that intersection and you have a legal crosswalk. Also suppose that

      • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @11:45PM (#50641879)

        A propaganda effort to change how safe drivers are can help a little bit, but what makes cities safer is physical world changes that make it easier to drive safely and harder to hit someone. In Seattle, for example, they redesigned 75th street after an accident and saw a major reduction in the number of collisions. (Things like removing parking, adding bike lanes, etc...)

        http://www.seattle.gov/transpo... [seattle.gov]

        Bike lanes are actually useful in that even if not used by bikes, they ensure you can nudge out into a road slightly for better visibility when turning into it if you need to. You also are less likely to intuitively drive as close to the center line as if you are avoiding parked cars.

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:00PM (#50639689)

    People per square foot in SF is pretty dang tight. Between 8 and 10 million people live in the Bay area, depending on who's estimates you enjoy. To make it in and out of the city, you need to use Public transportation, which means lots more pedestrians than other places I have been (including DC, NYC).

    Finally, we have things like the Embarcadero where cars can be stuck for a really long time because the Pedestrians have the right of way and at lunch time thousands are crossing the streets. A system like a ramp which allowed both cars and people would make a big difference in those areas.

    • There are fewer than 1 million people in SF, but it's also relatively small. I think the big problems are the very hilly streets that plateau at the intersections and cars parked end-to-end along the sidewalk. Drivers make right turns (or left turns at one-ways) from a downhill at green lights without seeing if a pedestrian is on the crosswalk (this happens especially during high traffic periods); every corner is virtually blind.

      That, and the taxi drivers are some of the most aggressive I've seen.

      • Another factor is the amount of people, especially around the Tenderloin, who cross the street without apparent regard for anything. Obviously I've no hard statistics on this, but people who've driven in San Francisco know what I'm talking about.

      • Don't forget bikes. They'll hit pedestrians too. If they won't slow down for cars then they won't slow down for walkers either. Only making left turns is actually helpful when you can manage it (though some streets won't allow left turns).

        The residents, especially those with some economic means, need to learn that it's ok to cross the border and live somewhere else rather than treat the city as a walled off commune.

    • by gweilo8888 ( 921799 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:54PM (#50640257)
      True, but they weren't talking about the Bay Area. They were talking about San Francisco, and here the numbers are much different. The city of San Francisco has a population of about 852,000 in a land area of about 47 square miles. By contrast, the city of Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million in an area of just over 39 square miles.

      That's 18,188 per square mile for San Francisco versus 41,100 per square mile for Barcelona -- less than half the density, as you'd expect. American cities are typically more sprawling, when compared to their more compact European rivals. (Other countries just can't afford the sprawl that America can. But then nor can America really, any more.)

      "But they said both cities had the same population," you proclaim. Well, yes, but they were probably comparing the metro population (4.6 million for San Francisco; 5.4 million for Barcelona.) But the same holds true here -- the San Francisco metro area (San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area) has a land area of 2,474 square miles, versus just 1,648 square miles for the metropolitana de Barcelona. So once again, San Francisco has roughly half the density.

      But perhaps that's the problem. San Francisco has a low-enough density that drivers can get some speed up with which to kill pedestrians, whereas in Barcelona there are just so many people that you're used to constantly watching for them and sitting on the brakes, or you couldn't get through a day without hitting one.
      • But perhaps that's the problem. San Francisco has a low-enough density that drivers can get some speed up with which to kill pedestrians, whereas in Barcelona there are just so many people...

        Right, and I think this would be reflected in some sort of "average speed limit per mile of city streets" metric.

        I mean, 30 years ago, whenst last I drove through the downtown of actual SF, there was a 5-lane honking freeway slicing thru the heart of it. I was honestly terrified as we drove mile after mile at breakn

        • I mean, 30 years ago, whenst last I drove through the downtown of actual SF, there was a 5-lane honking freeway slicing thru the heart of it.

          If you mean the Embarcadero Freeway, they tore that down after the Loma Prieta earthquake in '89. (And there was much rejoicing. Visit the rejuvenated Ferry Building and there are markers where the supports for the freeway once stood, and plaques gloating over its demise. The Embarcadero Freeway was widely despised.)

