Legislative Analyst Report - Pedestrian Safety
LEGISLATIVE ANALYST REPORT
TO: HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
FROM: Carol Roos, Sr. Legislative Analyst
DATE: August 20, 2001
FILE NO: None Assigned. For informational purposes in conjunction with
File No. 010342 [Geary Street Corridor]
HEARING DATE: August 23, 2001
SUBJECT: PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
SUMMARY OF REQUESTED ACTION
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors requested the Office of the Legislative Analyst (OLA) to provide research outlining the effects of making pedestrian safety the highest priority in the decision-making processes of the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT), (and the Municipal Transportation Agency when it takes over the functions of DPT), as well as the effects of making the benchmark for effective pedestrian safety whether the most vulnerable sections of our population have been adequately protected. OLA was also requested to study whether other jurisdictions have implemented such policy measures and whether they have been successful in lowering pedestrian injuries and deaths.
Pedestrian safety interpreted in the most narrow engineering terms can result in less pleasant and possibly less safe pedestrian areas, than areas and crossings designed as pedestrian environments. For example, channelizing pedestrians into few monitored spaces, rather than more areas and crossings designed as pedestrian spaces can backfire, with pedestrians crossing in traffic gaps and outside of crosswalks. While putting pedestrians first could affect overall circulation of other modes, slowing vehicular and transit traffic, that need not be the outcome. Providing transit rights-of-ways such as transit guideways, transit only lanes, and associated enforcement of traffic laws can ensure an efficient multi modal system. Putting single occupancy vehicles lower in the transportation hierarchy aligns with current thinking regarding city planning and environmental concerns, and is consistent with support of transit oriented development. The best system, in the view of those contacted for this report, is a balanced system that allows residents, commuters and visitors to make choices among a variety of modes.
In the nine and one-half year period, 1990-mid 1999, 307 pedestrians were killed on San Francisco streets, an average of 32.3 fatalities per year.1 In 2000, 30 pedestrian fatalities were reported. While figures for 2001, seven fatalities for the first six months of the year, are down, concern remains about the number of fatalities and how to prevent them. In July 2000, the City held its first Pedestrian Safety Summit. According to the report on the summit, the results of a May 2000 survey by the Controller"s Office indicate that one out of every three san Franciscans does not feel safe when crossing the street. The report on the summit contained more than 100 recommendations by participants, and was intended to serve as a blueprint for development of a City Pedestrian Safety Master Plan.2
CURRENT LAW AND PRACTICE
State Assembly Bill 841
AB 841. Pedestrian Safety, has been introduced, at the state Assembly. This bill would establish a 17-member California Pedestrian Access and Safety Commission for the purpose of reviewing and improving
pedestrian sidewalks and street crossing infrastructure throughout the state and ensuring that the pedestrian infrastructure is accessible and safe for all who use the public rights-of-way.
San Francisco Charter
The City"s transit first policy which follows, contains provisions that address pedestrian safety and the pedestrian environment, see particularly items 1, 3 and 5.
SEC. 16.102. TRANSIT-FIRST POLICY. The following principles shall constitute the City and County"s transit-first policy and shall be incorporated into the General Plan of the City and County. All officers, boards,
commissions, and departments shall implement these principles in conducting the City and County"s affairs:
1. To ensure quality of life and economic health in San Francisco, the primary objective of the transportation system must be the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.
2. Public transit, including taxis and vanpools, is an economically and environmentally sound alternative to transportation by individual automobiles. Within San Francisco, travel by public transit, by bicycle and on foot must be an attractive alternative to travel by private automobile.
3. Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic and improve public health and safety.
4. Transit priority improvements, such as designated transit lanes and streets and improved signalization, shall be made to expedite the movement of public transit vehicles (including taxis and vanpools) and to improve pedestrian safety.
5. Pedestrian areas shall be enhanced wherever possible to improve the safety and comfort of pedestrians and to encourage travel by foot.
6. Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking.
7. Parking policies for areas well served by public transit shall be designed to encourage travel by public transit and alternative transportation.
8. New transportation investment should be allocated to meet the demand for public transit generated by new public and private commercial and residential developments.
9. The ability of the City and County to reduce traffic congestion depends on the adequacy of regional public transportation. The City and County shall promote the use of regional mass transit and the continued development of an integrated, reliable, regional public transportation system.
