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January 17, 2014
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Calif. chief vows changes after deadly December

The chief's promise comes after a particularly deadly December for pedestrians in San Francisco

By Michael Cabanatuan
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — Drivers who run red lights, speed, fail to yield to pedestrians or don't stop behind limit lines can expect to see more flashing lights  and more citations, Police Chief Greg Suhr said Thursday evening.

At a special joint meeting of the Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors' Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, Suhr committed to a crackdown on traffic scofflaws as part of an effort to reduce pedestrian accidents in San Francisco. Police have started their crackdown, he said, issuing 40 citations on Thursday at Market and Octavia streets, a location feared by bicyclists and pedestrians.

"You will see more of that kind of enforcement," Suhr said.

The chief's promise comes after a particularly deadly December for pedestrians in San Francisco. With the city headed toward an average number of pedestrian fatalities, seven people were killed, including 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was struck along with her mother and 4-year-old brother in a crosswalk at Polk and Ellis streets. It was the deadliest year in the past seven for pedestrians.

Stepped-up enforcement will focus on the most common causes of collisions- four mentioned earlier, plus failing to yield to oncoming traffic. Police will take reports on all pedestrian and bicycle accidents, which wasn't done in the past. The department will also review past accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists to see if citations or arrests are warranted, even if they weren't issued, and will consider citations and arrests in future collisions.

Suhr spoke before representatives of pedestrian and bicycle advocacy groups and dozens of residents lined up in the Board of Supervisors' chamber to urge the city to take pedestrian safety seriously.

Supervisors acknowledged that the city has talked before about improving pedestrian safety, often launching short-lived publicity campaigns or appointing task forces, with little impact.

"San Francisco has passed many resolutions on pedestrian safety, issued many plans," Supervisor Scott Wiener said. "But if there isn't follow-up and strong buy-in and support from elected officials and department heads, nothing happens."

Representatives of Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition urged the city to commit to a "Vision Zero" policy that aims to eliminate pedestrian fatalities on city streets within 10 years. New York and Chicago have adopted the policy, and Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee and John Avalos introduced a resolution Tuesday that proposes San Francisco follow suit.

Suhr said police would follow the "Vision Zero" program, but it was not clear how far that effort will extend.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition, said the Police Department should also train all officers in pedestrian and bicycle safety and proper handling of collisions. She also suggested that all commercial drivers  including delivery drivers, corporate bus operators and Lyft and Uber drivers  be required to take driver safety courses that include awareness of bicyclists and pedestrians. The coalition already provides such training for taxi drivers.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Copyright 2014 the San Francisco Chronicle






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