Accidents waiting to happen on San Francisco’s streets

No pedestrian crossing

Photo credit: Gary Kavanagh

previous blog post about Vision Zero wrote that the policy aims to fix San Francisco’s known dangerous locations, informed by injury data. That got me wondering about San Francisco’s unknown dangerous locations. Will Vision Zero have the scope to identify troublesome locations before a serious accident occurs?

In Melbourne, particularly in Wyndham where I worked and was raised, there are many poorly designed locations which the locals are weary of and try to avoid. Everyone knows they are accidents waiting to happen and so the community advocates to local government, who then advocates to state government to fix the problems before they cause a serious accident. Sadly it sometimes seems that it is not until a serious accident occurs that the locations get the attention of the state and improvements are funded. Such a shame. It seems so obvious to us, but is not of high priority at the state level.

Although two completely different cities in many respects, San Francisco and Wyndham have similar issues when it comes to population growth and the pressure it’s putting on existing transport infrastructure and services. Wyndham has the fastest growing population in all of Victoria which is translating to suburban sprawl and resulting in neighborhoods which are poorly served by public transport and so are car dominated. These communities are far away from employment/key destinations and so commuters are funneled onto limited arterial roads and transport hubs which are bursting at the seams. While San Francisco’s population is also growing, the overall percentage growth is not as significant as it’s population density growth. This means there are more and more people squeezing into a small area of land. In 2013 there were 17,620 people per square mile of land in San Francisco, compared with 906 people per square mile in Wyndham. The resulting pressure on infrastructure and services which were initially designed for a smaller population is likely similar between the two. Of course, population growth/density is not the only reason certain locations are dangerous. There are many, but it’s certainly one which resonates with me.

Since arriving in San Francisco, there have been a number of times as a pedestrian that I’ve felt vulnerable to car traffic. I’d even say I felt “ripped off” by the way the poor street design put me in precarious situations. A particular example near the corner of Mariposa and Indiana Streets (near our apartment) has gotten me a few times. The sidewalk itself unsuspectingly leads around the corner and to a dangerous intersection before coming to an abrupt end and leaving me stranded at a freeway exit ramp with no safe place to cross the road. I walk this way to get to the hardware store nearby.

Mariposa and Indiana

Of course, years ago this intersection may not have been so much of an issue because the area I now live in would have been primarily commercial, although local workers may have still liked to walk to the hardware store. Now there are new apartments popping up everywhere and an increasing amount of pedestrian activity.

With the introduction of Vision Zero, San Francisco is in a great position to address troublesome locations like this one before things get worse. It would be great if anecdotal or crowdsourced evidence could be incorporated to help locate more of San Francisco’s dangerous locations without there first needing to be a documented injury, or worse. I understand that this would be hard to collect and even harder to objectively prioritize, but there must be a way. I feel there is great value true prevention – BEFORE the fact.

Good luck mighty Vision Zero. I believe you can do it!

Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik

Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik

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