          Park Presidio Drive is technically part of US Highway

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        When I was in Spain back in 1982 the rule was that roads were made for cars and people had to watch for traffic. No one ever stepped off in front of me while I was there. Never. I think maybe the rule that pedestrians always have the right of way has created a false sense of safety in pedestrians. They get so used to jumping in front of cars that always stop so that when someone isn't paying attention and they jump they get squished. I always wait, even at crosswalks, for traffic to stop before I step

      • Comparing population density is overly simplistic. You've got to compare vehicle density, intersection density, sidewalk to road areas, average commute distances, traffic control models, climate, and a plethora of other statistics. For example, if Barcelona only has three cars, of course there's going to be less traffic fatalities.
      • by sfcat ( 872532 )

        the San Francisco metro area (San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area)

        There's your problem right there. Most people that live in the SF Bay Area would include San Jose in that with more than 2m people. The US census for some weird reason divides the bay area into two pieces, San Jose and SF. No idea why and everyone here thinks that people who live in San Jose live in the "Bay Area" as do those that live in San Jose.

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      People per square foot in SF is pretty dang tight.

      Coming to SF from Denmark... I would say there are 3 main issues:
      1) traffic laws aren't followed,
      2) drivers are poorly trained (drivers license requirements is a joke),
      3) roads aren't optimized for safe high-throughput traffic
      (1) is what causes danger, but (2) and (3) are the reasons for this. Compared to most European cities SF has wide street, lots of space, and yet manages to spend half the streets on parking, uses stop signs all over, this causes drivers to disgard stop signs, speed up/down like

  • So San Fransisco is like china, where pedestrians are worth so little it is better to kill them if you run over them. Honestly, sometimes pedestrians do dart out and there are cases where there is no way to avoid them. But with numbers like this, it is evident of a basic disregard for human life, where one makes no attempt to avoid killing someone.
    • The China pedestrians story was complete and utter cobblers, packaged up by the foreign media to make you feel superior about yourselves. Congratulations on taking it hook, like and sinker.

      http://m.snopes.com/chinese-dr... [snopes.com]
  • Right Of Way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by myrdos2 ( 989497 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:01PM (#50639713)

    whose key message is that pedestrians always have the right of way

    What? Should that be "they always have the right of way if on a crosswalk"? Because otherwise I think I can explain your pedestrian death rate...

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      Pedestrians don't always have the right of way even in a crosswalk. It's first-come first-served.

      And this brings up the catch-22: a pedestrian doesn't have the right-of-way in a crosswalk until he or she is already in the crosswalk. By that time, it may be too late.

      • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

        Pedestrians don't always have the right of way even in a crosswalk. It's first-come first-served.

        Holy. Can't they stick out their arm or something? "Point your way to safety" is what I remember from (Canadian) grade 2 class.

        • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

          I did a little googling and apparently that program was cancelled because some people would just point and walk out into traffic (without looking) whether on a crosswalk or not.

          • In some nations the point to go was canceled because laws around crosswalks and parking changing. If I remember correctly, its because you where allowed to park at the edge of one in both directions, but regulation changed to a 6-8m ban of parking because it meant cars no longer blocked view of the pedestrians.
            That said, the legality is a mess for people driving without cameras.

          • Oh god, yes ... I once got the shit scared out of me as some kid made a 90 degree turn, extended his arm, and started walking across the street.

            No stop and look. No eye contact. No making sure the driver stops.

            Just turn, arm, and walk in one fluid motion.

            Whatever clueless idiot taught children that had no idea what they were doing.

            And I sure as shit didn't want to have to explain how the kid just turned and started walking, so he scared the life out of me.

            Stupidest pedestrian training ever.

    • What? Should that be "they always have the right of way if on a crosswalk"?

      Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha you wish. I've read angry diatribes in the comments at sfgate.com which basically said that pedestrians not only deserve the right of way at all time, it's offensive victim-blaming to suggest that a pedestrian crossing the road ought to be pragmatic and exercise caution for the sake of avoiding serious injury or death. (The real trendy position is to advocate for banning cars in San Francisco entirely

      • The funny thing is that I'd actually LOVE to be able to give up my car. The problem is that, ironically for a city that claims to have a "transit first" policy, MUNI is just terrible. I mean, appallingly bad... a disgrace and an embarrassment. It's pretty much useless for anything besides commuting into downtown for work. And even then, if you live in certain neighborhoods (Basically the entire northwest quadrant of the city except for a small strip along Lonbard.) then lords of Kobol help you.

