[Carfreeliving] Beyond Chron article
wesley.kirkman at gmail.com
Wed Jan 4 09:17:18 MST 2006
My cousin sending some alt-media your way Tom:
In Beyond Chron
New Year's Resolution to Make 2006 a Year of Pedestrian
Year's Resolution to Make 2006 a Year of Pedestrian Advocacy
As Beyond Chron begins 2006 by analyzing what the major issues of the new
year will be, I would like to take a look back at 2005, and previous years,
to illustrate the current sad state of pedestrian safety in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a beautiful place to walk, and about 40% of its residents
don't own cars, so they are by default pedestrians – even motorists become
pedestrians as soon as they leave the cozy confines of their automobiles.
Despite these truths, as we experienced this past year, San Francisco is a
dangerous place to travel by foot, and it is our duty, as concerned
residents and pedestrians, to improve these conditions.
In 2005, San Francisco saw 26 pedestrian deaths, making it the deadliest
city in California for those who walk and in the top five nationally. This
figure is also up from the 20 motorist-induced pedestrian deaths in 2004.
Most recently, on December 28, on Howard between Sixth and Seventh during
rush-hour traffic, Marie Angelini, 67, was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Also, just in December, we saw the untimely deaths of two San Franciscans
hit by Muni buses. Edward Badelalla, 64, was killed by a Muni bus at the
corner of Haight and Cole, and Qiong Zhen Yu Zhou, 56, was killed by a Muni
bus on Van Ness at Jackson. These were not isolated incidents; at least 12
people were hit and injured (not killed) by Muni buses in 2005. Ironically,
many avid pedestrians carry Muni passes to help them get around the city; it
is a major means of transit for them, and they are Muni's lifeblood.
Why is walking such a dangerous endeavor in San Francisco? Anecdotally, as
someone who walks great lengths in this city everyday, I know that many
motorists seem to have a sense of superiority over pedestrians. They
flat-out ignore our rights, not yielding in crosswalks, and some are just
oblivious, quickly turning corners then treating us like second-class
citizens as they honk their horns because they think we're in their way.
Many of us are tired of being treated like second-class citizens simply
because we walk and don't drive. Being a pedestrian isn't even a choice.
Being a pedestrian means being human. We were walking for millions of years
before the automobile was invented; therefore, driving is the choice. It
isn't even an inalienable right – it's a privilege that needs to be treated
as such. And I'm tired of drivers who get to their destination much faster
than I do growing inpatient with me, encroaching on my personal space
because I'm apparently walking too slowly for them in the crosswalk when I
have the right of way.
Such motorists are guilty of brandishing a lethal weapon that kills
thousands of pedestrians in the United States annually, that killed 26
pedestrians in San Francisco alone in 2005, that hit and injured (not
killed) 159 pedestrians in San Francisco in 2003. In fact, according to
UCSF's Injury Center, more pedestrians than occupants of motor vehicles were
killed in San Francisco between 1991 and 2001. And, nationally, between 1999
and 2002 more pedestrians were killed by motorists (5,073) than anyone
killed by terrorism (2,927 including the 9/11 attacks), yet we're spending
billions of dollars a year fighting an international war on terrorism while
we have an under-funded and overlooked domestic battle on our own streets.
Pedestrian deaths are a national epidemic, and San Francisco is among the
cities worst hit by this car-centric disease.
The most disturbing thing is many motorists who strike pedestrians will
likely get off scot-free; they're just considered one of the victims in
these unfortunate "accidents." Simply tell the police that the sun was in
your eyes, or that the rain or the San Francisco fog made visibility
difficult. If you're driving at night, no problem – "There was a glare from
the street light on my windshield, officer, judge, family and friends of the
person I just mowed down." The only guilt they have to live with is their
own, if they care, knowing that they needlessly took a pedestrian's life
because their windshield was dirty or they were in a hurry. As pedestrians
and concerned residents we have a duty to tell drivers who rush us as we
cross streets to be patient. It's our duty to let our friends and family
members know when we are passengers in their cars that it is not OK to be
rude to and impatient with pedestrians because such behavior is dangerous,
potentially deadly. Motorists must respect crosswalks and pedestrian rights
at every intersection regardless of whether they're painted or not.
There are apparently other ways to improve these poor conditions. I say
"apparently" because I haven't really done them myself, but in light of my
newfound frustration I will (it's my New Year's resolution). Walk SF (
www.walksf.org) is San Francisco's premiere pedestrian advocacy group – I'm
a member, but I haven't really gotten involved. If you share the concerns
I've outlined above, please consider joining and getting involved too.
Transportation for a Livable City (www.livablecity.org) is another nonprofit
organization that needs help (they have a growing list of projects on their
website that you can get involved with). TLC works to improve our
neighborhoods so that, among other things, walking is more enjoyable. And if
you want to help make San Francisco streets pleasant places to be, look into
Friends of the Urban Forrest (www.fuf.net), an organization that works to
improve our sidewalk environment (the tree planting events are a blast).
Finally, if there is a pedestrian problem near your home (perhaps a
dangerous intersection), do something about it – write letters to your
district supervisor, the mayor, the police department, and the Department of
Parking and Traffic. For example, near my house, at the intersection of
Hayes and Gough and also at Gough and Fell there are barricades that read,
"NO PED CROSSING," requiring pedestrians to go out of our way and cross the
intersection three times, tripling our encounters with motorists, simply to
get across the street. Pedestrians are second-class citizens at these
car-centric intersections, merely an interruption in the flow of traffic,
and I'm going to do my best to work towards allowing pedestrians to cross at
all four corners. Please join me in this battle because one voice is less
likely to be heard than a bunch of fed up voices. Make pedestrian advocacy
your New Year's resolution.
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