cover-crosswalk.jpgSan Francisco city officials and transportation, bicycling and pedestrian advocates announced a new citywide program that aims to improve street safety and prevent traffic fatalities.

The program, dubbed the Safe Streets Program, involves the launch of a bicycle citation diversion education program that would create a traffic school for bicyclists, which aims to better educate those road users about traffic laws.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who led a news conference today announcing the program, said that such a program with targeted education and enforcement aspects is especially needed, given recent pedestrian fatalities.

On Sunday March 25, two pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles–a private auto driver and a San Francisco Municipal Railway driver.

Four days later, on March 29, a bicyclist struck a pedestrian in the city’s Castro District, and the 71-year-old died the following week.

In Concord on Saturday, a father and his 9-year-old daughter riding their bicycles were killed when they were struck by an out-of-control SUV driven by a teenager.

In Mountain View Monday night, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a vehicle.

“In recent weeks, there have been a number of tragedies, both on the streets of San Francisco and throughout the Bay, involving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists,” Chiu said.

According to statistics released by the city’s Department of Public Health, two to three people are hit by cars every day on San Francisco streets.

In 2010, 811 pedestrians were struck by cars and 18 pedestrians were struck by bikes, which represent 7 to 8 percent of vehicles on the road.

Given the density of Bay Area communities, the number of cars on the road and the increasing presence of cyclists sharing that road, “we know that we need to do better” when it comes to following and enforcing traffic laws, Chiu said. “Everyone can be a safer driver, cyclist or pedestrian.”

The efforts and planning behind the program have been under development for nearly a year and are possible through coordination with the 12 city agencies that share responsibilities for pedestrian safety, especially the Police Department and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Capt. Al Casciato, of the department’s traffic company, said the program is “designed to change the culture of the driving public, the riding public and also the walking public.”

An important aspect of a successful safety program is continued review of approaches and investment in education, Casciato said, because the streets are constantly gaining new members.

“Every day we have a freshman class of new drivers, new pedestrians, new bicyclists who are coming out onto the streets.”

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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