10. The City and County shall encourage innovative solutions to meet public transportation needs wherever possible and where the provision of such service will not adversely affect the service provided by the Municipal Railway. (Added November 1999)
The General Plan
The Urban Design and Transportation elements of the General Plan contain policies related to improving pedestrian environments and pedestrian safety. Planners assert that well designed pedestrian environments increase pedestrian safety.
Urban Design Element
According to the Urban Design Element studies show that the outstanding concerns of people today in their neighborhood environment are matters of health and safety. Traffic is the leading issue, with automobiles moving through residential areas in large volumes and at high speeds, producing noise and pollutants and putting pedestrians in constant danger. With each increase in traffic the streets become less a part of the living environment and more a world of their own. Residents find the streets unsafe and unpleasant, and try to shut them out. The following is a relevant objective.
IMPROVEMENT OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD ENVIRONMENT TO INCREASE PERSONAL SAFETY, COMFORT, PRIDE AND OPPORTUNITY (OBJECTIVE 4)
The Transportation Element of the General Plan recognizes the importance to the City of the pedestrian environment. As stated in the Transportation Element, the close-knit urban fabric of San Francisco, combined with the dramatic hills and sweeping vistas, makes walking an ideal mode for exploring and moving about the city. In a dense city such as San Francisco, the sidewalk is a vital source of open space, a refuge for sun and air. It is the space that everyone shares, the place in which the entire spectrum of urban life is encountered and experienced, for better or for worse. Since everyone is a pedestrian at one point or another, the sidewalk provides a strong sense of the overall image of the city.
Over much of the twentieth century, the priority given to traffic concerns has contributed to the significant degradation of the pedestrian environment. Freeways were built, streets were widened, and pedestrian crossings were eliminated. Peak-hour tow away traffic lanes were established on busy pedestrian streets, creating a hazardous situation where automobiles speed past within a few feet of overcrowded sidewalks. The purpose of this section [of the General Plan] is to address pedestrian issues and to provide direction and policy that ensures pedestrian movement in the City is safe, convenient and pleasant, in recognition that pedestrian travel is an important component of the transportation system, especially in this transit-oriented city.
Relevant Transportation Element Objectives include the following. Note that each Objective contains policies, which may not be reproduced here in their entirety.
IMPROVE THE CITY"S PEDESTRIAN CIRCULATION SYSTEM TO PROVIDE FOR EFFICIENT, PLEASANT, AND SAFE MOVEMENT.(Objective 23)
Provide sufficient pedestrian movement space with a minimum of pedestrian congestion in accordance with a pedestrian street classification system. (POLICY 23.1)
Widen sidewalks where intensive commercial, recreational, or institutional activity is present, sidewalks are congested and where residential densities are high. Wider sidewalks provide more pedestrian space and also permit more pedestrian amenities. In high-density residential and recreational areas, sidewalks are often utilized as open space, and should be designed and built to accommodate such a use. A good example of this type of sidewalk construction is in Duboce Triangle. (POLICY 23.2)
Maintain a strong presumption against reducing sidewalk widths, eliminating crosswalks and forcing indirect crossings to accommodate automobile traffic. (POLICY 23.3)
Tow-away lanes should not be approved, and removal should be considered, if they impair existing and potential pedestrian usage and level of service on abutting sidewalks, as well as the needs of transit operation on the street. (POLICY 23.4)
Minimize obstructions to through pedestrian movement on sidewalks by maintaining an unobstructed width that allows for passage of people, strollers and wheelchairs. (POLICY 23.5)
Ensure convenient and safe pedestrian crossings by minimizing the distance pedestrians must walk to cross a street. Appropriate treatments may include widening sidewalks at corners to provide more pedestrian queuing space and shorter crosswalk distances, especially where streets are wide. Large pedestrian islands should be installed to provide pedestrians with a safe waiting area while crossing where traffic volumes are high and/or streets are unusually wide. Consideration should be given to bicycle movement and the efficient operation of transit service in sidewalk widenings. Corner bulbs reduce the crossing distance and provide more corner queuing space. The reduced crossing distance makes crossing safer, while the increased queuing area reduces the corner overcrowding that often spills into the street. Care should be taken not to constrain the movement of bicycles and transit vehicles in the design of sidewalk bulbs. (POLICY 23.6)
Ensure safe pedestrian crossings at signaled intersections by providing sufficient time for pedestrians to cross streets at a moderate pace. The timing and length of traffic signals should be set to provide enough "green" time for all pedestrians to cross streets safely. Timing should account for people using wheelchairs and carriages, where use of curb cuts is necessary for access to the crosswalk from the sidewalk. On wide streets, pedestrian islands should be established as necessary to provide slower-moving pedestrians with some relief and a waiting area. U-turns permitted at intersections with large pedestrian volumes should be reconsidered in the interest of improving pedestrian safety. (POLICY 23.7 )
Support pedestrian needs by incorporating them into regular short-range and long-range planning activities for all city and regional agencies and include pedestrian facility funding in all appropriate funding requests.
