Pedestrian Safety

Neighbors, SFMTA tackle pedestrian safety ideas

by Thomas K. Pendergast

Pedestrians getting struck by cars has become a big enough problem in the mid-Richmond 

District that SF Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer hosted a town hall style meeting on Jan. 14 to discuss possible traffic calming measures.

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Richmond District residents meet to discuss pedestrian safety issues at a recent town hall meeting. Photo by Thomas K. Pendergast.

About 60 people, including representatives of the SF Municipal Transpotation Agency (SFMTA), filled a room at the Richmond Recreation Center and reviewed maps of the area bounded by 25th Avenue to Park Presidio Boulevard and Lake and Fulton streets. Each map contained a variety of traffic-calming symbols that the SFMTA was considering, representing things like speed humps, crosswalk improvements, pedestrian “head starts” and median refuge islands, and daylighting (removing street parking spots next to intersections to make pedestrians crossing the street more visible). 

“We’re going to see much more traffic along the Central Richmond because on 18th Avenue we have a brand new condo development across the street from the YMCA, which is going to bring more people,” Fewer said. “We have the Argonne Playground, Richmond Rec. Center,  Richmond Playground, all on 18th Avenue, plus Argonne Elementary School, Central Richmond actually sees a lot of pedestrian traffic and a lot of car traffic, too.”

Natasha Opfell, community organizer for Walk San Francisco, said her group did have some input into the proposals, mainly involving Geary Boulevard and Fulton Street. 

“We’ve been involved because we’ve heard the needs of people in the community, that these streets aren’t safe for people walking, and we really want to be involved in any process to make things safer for pedestrians,” Opfell said. “We know that they’re the most vulnerable people on our roads.”

Jason Hyde, SFMTA transportation planner, said the proposals focus on places where children are present and also where there is a history of injury collisions. The SFMTA’s “high injury network” signifies the 12 percent of San Francisco streets where 70 percent of either fatal or severe injury crashes occur.  Three of those streets are Geary Boulevard and Fulton and California streets. 

“So, a lot of our proposals are focusing on those streets, as well as near schools and senior centers, rec. centers, playgrounds, etc.” Hyde said. “We are really going for things that gave us the most bang for our buck and that we could implement quickly… particularly the paint and signal improvements are things we can implement very quickly, and so we’re hoping to build consensus around those.”

Five groups of people, with eight to a dozen people each, sat at long tables discussing the proposals, and then each group reported back their conclusions or opinions to the entire group.

Local transit policy advocate Winston Parsons was the first to report from his table. 

“We liked some of the discussions about daylighting but felt that if we just have a red curb people are going to park there anyway, unless there’s something to stop people from invading that space,” Parsons said. “Park Presidio and Lake, we felt, really warranted some special attention and some traffic calming there. And then Fulton, specifically by 17th Avenue, as people are heading down the hill it’s a very steep hill that’s right next to Argonne (Elementary School). Park Presidio and Fulton was another hot spot for us that we felt was in dire need of attention.”

SFMTA transportation planner Nick Carr spoke on behalf of the second table, where the three top priorities were daylighting, intersection markings and pedestrian head starts. They also identified a “left turn pedestrian threat” at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Geary Boulevard for pedestrians crossing on the south side of Geary as motorists traveling westbound left turn onto 19th Ave. 

Carr also said the intersection of Anza Street and 19th Avenue could use some better street lighting. 

“We like the high-visibility crosswalk. We love that there are going to be speed bumps for the schools,” Sarah Hoffman said, reporting for the next table. “We want to see a left turn on 15th Avenue and Geary, and for our wish list, we want more bike transit routes, better street lights … on 29th and Geary, and more trimming of trees. We love the ‘daylight’ effect idea, especially near the schools and there needs to be a 30th and Geary signal light to be timed for 12 more seconds, for the kids to cross the street.”

Paul Slade said his table  supported daylighting and better crosswalks on Fulton. 

“When I was a bus driver we used to call Fulton ‘the freeway’ because it was so fast,” Slade said.

People at his table want a crosswalk marking at 20th Avenue and Balboa Street, improved markings for bike routes on 23rd and 15th avenues, plus more bulb-outs to give people more time to cross the street. 

Hyde reported for the final table, where he said people were divided about the usefulness of median pedestrian islands. 

“We talked about our love and hate for median islands, the pedestrian refuge islands,” Hyde said. And the intersection of 19th Avenue and California Street drew particular attention.

“Instead of putting in a pedestrian refuge, put in a raised crosswalk, which is basically like a speed hump at the stop sign,” Hyde said. “We’ve actually had a number of crashes at that intersection which have resulted in injuries to pedestrians, and so you can assume that people are just kind of flying through that stop sign.A raised crosswalk will help slow those folks down.”

Slade asked if the raised crosswalk would be on California Street or on 19th Avenue. Hyde noted that the #1-California Muni bus runs down that street, so they would have to see if crossing California with a raised crosswalk is OK with the SFMTA, but at the very least they could put them on 19th Avenue. 

Daylighting, however, was not so popular at that table. 

“Our group was actually generally against daylighting, although we did have some folks in favor,” Hyde said. 

They also requested the push-activated rectangular flashing beacons along Fulton and California streets, and converting two-way stops to four-way stops at 17th and Lake, 23rd and Anza, 20th and Cabrillo and 15th and California. 

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