Even though the turnout was modest, the WalkFirst focus group meeting on Dec. 18 at the Richmond Library, was very important. Its major focus was about pedestrian safety.
"Nine participants attended the district focus group meeting at the Richmond library," said Ben Jose, a public relations officer speaking on behalf of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority.
Two months ago, a number of key City departments back in November of 2012, initiated the community outreach program called WalkFirst, which was officially announced to the press two years ago, back in March of 2011.
This joint project of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the San Francisco Planning Department, the Department of Public Health and the Controller’s Office is collaborating together to ensure San Francisco remains a walk-friendly city. This citywide public outreach process has been initiated to gather feedback about pedestrian safety improvements. The primary method for feedback throughout will be the interactive online tool. In addition, we will hold a series of ten targeted focus groups to hear from populations and neighborhoods most impacted by pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The meeting at the Richmond Library was one of them.
While the concerns of pedestrian safety have been addressed before, by SFMTA and others, this project's scope is city-wide.
Officials are asking for the public to participate in helping them organize and plan essential goals that will make traffic and pedestrian safety a priority.
“San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the world. By participating in WalkFirst, residents have the opportunity to help us make our streets safer for pedestrians by engaging with us and making recommendations,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point, and their safety remains our highest priority.”
WalkFirst builds on past city efforts to improve pedestrian safety and walkability by prioritizing five years of capital improvements to meet the city’s Pedestrian Strategy goals. This ambitious project was initially announced by Mayor Lee back in April of last year. The collaboration of many is crucial as the future depends upon a clear, practical and feasible vision.
By Aaron Bialick, courtesy of SF StreetsBlog.org
Pedestrians use an unmarked crosswalk on Mission Street near Fifth Street not far from San Francisco's Financial District
WalkFirst is a data-driven process that will review existing City crash data, collect community feedback, document findings, analyze risk factors that cause collisions and study which safety measures are most cost effective at reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities. This effort will address neighborhood injury inequities and includes improving walking conditions for children, seniors and people with disabilities.
"The discussion at the Richmond Library that Wed evening on Dec. 18 was focused on overall perceptions of pedestrian safety and how funding for pedestrian safety improvements should be prioritized," said Jose.
The City has allocated $17M in funding available over the next five years for pedestrian safety capital improvements and the WalkFirst Investment Strategy will be making capital improvement recommendations each budget year to work towards the City’s goal of reducing serious pedestrian related injuries and fatalities by 50 percent in seven years.
Non-profit organizations such as Livable City and Walk San Francisco are eager to help raise awareness of this important and vital project. “For the first time, San Francisco will be investing in projects that are data-driven and focused on the most dangerous streets for pedestrians,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. WalkFirst is “a step forward for using the data that we have to the make the biggest impact.”
The website which is collecting data is part of the San Francisco Planning Dept. web site. It has information about the project and provides instructions on how people can participate on line.
"Responses at the Dec.18 meeting centered on the need for more enforcement of traffic laws to protect pedestrians, said Jose; the need for quicker action to neighborhood requests for improvements." "And, more education for drivers and pedestrians about existing laws," he added.
The city’s goals include “upgrading” 70 miles of streets where injuries are most concentrated. That averages out to be about five miles per year through 2021. Another aim according to officials promoting the project, is to extend pedestrian crossing times at 800 intersections. That averages out to at least 160 annually. Schools and senior centers with high rates of pedestrian injuries will also be targeted for improvements.
Data will continue to be collected and analyzed from January to February. WalkFirst will (at some point in February of 2014) be presenting its recommendations for pedestrian safety capital improvements to the SFMTA Commission for approval and inclusion in the FY2014/15 capital improvement plan.
For more information about WalkFirst and to participate in the data collection process visit the web site.