Pedestrian issues are affected by decisions in a variety of agencies and need to be considered. A number of local and regional agencies and departments plan transportation projects, which are increasingly developed as multi-modal projects, [and] could incorporate pedestrian improvements. In particular, local and regional mass transit projects must pay particular attention to pedestrian needs, especially at significant transfer points. For many transportation projects, pedestrian improvements could be included with the project for far less than if the pedestrian project was a stand alone project. In general, the larger the project, the more potential to address pedestrian needs. (POLICY 23.8)
IMPROVE THE AMBIENCE OF THE PEDESTRIAN ENVIRONMENT. OBJECTIVE 24
Maintain and expand the planting of street trees and the infrastructure to support them.
Street trees are one of the most important elements in creating a livable streetscape. They provide shade, create a human scale on the street, soften the edge between the building and the street, and serve as a buffer between pedestrian space and the street. Moreover, street trees are an important environmental consideration as they contribute to cleaner air. An appropriate program of irrigation and maintenance should be implemented with street tree planting. POLICY 24.2
Install pedestrian-serving street furniture where appropriate. POLICY 24.3
Preserve pedestrian-oriented building frontages. Building frontages that invite people to enter, that provide architectural interest and a sense of scale, and that are transparent enough to provide visual connections to and from the sidewalk help make the pedestrian environment more agreeable and safe. POLICY 24.4
TRANSPORTATION.PEDESTRIAN.25. DEVELOP A CITYWIDE PEDESTRIAN NETWORK. OBJECTIVE 25
Create a citywide pedestrian street classification system. Similar in scope to the classification systems developed for pedestrians downtown and for automobiles citywide, the system permits directed planning for pedestrian improvements and the designation of pedestrian routes between significant destinations. Also similar to the other systems is the need to balance treatments and priority functions on streets that have an important function as defined by one or more street classification system, such as Van Ness Avenue, Geary Boulevard and The Embarcadero. The classification system also addresses auto-oriented conditions that conflict with pedestrian travel on pedestrian-priority streets. (POLICY 25.1)
Utilizing the pedestrian street classification system, develop a citywide pedestrian network that includes streets devoted to or primarily oriented to pedestrian use. This network is composed of existing routes such as the Bay and Ridge trails, stairways, exclusive pedestrian streets, and pedestrian-oriented vehicular streets. The network links important destinations, neighborhood commercial districts, and open spaces. (POLICY 25.2 )
Develop design guidelines for pedestrian improvements in Neighborhood Commercial Districts, Residential Districts, and other pedestrian-oriented areas as indicated by the pedestrian street classification plan.
The design guidelines ensure identifiable, pedestrian-oriented treatments for important pedestrian streets and set minimum standards for the placement of pedestrian streetscape elements. (POLICY 25.3 )
Where intersections are controlled with a left-turn only traffic signal phase for automobile traffic, encourage more efficient use of the phase for pedestrians where safety permits. Left-turn only phases often occur where the streets from which the turn is made are wide and heavily-trafficked, and are usually followed by a red light that activates cross traffic. To help overcome the pedestrian challenges of street width and traffic volume, the left-turn phase time may enable pedestrians to begin their crossing earlier when safety allows. If the left turn is made onto a one-way street, the pedestrian traffic crossing against the one-way direction would have a relatively conflict-free opportunity to begin crossing early. POLICY 25.5
Provide enforcement of traffic and parking regulations to ensure pedestrian safety, particularly on streets within the Citywide Pedestrian and Neighborhood Networks. Cars that fail to stop at signs and lights, park across sidewalks and travel at excessive speeds pose serious threats to pedestrian safety. (POLICY 25.6)
TRANSPORTATION.PEDESTRIAN.26. OBJECTIVE 26. CONSIDER THE SIDEWALK AREA AS AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN THE CITYWIDE OPEN SPACE SYSTEM.
In addition to these General Plan Objectives and Policies, Destination Downtown, Streetscape Investments for a Walkable City, the Downtown Streetscape Plan, and The Downtown Streetscape Plan: Design Guidelines, were adopted July13, 1995.
