Protect pedestrians, crack down on red light runners

Some of WalkFirst's pedestrian safety design options.

It’s good to see City Hall finally focusing on pedestrian safety in San Francisco, where the streets are more dangerous than ever for their most vulnerable users, with the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists spiking last year.

Better streetscape design is part of the solution, and the advocacy group WalkSF will be holding the latest in its series of focus groups this Saturday seeking solutions to the problem. It is working with city agencies on a program called WalkFirst to address the issue.

But there’s another solution that’s even more obvious and immediate, and Sup. Scott Wiener hit on it at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting when he said (according to the Examiner), “It’s remarkable how little traffic enforcement we have...I’ve never been in a place with less traffic enforcement than in this city.”

Actually, it isn’t that the San Francisco Police Department doesn’t do traffic enforcement, as we learned this fall when officers pulled over dozens of cyclists slowly cruising through stop signs on the Wiggle. The problem is that SFPD ignores the most obvious and dangerous violations: motorists running red lights and otherwise driving recklessly.

Everyday on my commute home up Market Street, I see at least three anxious drivers running red lights. Everyday! This morning, on my way to work, a driver ran a red light right in front of an SFPD cruiser, and that officer ignored it. These drivers are speeding up within reach of pedestrians, who often wrongly assume green means they are safe to cross.

So drivers need to take a breath and realize the seconds they save isn’t worth the risk they’re taking with other people’s lives. And the SFPD needs to ticket more of these drivers and start sending the message that such selfishness won’t be tolerated.