        If MUNI c

    • If San Francisco laws are anything like Norwegians, pedestrians do always have right of way. No way of getting around it.
      Now, the issue of the pedestrian jumping from sidewalk into traffic(and who gets blamed for what there), the logical axiom of crosswalks being used as cross points, and more, is a different issue.

    • Here's why I'm biased against pedestrians. I've done a lot of walking in my day. City, town, side roads, main streets...and I've always kept myself on the sidewalk, or on the grass. I only venture onto the shoulder of the road when there's absolutely nowhere else to walk. Even when this means greatly inconveniencing myself and stepping through prickers, mud, or snow, I do whatever I can to stay away from traffic. Rarely do I see anyone else that does that, though. People walk out into traffic, cross w
  • by Derekloffin ( 741455 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:02PM (#50639719)
    ...But if it is anything like my home town, a concurrent campaign of 'hey, you there walking, actually exercise a little caution' would be probably a good idea too. A few too many people on both sides of this equation acting like they are the only thing moving out there.
  • They believe their right to walk into traffic overrules the basic laws of physics. I hate driving in the city, but have to do it on a regular basis.

    • by eepok ( 545733 )
      The laws of physics are not in contravention with the laws of man. The laws of man require drivers to drive no faster than the environment safely allows. If you're surrounded by pedestrians, drive slowly. That way, your momentum stays low and your braking is quick.
      • by rossz ( 67331 )

        Based on your claim, the fastest you could ever drive in San Francisco is about 5 mph, because the pedestrians are simply that stupid. They will step into fast moving traffic no where near a crosswalk and scream obscenities at you when you have to slam on your brakes and swerve around them, narrowly avoiding turning them into a stain.

        If you drive just one time in San Francisco, you'd also accept the insanity or stupidity of the average San Francisco pedestrian.

    • If a driver is not capable of preparing to deal with kids or animals that have no way of knowing the road rules then they should not be on the road. Adults acting like such kids or animals is an annoying thing, but if that's how they act in that area then you have to drive accordingly. There's plenty of drunks at night walking along some of the roads I drive along, and while it is true they should know better than staggering onto the road or running in front of cars thinking they are taxis, it's still the
  • I much prefer... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by __Paul__ ( 1570 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:18PM (#50639913) Homepage

    ...the way pedestrians act in Boston and New York: total chaos. People wander across the street randomly, and drivers are very aware that this is going to happen, so they slow down. It made for a much more pedestrian-friendly environment there than on the west coast, where cars travel far too fast and pedestrians are timid and restrained.

    Nearly got knocked over when crossing - legally - at a pedestrian crossing in Berkeley, and a driver refused to stop and I had to jump out of the way.

    • People wander across the street randomly, and drivers are very aware that this is going to happen, so they slow down.

      Yeah same in this locality, it's fine once you keep your eyes open and watch out for blind spots. As such many of the comments in this story are weird to me - people seem less worried about the fact of killing someone with their car than about the legal liability for doing so.

    • Re:I much prefer... (Score:4, Informative)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday October 01, 2015 @10:19PM (#50641505) Homepage Journal

      ...the way pedestrians act in Boston and New York: total chaos. People wander across the street randomly, and drivers are very aware that this is going to happen, so they slow down.

      Interestingly, Boston and New York have very different pedestrian accident rates. New York has 1.52 pedestrian deaths per 100K, not much better than San Francisco's 1.70. Boston, though, has 0.79.

      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811888.pdf

      It's also worth pointing out that SF is actually safer for pedestrians than most big US cities. Boston appears to be the safest.

  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ryanrule ( 1657199 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:25PM (#50639985)
    Peds SHOULD NOT have the right of way. people can stop on a dime. cars cannot. you dont make the oil tanker yield to the dinghy.
  • Giving pedestrians the right of way is the problem. In my state the right of way is determined by the rules of the road. If someone is in a cross walk i
    or crossing corn to adjacent corner against a red light for traffic or with a lit walk light they have the right of way. If they are crossing that, its a matter of circumstances as in who was there first even though the car has a duty to not hit anything or drive faster than they can stop for their vision. Essentially the car is mostly at fault except when

    • by mvdw ( 613057 )

      It is as if the laws of physics don't exist in those towns because the pedestrian has the right of way.