San Francisco has had a high number of pedestrian fatalities, 30 in the year 2000, and this would seem to put the City high on a list of dangerous places for pedestrians. It is important to note, however, that San Francisco has large numbers of pedestrians compared to other cities. An important measure of pedestrian fatalities beside the number alone is the number of fatalities in relation to the number of pedestrians. According to nationwide study of pedestrian fatalities that considered at the actual number of people who walk, San Francisco did relatively well compared, for example, to cities in the southeast.3
Similarly, the report entitled, Caught in the Crosswalk: Pedestrian Safety in California provides a table including the most dangerous California counties for pedestrians in 1998.4 San Francisco ranked 15 out of 35 counties. The report notes that the best estimates for the relative danger of pedestrian environments are those that take into account total pedestrian fatalities and injuries, population, and the best data for overall exposure, or the amount walked. Assessments of relative dangers for pedestrians should include some measure of the level of pedestrian activity in an area. If, for example, in a given year a county only recorded two pedestrian fatalities at a specific intersection, it would make a great deal of difference whether ten people, or ten thousand people, had crossed. The report states that one disadvantage with calculating pedestrian fatality and injury rates by population alone -- is the failure to take into account relative risks and overall exposure. San Francisco County -- one of the densest counties in California with the highest level of pedestrian activity -- has one of the highest pedestrian injury rates based on population alone. Yet, when adjusted for the amount of walking and the rough number of pedestrians, that is, exposure, San Francisco drops in its relative ranking for overall danger for pedestrians while more suburban counties like Orange, Santa Clara and Sacramento will appear higher than if ranked based solely on population.5
As noted, the California Highway Patrol reports that there were 30 pedestrian fatalities in the City in 2000. This year the situation has improved substantially, with 7 pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2001. These numbers measure fatalities; injuries are harder to track, because not all injuries are reported. However, in 1995 there were 1092 reported pedestrian injury collisions; for 1996 through 2000 the number of injuries was: 1996 - 1018; 1997 - 898; 1998 - 884; 1999 - 834; and for 2000 - 864, a generally downward trend.6 DPT analyzed the circumstances of each pedestrian fatality that occurred in the City in 1997-98.7 The report found that of the 37 fatalities that were traffic-related, vehicle operators were reported at fault in 21 cases, pedestrians in 15 cases, and one case was not known. The largest single factor in pedestrian fatality was vehicle operator failure to yield right of way to the pedestrian, which occurred in one-third of the collisions. Seniors were the largest group of pedestrian victims, comprising 40 percent of fatalities. Two-thirds of involved drivers were San Francisco residents, and more than one-half were between the ages of 40 and 64. Two-thirds of fatal collisions happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Although there is less traffic at night, almost half of the fatalities occurred during darkness. Fatal collisions during rainy weather made up 28 percent of the total, and 22 percent occurred when it was both dark and rainy. (As noted in the Summary, in the nine and one-half year period, 1990-mid 1999, 307 pedestrians were killed on San Francisco streets, an average of 32.3 fatalities per year.)8
Transportation systems are by their nature multi-modal (that is, they include a number of modes of travel: vehicle, transit, bicycle, walk). A system which serves any one mode exclusively, will not work because it will not consider the other parts of the system, which are closely interrelated and interdependent.9 A balanced system that incorporates safety and ease of travel, including walk travel, works best in the view of those surveyed for this report. Just as traditional traffic engineering standards have put vehicle movements, speeds, and ease of travel first, it would not be workable to use a system which focuses on pedestrians, to the exclusion of other modes.
There was general agreement among those contacted for the report, that pedestrian-vehicle conflicts and accidents increase with travel speeds. The state regulates speed limits. State law prohibits speed limits below 25 mph, except for certain circumstances, for example, alleyways may be 15 mph. The Board of Supervisors could change speed limits, to 25 mph, for example. The Police Department, however, would not be able to use radar on those streets where speed limits are not set by an engineering survey as defined in the California Vehicle Code. The engineering survey is based on the speeds of vehicles using the street; therefore, drivers, in effect, set the speed limit by their prevailing speed. This reflects what studies have shown, that just changing thee speed limit does not necessarily alter driver behavior. Traffic calming then, becomes important in redesigning streets to slow traffic. Currently, most speed limits are 25-35 mph throughout the City.
