Mayor Promises “Announcement” On Pedestrian Safety, Warns Walkers They Might Not Be Safe Even In Crosswalks

Following the deaths of six pedestrians in San Francisco over the last two weeks of 2013, Mayor Ed Lee and other city leaders are calling for changes to improve pedestrian safety in the new year.

Twenty pedestrians were killed by vehicles in San Francisco in 2013 — the highest number in six years. New Year’s Eve was particularly deadly, with an 86-year-old man and 6-year-old girl killed in separate incidents.

On Dec. 19, an elderly woman was killed by a car in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood; the next day, a Recology truck struck and killed an elderly man in the Tenderloin. On Dec. 29, another pedestrian died after being hit near the Fourth Street on-ramp to westbound Interstate Highway 80. On January 7, a pedestrian was killed at Van Ness and Grove streets.

Mayor Lee said Monday that he plans to emphasize pedestrian safety in 2014.

“I’m really focused on this,” Lee said. “We have to do something to make our streets safer.”

On Jan. 16, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is holding a joint hearing of its neighborhood services and safety committee and the city’s Police Commission to discuss pedestrian safety issues.

The deaths have been “a serious wakeup call to the city,” Supervisor Jane Kim said at today’s board meeting. “This is not just an issue of policy but an issue of life and death.”

Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, is calling for street design improvements, as well as an increase in enforcement and more driver education, the group’s executive director Nicole Schneider said.

“The tides are turning,” Schneider said. “I think this year being so high (in pedestrian deaths) sent a message. This is not an acceptable status quo.”

She lauded the city’s Walk First program, which includes a website at

The program provides a map of dangerous “hot spots” for pedestrians and gives members of the public the opportunity to provide input on planned street improvements.

“We’re really excited about that,” Schneider said, adding that temporary improvements have already been made at “hot spots” like at Sixth and Market streets and along Folsom Street.

She said members of the group were also happy to see consequences for the two drivers who were arrested after striking and killing pedestrians on New Year’s Eve.

Syed Muzzafar, 57, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk after striking Sofia Liu, 6, and her mother and brother at Polk and Ellis streets at about 8 p.m., police said. Sofia later died at a hospital.

Earlier in the day, Giampaolo Boschetti, 69, hit and killed 86-year-old Zhen Guang Ng at Naples and Rolph streets and was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and failure to stop at a stop sign, police said.

“We’re happy the SFPD is sending the message that when someone commits a traffic crime, there will be impacts.” Schneider said. “You can’t just get away with hitting and killing someone.”

She said, “The message sent to drivers is, you need to slow down and be more careful when you’re on the roadway.”

The mayor also said that more education should be done, not just of drivers but also of pedestrians.

“Just because we have a crosswalk in front of us, we look both ways no matter what,” Lee said.

Lee said he has talked with other city officials about implementing a training program for construction workers driving to and from sites around San Francisco.

He said an announcement regarding pedestrian safety will likely be made in the coming weeks.

“We can’t just sit back and let this happen,” he said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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