San Francisco pedestrian safety discussed in light of two deaths

April 4, 2013 7:47:53 PM PDT
With two pedestrians killed in separate vehicle collisions in the southern portion of San Francisco within the past four weeks, Supervisor Norman Yee held a hearing Thursday morning hoping to improve pedestrian safety.

Hanren Chang, 17, a junior at Lowell High School, was struck and killed on Sloat Boulevard by an allegedly drunk driver the night of March 2.

Less than three weeks later and about a mile away, Tania Madfes, 68, was killed while crossing West Portal Avenue and Vicente Street on March 21.

Today's hearing, held by Yee whose district encompasses Sloat Boulevard and West Portal Avenue, addressed prevention measures, solutions to avoid pedestrian deaths and injuries, and factors contributing to the accidents.

Yee called the deaths within his district "unacceptable."

"This is not going to be the last you hear from me on this issue," Yee said.

Yee sits on the city's Board of Supervisor's Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, under which the hearing was held. Supervisors Eric Mar and David Campos are also members.

Presentations from the city's Municipal Transportation Agency, Department of Public Health and Department of Public Works highlighted city efforts to improve walking through the city.

DPW engineer Cristina Olea said a $1 million grant is in progress to upgrade Sloat Boulevard, including the intersection at Forest View Street where Hanren was struck.

There are plans to add flashing lights and curb improvements to that and two other crossings along the main thoroughfare, she said.

MTA engineer Ricardo Olea said, "An unacceptable amount of people are being killed on our streets."

According to MTA data, the five-year period from 2006 to 2011 saw about five pedestrian fatalities per year in Yee's District 7. Nearly 1,650 pedestrians were injured within district boundaries in those years.

Olea said about a third of the accidents were mainly because of speeding vehicles.

Additionally the district is home to many of the city's higher speed roadways, such as Sloat Boulevard and 19th Avenue.

West Portal Avenue and Vicente Street, the site where Madfes was killed, had four incidents between vehicles and pedestrians in a five-year period, Olea said.

Overall improvements the city plans to implement include upgrades to traffic signals and increased visibility, adding more countdown signals and better pavement markings, Olea said.

He emphasized that attentive motorists and pedestrians are key components to make streets safer.

"Motorists need to be aware of pedestrians as they go through the city," he said.

A presentation from Department of Public Health staff reiterated that point and called for slower and less driving to make walking less dangerous.

Three of Hanren's friends and classmates at Lowell High School spoke at Thursday's hearing, urging city officials to make Sloat Boulevard more pedestrian-friendly.

Sophomore Marcella DePunzio, 16, said she ran cross-country with her best friend Hanren and before her death the two had talked about the dangers of Sloat Boulevard.

"There are too many chances for pedestrians to get hit by cars," DePunzio said.

Anyan Cheng, a 16-year-old Lowell junior, said the only solution to prevent more deaths on the busy street is to erect a traffic signal at Vale Avenue.

"It will greatly slow down traffic," she said.

She has created an online petition asking the city to put up a signal at the intersection where her friend was hit.

As of this afternoon, she had collected more than 3,500 signatures.

Sophia Li, 16, said preventing deaths should be a priority, especially on the street near her high school.

"I wish (Hanren) didn't have to die for us to have this discussion," she said this afternoon.

"It's simple," she said. "We all want to be safe."

Cheng's petition is available at http://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-sf-norman-yee-of-district-7-sf-municipal-transportation-agency-stop-sign-or-traffic-light-installed-on-vale-ave-and-sloat-blvd-2.


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