According to DPT, safety in general is the highest priority in the City, balanced against the needs of other modes.10 A more pedestrian first approach, would be expected to slow vehicle traffic including transit, and could backfire, causing driver frustration; increased road rage; and increased disobedience of traffic laws, signs, and signals. Reducing speed limits citywide could affect the rest of the City circulation system, slowing traffic including transit, increasing traffic congestion. For DPT, traffic calming measures are preferable to just changing the speed limit or installing new stop signs; for example, calming measures include traffic circles, street narrowing, speed humps (lower and longer than speed bumps), and raised pedestrian crossings.
DPT directs the Livable Streets program, for the City. Program funding for this approximately one and one-half-year-old program is $2.4 m, provided from fines collected for red light running. The program includes four safety-related components: pedestrian safety, school safety, traffic calming, and red light photo enforcement. Program funding, from local funds as noted, is small when compared to large Muni or roadway projects, budgets for which are tens of millions of dollars, funded mostly from federal or state moneys. Were pedestrian projects allotted even a small share of the larger projects or funding from other sources, they could be more effective.
DPT, jointly with the Department of Public Works (DPW) has been involved in implementing pedestrian improvements to Van Ness Avenue, a project planned five years ago. Grant funded, with a local 15-20 percent match, DPT is hoping to replicate it elsewhere in the City. According to DPT, the project is an example of the types of projects it hopes to implement as part of the Livable Streets Corridor Projects. The department has established a list of 31 streets which are candidates for this new effort. The streets will be ranked in priority, following the process outlined in the Traffic Calming Guidelines adopted in 2000, by the Transportation Authority Board, and the Parking and Traffic Commission.11
Components of the pedestrian improvement programs like those for Van Ness Avenue, include bulb outs (expanded curbs) at intersection corners. The resulting shorter pedestrian crossing distance reduces crossing time and makes pedestrians more visible to drivers, before they cross the street. Improved/enlarged median islands, also called pedestrian refuges or median refuges, make pedestrians feel more safe and likely to stop in the median instead of dashing across the street. DPT is also trying to increase pedestrian crossing time at a number of streets, even at the expense of vehicle "green time" (green light). For example crossing time is being increased on Geary Boulevard from Laguna Street to west of Park Presidio Boulevard, planned to be implemented within six to 12 months. DPT, jointly with the state CalTrans agency will be implementing signal upgrades on Van Ness. This may include mast arms, signals that extend over the roadway, and are more visible for motorists. Mast arms have been used South of Market, and according to DPT, tend to reduce overall traffic collisions.
In June 2001, DPT launched a citywide Traffic Calming Program. The Van Ness Avenue project is an example of calming an arterial, and the Bernal Heights project described below, is an example of calming smaller streets in the neighborhoods.
DPT is implementing the Bernal Heights traffic calming project, for the North and South slopes of Bernal Hill, in coordination with Muni, and a transportation consultant.12 The focus is traffic calming, allowing for emergency vehicle access. Most streets in the area are narrow with relatively slow traffic; however, there are some wide streets. Currently, cut through traffic (drivers seeking short cuts around congested main streets) is creating a problem, including high volumes and speeds through narrow alleyways. The consultant is working with neighbors to redesign some streets and intersections. Under consideration are elements such as those used in successfully calmed areas such as Duboce triangle. At the Duboce triangle, improvements included changing parallel parking to perpendicular parking; widening sidewalks to 35 feet at intersections/corners (the 15-ft.-wide sidewalks themselves remained); and planting street trees. Initially, there was some opposition over the slowing of traffic. However, the triangle is now very popular and people cite its enhancement of quality of life, as well as enhanced property values for the area. It is used as an example of a successful pedestrian environment in the General Plan.
Even with City goals to implement a multi modal approach including improving pedestrian safety, there is basically still one traffic engineering performance standard, and it concerns how seconds of delay are handled at various intersections, that is, how many seconds of delay a vehicle experiences at an intersection. Similarly, transportation analyses for development projects or street improvements use level of service measurements, another vehicle-oriented standard, and count all vehicles the same; that is, a Muni bus would be counted the same as a single occupant vehicle.
