SF Announces Safety Improvements in School Zones on Walk to School Day

On International Walk to School Day, Mayor Ed Lee today announced that the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency has completed safety modifications around several San Francisco school areas in order to improve pedestrian safety and encourage families to walk, bike or take public transit to school.

The improvements around Bessie Carmichael K-8 school, Jefferson, Sunset and West Portal elementary schools and AP Giannini Middle School include signal phasing at crosswalks to give pedestrians a head start before cars, sidewalk bulbouts to make pedestrians more visible and shorten crossing distances, as well as newly marked crosswalks, according to the mayor’s office.

Lee made the announcement at Bessie Carmichael, located in the city’s South of Market neighborhood.
“Whether they are in the Sunset District or in the heart of SoMa, we want every student to be safe when they are walking to school,” Lee said.

City leaders hope the safety projects will help San Francisco achieve its “Vision Zero” goal to end pedestrian fatalities on city streets by 2024.

“Bessie Carmichael is at the heart of our SoMa Youth and Family Zone and is the poster child for critical Vision Zero improvements, as it is surrounded by freeway arterials and speeding commuters,” Supervisor Jane Kim said. “Our schools and senior centers should be the top priority for the city, especially in the most congested neighborhoods.”

More than 150 Bessie Carmichael students formed “walking school buses” and made their way through busy SoMa streets to school on foot this morning as part of International Walk to School Day, according to Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group.

But San Francisco streets have a long way to go before they can be considered pedestrian-friendly, according to the group.

Twenty-one pedestrians were killed while walking in San Francisco in 2013 and seven have died so far this year.

The area around Bessie Carmichael, located at 375 Seventh St., is particularly challenging because it is surrounded by wide streets where state law prohibits establishing slower 15 mph school zones, according to Walk San Francisco.

“We will continue building partnerships with our city’s schools, families and communities to improve street safety in school zones,” Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director of transportation, said in a statement.

SFMTA has launched “Safe Streets SF,” an education and enforcement campaign that includes radio ads, social media posts and increased police traffic enforcement on high-injury corridors in order to improve public safety, according to the mayor’s office.

“Safe Streets SF is focused on changing the behaviors that lead to serious pedestrian injuries and deaths,” Reiskin said.

“With nearly two-thirds of all pedestrians collisions caused by failings to give pedestrians their legal right-of-way, we want to be clear: all intersections are crosswalks,” he said. “Whether it is a marked or unmarked crosswalk, please give the right-of-way to people walking.”

Drew Himmelstein, Bay City News

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