Safety Scramble - Page 3

SF Examiner photo by Mike Koozmin

No, this wasn't after the New Year's Eve fatalities. It was last April, when the mayor trumpeted an ambitious program to make the strets of San Francisco safer.

The San Francisco Pedestrian Strategy identifies 44 miles of the city's most dangerous streets and intersections in need of upgrades. The goal was to improve five miles of city streets a year, with bulb outs (for better pedestrian visibility), raised crosswalks, new crossing signals, new traffic lights, and narrowing lanes.

One of the high priority intersections identified for improvements was Polk and Ellis — where Sofia Liu was killed on New Year's Eve.


A map of high priority corridors -- the most dangerous streets for pedestrians in San Francisco.

That intersection hasn't yet seen upgrades under the Pedestrian Strategy, Burdick of Walk SF told us.

"Any one or combination of the safety benefits of bulb-outs (or other improvements) could definitely have been the difference between life and death for Sofia," she said. Walk SF works with city agencies to try to make sure these changes are happening, but she says the city hasn't been transparent about the effort.

"We know there's been some progress, but we don't yet know if we're doing enough each year to account for getting something done," she said.

To get a sense of the city's progress on this front, the Guardian contacted the Planning Department, which referred us to the Municipal Transportation Agency. The MTA did not respond before press time.

"That's another thing at the hearing with the board (and Police Commission) we'll be pushing," Burdick said. "For engineering enforcement work to happen, it's got to be paid for."

According to public records outlining the city's Pedestrian Strategy, the plan needs $65 million a year to hit proposed targets. The lion's share, more than half, would go toward infrastructure improvements.

Burdick called that amount into question, saying the city had only allocated $17 million. A Pedestrian Strategy report confirmed that the program faces a $5-18 million a year funding gap.

Enforcement, a culture of victim blaming and inadequate funding all pose major challenges to pedestrian safety in San Francisco. Hopefully the joint Board of Supervisors and Police Commission meeting will finally result in some answers.

The joint Board of Supervisors' Neighborhood Services & Safety Committee and Police Commission meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 16, at 5pm, Room 250.