According to DPT staff, Muni may oppose certain proposals, on a case-by-case basis, for stop signs or other improvements if, in Muni"s view, they would slow transit service. Muni staff notes that Muni generally does not oppose stop signs, signals or other pedestrian safety improvements, when DPT staff provide statistics that show an intersection or part of a street to be dangerous otherwise. Muni staff states that Muni has a strong commitment to pedestrian safety and can play a role in improving the safety of City streets. According to Muni staff, although answers to increasing safety, such as increasing the number of stop signs and signals and lengthening traffic signals slow down public transit, potentially making it a less valuable option for City residents, signals and stop signs are needed for dangerous intersections. In addition to stop signs and signals, though, other solutions can make the streets safer for pedestrians. Muni is cooperating with DPT, in the following areas: Exclusive transit guideways within the street right of way for Muni Metro, streetcar and cable car operation;Transit Priority Lanes; Bus Stop Improvements; Transit Centers -- establish as nodes where two or more Transit Preferential Streets intersect;
Count-down crosswalk signals; Bright yellow ladder-painted crosswalks Lighted crosswalks; and Outreach campaigns to educate operators and riders. DPT has provided funding to the City Department of Public Health for outreach programs.
The Transportation Authority has developed and maintains a travel demand forecast model, that according to Authority staff is one of the most sophisticated in the country; prior to its development San Francisco did not conduct such modeling. The associated maps use Geographic Information System (GIS) software, and contain layers of information. The travel demand forecast model is a tool to enable decision makers to see how changes in land use could affect the City"s transportation systems. For example, the model has been used to analyze effects of the Third Street Light rail project. The model predicts travel behavior of San Francisco residents and integrates that information with predictions of travel behavior produced by the Metropolitan Transportation Association (MTC) using ABAG employment projections. The Pedestrian Environment Factors map series13 (discussed below) includes transportation analysis zones (TAZ) into which the City is divided, street grids, topography, street grades, land use, and signal locations.
The Transportation Authority maintains a "crash map", showing pedestrian accident locations 1993-1997. The map shows location coded to the nearest intersection, of all accidents involving pedestrians as one party, for which a police report was filed. The data source is the California Highway Patrol based on SFPD reporting. Dots on the maps, from small to large, correspond to number of accidents. According to the prime transportation consultant for Better Neighborhood 2002, the map shows strong patterns. Accidents often occur at the first traffic light after a freeway off ramp, such as at Harrison Street, or Doyle Drive; that is , where freeways lead into the City, and drivers must shift from freeway to surface street driving. Accidents occur where there are large numbers of pedestrians along Market Street, and in the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is one of the City"s densest neighborhoods, with numbers of children and new immigrants. At the same time, most streets in the neighborhood eventually lead to freeway access ramps and carry high volumes at high speeds. The area lacks open spaces, and therefore residents make use of streets and sidewalks as open space. There is a high accident rate in the area, as shown on the Transportation Authority"s crash map.
At the same time, in some places high pedestrian volumes may reduce traffic accidents, particularly where pedestrian environments have been designed. For example, in the downtown core, there are accidents involving pedestrians but the rate may be considered lower in relation to the number of pedestrians. The map includes a dot for every accident involving a pedestrian whether there is a lone pedestrian or crowds of pedestrians, rather than reporting number of accidents per 1,000 pedestrians for example. In any case, accident rates here with higher pedestrian volumes are lower than at parts of Cesar Chavez such as its intersection with Alabama, for example, where there are fewer pedestrians. Accidents are heavily influenced by travel speed (according to the standard formula 1/2 mass X velocity = force of impact), and at 20-25 mph, fatalities are not likely, compared to speeds of 35-45 mph, or higher.
Historically, since the 1950"s most models have been oriented to highway volumes, and many transportation models in the US ignore pedestrian factors, continuing this tradition of highway based modeling/forecasting. In cities like San Francisco, however, the walk mode is a viable option and the City has a ten percent pedestrian mode share, one of the highest in the country.
The Transportation Authority convened the Pedestrian Safety Task Force, which meets monthly, and conducted a traffic calming study mapping key factors for improving pedestrian safety. Acknowledging the importance of pedestrians in the City, the Authority implemented this effort, called the Pedestrian Environment Factor study. The study divided the City into 200 zones. Eight participants were asked to assess these 200 zones on a 1- 3 scale using high, medium and low ratings. Participants included representatives of the Sierra Club, Senior Action Network, DPT, Muni, the Bicycle Coalition, Transportation Authority staff, and a member of the consultant team.
The zones were rated according to five pedestrian factors:
1) Integrity of sidewalk network
2) Ease of street crossing. For example, in Hayes Valley on the Franklin and Gough couplet with its timed signals that facilitate vehicle travel, some legs of an intersection lack crosswalks, causing pedestrians to "zig zag" to get to where they want to go
3) Urban vitality, including such components as a park, view or stores
4) Perception of personal security, based on components like shelters and lighting
5) Topography, including components such as steepness of grade, freeway dividers, all of which may impede pedestrian progress, especially for elderly, young or disabled pedestrians.
