By Sara Bloomberg
Pedestrian collisions have declined citywide since 1990, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), but a string of fatal accidents over the past couple of months in District 7 has residents concerned.
The most recent fatality occurred March 4 when a 17-year-old girl was killed by an allegedly drunken driver as she crossed Sloat Boulevard, a notoriously dangerous two-mile long and six lane-wide highway in the Sunset District.
In response, District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee sponsored a hearing April 4 at City Hall on pedestrian safety in the southern and western areas of the city.
Speakers at the hearing included representatives from the SFMTA, Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Public Works (DPW).
City Traffic Engineer Ricardo Olea explained that the overall rate of pedestrian-involved collisions along Sloat Boulevard is relatively low, considering the high level of daily traffic, but the number of incidents in the district is still above the city average.
District 7 averages about five fatalities a year, he said.
There have been four fatalities since February, according to the Taraval Police Station.
Sloat Boulevard is technically California State Highway Route 35, which means it falls under the jurisdiction of CalTrans, not the City or County of San Francisco.
However, several intersections along the urban highway will get some new improvements soon because of a CalTrans grant.
The San Francisco Department of Public Works will use the $797,000 grant received in January, in addition to approximately $130,000 in matching funds from local Proposition K, for improvements which have to be completed by December 2016.
Bulb-outs and flashing beacons will be installed at the intersections of 23rd Avenue, Everglade Drive and Forest View Drive, Project Manager for DPW Meaghan Tiernan said at a March 25 meeting of the West of Twin Peaks Central Council.
The improvements are intended to slow down vehicle traffic, increase visibility of pedestrians and reduce the distance that people have to cross, Tiernan said, and added that the number of lanes will not be reduced.
“We are also trying to accelerate the program” to accommodate other improvements already scheduled to take place in the area next year, Tiernan said.
Mayor Ed Lee also has a Pedestrian Safety Task Force that is expected to release a long-term plan this month.
The San Francisco Examiner reported on March 31 that the task force came from a directive in 2010 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and that activists aren’t happy with the delay.
The chair of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, Zack Marks, also expressed frustration with the lack of communication from other city departments, including the SFMTA and the Mayor’s office.
“I have not received any reply about the Mayor’s Pedestrian Safety Task Force 2030, which has already met,” Marks said at the April 4 hearing. “I find out about things like this only through the news, once they’re reported.”
The Board of Supervisors created the advisory committee in 2003 to advocate for pedestrian safety. It meets every second Tuesday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall, Room 408.
A version of this story originally appeared in The Ingleside Light.