Pedestrian Advocates, Collision Survivors Converge On City Hall To Demand Change

A vigil was held at San Francisco City Hall today in remembrance of pedestrians killed on city streets. Several people who have been hit by cars but survived spoke at the vigil, calling for safer roadways and better driver education.

For 25-year-old Jamey Gump, a visually impaired man who works in San Francisco, crossing city streets is “a matter of life and death daily,” he said, although he himself has never been hit.

Even with a guide dog by his side, Gump said he feels unsafe at intersections.

“Vehicles really need to slow down,” he said.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, members of Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, gathered this morning outside City Hall with collision survivors and loved ones of those killed to discuss safety.

Walk San Francisco Executive Director Nicole Schneider said 11 pedestrians have been killed in the city over the last 10 weeks and 21 pedestrian deaths were reported in 2013 — the highest number since 2007.

John Alex Lowell said he was hospitalized for 13 months after a vehicle struck him in a crosswalk in the Mission District in March 2001.

Lowell said the impact of the car threw him about 20 feet. He said the collision and the 20 operations that followed have left lasting effects on his body and his memory.

The driver who struck Lowell served six months behind bars for reckless driving.

Lowell now serves on the city’s pedestrian safety advisory committee and is helping to implement San Francisco’s newly adopted Vision Zero Initiative.

The initiative calls for zero traffic fatalities in San Francisco by 2024 with improved traffic engineering, education of drivers on safe travel and increased enforcement of traffic laws.

San Francisco’s Vision Zero program is modeled after a program created in Sweden. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Chicago and New York.

Ed Reiskin, director of transportation for the SFMTA, said that as part of the Vision Zero plan, the public can look forward to lowered speed limits, bulbouts, increased time for pedestrian crossing, more crosswalk striping and the retiming of traffic signals to slow down the speed of traffic on city streets.

Schneider, of Walk SF, urged city leaders to increase funding and speed up the enactment of the program. She said 60 percent of pedestrian collisions occur on about 6 percent of the city’s streets.

San Francisco District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee attended the vigil and recounted his own near-death experience that occurred in 2006 when a vehicle struck him at Fourth and Bryant streets.

Yee stressed the importance of educating commercial drivers working in San Francisco on how to drive safely.

San Francisco police Cmdr. Mikail Ali said drivers should be aware that if they are at fault for a collision, they will be cited. Drivers cited for such collisions receive two points on their driver’s record and may serve jail time, Ali said.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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