The Transportation Element of the General Plan includes the following policy.
Implement the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the city"s curb ramp program to improve pedestrian access for all people. Consideration of special pedestrian and wheelchair access should be given to areas and crosswalks where there is a large concentration of elderly and disabled persons. POLICY 23.9
Accessibility of intersections to everyone involves a number of factors, and trade offs among modes. For example, Van Ness Avenue, as State Highway 101 carries high vehicle volumes. It also includes many residential units and a relatively large number of elderly persons. As with other traffic problems discussed in this report, a solution to accessibility questions may not be the most obvious one. That is, if the signal timing were adjusted to allow enough time for elderly or disabled pedestrians to cross this wide street on one light, the effect would be to create delays for all other modes and for faster pedestrians as well. A better solution might be the use of pedestrian refuges as implemented along Van Ness, possibly in conjunction with count down signals as well.
West Palm Beach
The City of West Palm Beach, Florida has adopted a Transportation Element of its Comprehensive Plan that includes a hierarchy of travel modes that puts pedestrians first, then bicycles, mass transit, and finally automobiles, as well as attempting to remove language that retains the traditional bias toward the automobile.
The Portland City Council, in 1998, adopted by resolution a Pedestrian Plan and Pedestrian Guidelines. They are used by the City in its public projects and in reviewing major development proposals.14 Oregon has a state transportation policy, which created a system that set a series of guidelines and criteria, including 1) that Portland reduce reliance on the single occupant vehicle (SOV); and 2) that Portland reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The state mandated that municipalities and regional governments produce transportation
system plans, that these be coordinated, and that they be multi modal. This provided the impetus for Portland"s pedestrian planning. The pedestrian program has been dissolved; there remains a pedestrian coordinator in the Office of Transportation. Portland staff advise that making pedestrians first and organizing the transportation system to meet the needs of all users including the elderly and disabled will impact traffic movement in the city, and to be successful, there must be "buy in" from the top. That is, to implement such a coordinated policy requires the support of the Mayor, elected officials and administrators. According to Portland staff, the shift in policy must be institutionalized into the culture, or old habits will be hard to break.
Portland staff also emphasized the importance of subtle, nuts and bolts changes, for example, the workers on the spot adjusting signals to add seconds to pedestrian crossing time, and how bulb outs are designed and constructed in situ. Otherwise, changes may not result in an integrated solution.
New York City (NYC)
New York recently appointed a pedestrian commissioner in its Department of Transportation (DOT). 15 With the pedestrian commissioner, a number of pedestrian improvements have been implemented. This has been done under the aegis of ISTEA and TEA 21 (the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, and Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century, respectively).
New York transportation staff, cite turning movements and vehicle speeds as primary determinants of accidents, and the city"s efforts to improve pedestrian safety focus in large measure on these factors. Efforts include identifying places that have a pedestrian orientation as part of their character. For example in lower Manhattan and Wall Street, 300,000-400,000 workers stream out of the subway; consequently, vehicles slow down and speeds in the area are 4-5 mph. Chamber Street, the highest accident area in this part of Manhattan has only about four pedestrian accidents a year at problem intersections, due to the dominance of pedestrians and low travel speeds for vehicles. In comparison, at the intersection of 8th Avenue and 42nd Street at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, there are about 70 pedestrian accidents per year. Vehicle speeds in the area are 30 mph.
New York is moving toward pedestrian first policies, for example, in changes to its environmental review manual. Previously, analysis of pedestrian safety was vaguer. Now, analyses cite new standards as to what constitutes an impact. That is, pedestrian safety is considered in the analysis, along with traffic generation, based on established criteria. The orientation of the transportation department has also moved toward shifting the typical balance of modes, in areas where pedestrians are dominant or special pedestrian needs require it. The city has also stepped up enforcement of traffic laws, and recently prohibited the honking of horns, except when necessary.
Regarding accessibility, city staff describe the subway-sidewalk interface as important. The city is in the process of selecting 40 stations (within the approximately 464-station system), ten per borough excepting Staten Island. For the selected stations elevated inter-modal pedestrian improvements are planned to improve the pedestrian-transit connection. For each station, the city is identifying -- within a 1/4-mile radius -- demographic information, such as proportion of elderly or youth in the population, or facilities serving the young, elderly or disabled. The information will be used in developing crossing times, and signalization/special signals, or pedestrian refuges.