      I don't understand it - even if you have the right of way, you're still dead.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        That is why they have right of way once they are on the road. Even an idiot (or a child or animal who doesn't know any better) does not deserve death just for being on the road. Telling a dead kid's mother that the kid that you were there first isn't going to go down well.
  • http://www.citiesofthefuture.e... [citiesofthefuture.eu]

    And of collisions between drivers and pedestrians, 64 percent were the driver’s fault.

    Given what I've seen of how pedestrians acted when I worked in SF years ago, I'm shocked that that number isn't reversed towards pedestrians being more at fault. They routinely waited OUT IN THE STREET for the light to change, rather than stay two steps back on the nice, safe sidewalk. It was truly the most bizarre pedestrian behavior I have seen in a city. They also would start crossing a busy six lane main road when there was no chance for them to make it across before

    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

      Man, oh man... there's so much to what you are saying, not even all of it has to do with the issue at hand (there should be death penalty for drivers stopping past the stop line at a red light so that drivers to their right CAN'T see what's coming from the left(*)), but I have to question those statistics, too.

      If the laws are favorable to pedestrians - like that they really do, literally, always have the right of way - then the "at fault" statistic is going to be skewed. The article states that pedestrians

      • I don't know the specific rules but I would hazard a guess that crossing the road against the pedestrian signals is probably an at fault. As well as there is probably something on the books that specifies you must cross at a crossing if there is one within X distance.

        The other where the pedestrian is likely to be at fault is when they walk into the side of a vehicle. That actually happens a lot more these days as more wankers walk around with big headphones on.

  • There's a little road on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa, that has the sign "5 MPH or rocks". Made me slow down. :)
    • When I lived in K.C. there was a crosswalk on a curved 4 lane street I had to cross. Cars rarely slowed down even though the crosswalk was larger than normal. I started carrying a brick raised high above my head. They then slowed down.

  • San Francisco has a bizarre attitude about treating its homeless drunks and drug addicts like tourist attractions. You have to see it to believe it. If a homeless person is sitting in the middle of the street, the police will not move them. They are given blankets and clothes regularly, so of course more and more make their way into the city. I'm not saying some compassion is not required to help these people, but SF's treatment of them is absurd and only compounds the problem.

  • Far worse elsewhere (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @07:27PM (#50640535)

    See page 9:

    http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/P... [dot.gov]

    SF is 1.7 deaths per 100k residents
    Dallas, Detroit, El Paso, Oklahoma City, Albequerque, and Jacksonville are all over 3 deaths per 100k residents.

  • Ya, seriously. Signage and awareness campaigns can only go so far. The engineering is solid. Everyone knows what they *should be doing*. Police need to re-focus a major part of their beat work on traffic violations. All the laws and all the engineering go unheeded if people don't think there are sufficiently detrimental consequences to their actions.

    Enforce the damn laws.
  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:06PM (#50640747) Homepage
    The organization asks that people default to "giving right-of-way" (yielding) to pedestrians. Pedestrians do not legally have permanent right-of-way. Right-of-way is determined by law, planning, and engineering.

    The California Vehicle Code requires that all automobile drivers YIELD to pedestrians in the road, but as pedestrians do not have a permanent right-of-way, they can still be cited for jaywalking.
  • wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by convolvatron ( 176505 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @11:02PM (#50641735)

    with very few exceptions every single comment in this thread blames pedestrians for jumping out in front of cars

    in San Francsico, crossing a street, within the crosswalk, with the light, is a stupid act of faith that some idiot isn't going to
    mow you down. bikers taking turns without looking, ubers shooting across the street looking only at their phones
    some self important dickhead in a bmw blowing a red 20 seconds after its turned.

    collectively - you're the worst. people who might actually want to walk 10 blocks instead of getting in their cars are effectively
    disposable human trash who should really just be killed for forcing you to slow down for a few seconds.

  • Here's what I suspect. San Francisco has a lot of pedestrians for an American city, but it's still proportionally lower than Barcelona. Barcelona has a lower proportion of automobile traffic and a higher proportion of pedestrian traffic. Thus, more vehicle-pedestrian accidents in San Francisco.

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