Carpetbaggers tout phony pedestrian emergency
If today's Chronicle headline read "7,250 injuries, 250-300 dead in San Francisco," readers would look up in shock. Was it an earthquake? Had jumbo jets crashed into AT&T Park during a playoff game? "Something must be done," elected officials would cry, then scurry to head off a flood of calls from angry voters. Alas, if only this were the reaction. Worse, the headline is true. The injury and death-toll numbers are the unenviable record San Francisco has piled up over the past decade through injuries and deaths of pedestrians.
The authors---David Grant and Robert Planthold---are carpetbaggers whose sketchy groups, to the extent they exist at all, seem to be based in Sacramento and L.A. (SF Walks and Rolls, California Walks, and California Pedestrian Advisory Committee).
Many good, dedicated people serve in pedestrian programs in the city, but an honest appraisal has to say that what they have been doing is not working and people die because of it.
Untrue. The opposite is the case. They clearly know nothing about the MTA's success in making city streets safer for pedestrians over the years. Like similar statements by Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF last year, they are apparently ignorant of MTA documents detailing that progress, like the annual Collisions Report and New York City's Pedestrian Safety Study and San Francisco's Data, both of which are available on the MTA's website.
Computerized modeling can now map where pedestrian injuries are most likely. A sensible city policy would be to focus attention on those areas immediately.
This is exactly what the MTA's annual collision reports do, with analyses of intersections and streets in SF where most accidents happen and what's being done to make them safer. The New York/San Francisco pedestrian safety study linked above provides numbers of all fatalities on city streets from 1915 to 2008, showing a steady decline over the years (pages 5-7).
The main reason that pedestrian fatalities in SF often make up 50% of all traffic fatalities is that people walk a lot more here than in other cities:
Central cities like San Francisco can be much more active during the day, so using population figures from the US Census can underestimate actual levels of traffic and pedestrian activity (page 8)...Per capita [fatality]rates have the disadvantage of not accounting for pedestrian activity. The New York study did use those considerations to select its peer cities, but it did not adjust for actual walking rates among the selected cities (page 10).
When you factor in how many people in SF walk, the numbers show the city is safer than any other city studied. On page 11 we learn that "estimated annual work walk trips" in San Francisco are more than any other city except Los Angeles, which has a much larger population: 10,491,404 walk trips, with 9.66% of commuters in SF walking to work, a percentage that's much higher than other cities.
See also the MTA's annual Transportation Fact Sheet, which shows 9.4% of SF commuters walking to work in 2000, and that percentage maintained in 2010 (bike commuters, on the other hand, were 2.1% in 2000 and had increased to only 3.5% in 2000).
The Transportation Fact Sheet also tells us that city streets are very busy, with 461,536 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco and 78.4% of city households having at least one motor vehicle. During workdays the number of vehicles on city streets increases by 35,400; there are more than 1,000 Muni vehicles on city streets and more than 1,500 taxis.
The biggest problem pedestrian advocates face is a public that is not informed and does not speak out.
Seems like the biggest problem the public faces in SF is "pedestrian advocates" who fan hysteria about a non-existent safety emergency on city streets.