Staff noted that where pedestrians feel "squeezed" they will improve their level of service (LOS), or crossing time, where and when they can, by taking space and time from vehicles including standing in the roadway, crossing in gaps in traffic, all of which lead to more accidents.
New York has high pedestrian accident rates on major arterials, particularly where major streets intersect major avenues. The city is trying out a number of solutions including eliminating a crosswalk where there is conflict with a right turn movement, and relocating it 60 feet from the intersection. This allows vehicles to turn into all lanes and pool up to the relocated crosswalk, where pedestrians have their own signal phase.
New York also has a school safety program, with transportation department moneys dedicated to development of special crosswalks and development of school safety zones with special street markings and some crossing guards. Greater attention is given in areas near schools to warrant analyses which quantitatively establish need for a stop sign or signal. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Health sponsor the Our Schools, Safer City program. The program uses part of a school"s curriculum and space. Part of the impetus for the program was a study in which Harlem Hospital identified pediatric crossing injuries as constituting a health crisis in certain parts of the city.
Finally, the Governor"s Traffic Safety Committee, a standing body, has instituted a pedestrian safety forum to try to reduce pedestrian accidents in the city by 10 percent over 20 years.
A number of countries have created ongoing and innovative programs to improve pedestrian environments and safety. The San Francisco Better Neighborhoods 2002 program is gathering and using information on these programs for use in the City.
While San Francisco has been plagued with a high rate of pedestrian fatalities in recent years, it also boasts a great number of walkers. Pedestrian accident rates are not the highest, in relation to the number of people actually walking, when compared to rates of vehicle-oriented cities with dramatically fewer pedestrians. The City includes mandates, objectives and policies directed to improve pedestrian environments and safety, in the City Charter and General Plan. Education efforts and current planning seem to be having an effect. The rate of pedestrian fatalities, for example, for the first six months of 2001 is substantially less than for 2000. In order for successful pedestrian planning to go forward, an integrated decision making process would be instrumental in coordinating the various plans, and departments charged with pedestrian safety.
A coordinated transportation plan could provide a framework for different departments which have jurisdiction over parts of the transportation system, as well as different and sometimes conflicting ends, to coordinate more smoothly. A useful plan would include a process for making decisions, such as allocating rights of way or crossing times where different departments might be charged with different goals. A plan would need to incorporate a multi-modal perspective. Rather than another stand alone plan, a plan that includes a decision- making matrix, and sets priorities for the overall transportation system would be of use as the City implements the national shift from vehicle-based transportation planning to a true multi modal approach.
1 California Highway Patrol, State-wide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), as reported in, Nick Carr, San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic, Pedestrian Fatality Report for 1997-98.
2 Report on San Francisco"s First Pedestrian Safety Summit, submitted by then Supervisor Mabel Teng to the Board of Supervisors; July 31, 2000.
3 Surface Transportation Policy Project (non-profit transportation organization), Mean Streets 2000.
4 Surface Tranportation Policy Project, Caught in the Crosswalk: Pedestrian Safety in California; September 1999.
5 Ibid. pp.8-9
6 Bridget Smith, Director, Livable Streets, Department of Parking and Traffic, Traffic Engineering Division; August 16, 2001.
7 Nick Carr, San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic, Pedestrian Fatality Report for 1997-98.
8 California Highway Patrol, State-wide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), as reported in the report by Nick Carr cited elsewhere herein.
9 Jeffrey Tumlin, Nelson/Nygaard, transportation consultants to the San Francisco Better Neighborhoods 2002 program, telephone conversation; August 13, 2001.
10 Frank Markowitz, Pedestrian Program Manager, San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic; telephone conversation,
August 8, 2001.
11 Bridget Smith, Director, Livable Streets, Department of Parking and Traffic, Traffic Engineering Division; telephone conversation, August 16, 2001.
Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal, Nelson/Nygaard, Transportation Planners, telephone conversation, August 13, 2001.
13 San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Pedestrian Environment Factors, Maps; June 22, 1999.
14 The information in this section is from Bill Hoffman, Project Manager, Portland Office of Transportation. Mr. Hoffman was manager of the Portland Pedestrian Transportation Program; telephone conversation, August 10, 2001.
15 Information in this section is from Scott Wise, New York Department of City Planning, Transportation Division, telephone conversation, August 13, 2001.