Rising numbers of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco and San Jose are drawing attention to what many walking and cycling advocates say is a longtime problem.
There were 21 pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco last year. It was also a particularly deadly year in San Jose, with 26 fatal pedestrian accidents. That's the highest number in nearly two decades.
"We don't know exactly why they're rising but we know what the solutions are, so we're focused on making a change," Nicole Schneider, executive director at Walk San Francisco, said during a panel discussion on KQED "Newsroom." Her group is working with the city on how to improve traffic enforcement, engineer better roadways and educate the public.
Schneider said police data shows that in 66 percent of pedestrian fatalities, drivers are at fault. But rather than focus on who is to blame, solutions should drive the conversation.
"For many, many decades, we've been designing our streets to bring cars through the city as quickly as possible," said Chris Wong, board president of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. As city populations grow, and more people seek alternatives to driving, the city must update its traffic analysis techniques to consider all users of the roadway.
Other solutions mentioned in the KQED "Newsroom" segment:
- Educate the public, especially paid drivers, about sharing the road.
- Make bicycle and pedestrian traffic a consideration during every traffic study.
- Enforce current rules. Up until recently, drivers in San Francisco were cited or charged only if they killed people. Now drivers are also held accountable when they injure pedestrians or cyclists.
- Avoid using the term "accident" because somebody is at fault. Instead, San Francisco police are using the term "collision."
- Increase penalties for the at-fault party.
- Slow cars down. A pedestrian has only a 5 percent chance of living when hit by a car traveling 40 mph. Those chances increase to 85 percent if the car slows down to 20 mph.