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San Fran safety experts blast SF Fire Department chief after interview

Biker Traffic

The bicycle injury team at Walkup Melodia has been closely following the ongoing debate about the SFPD’s investigation of bicycle accidents on city streets.

As Bicycle advocates, the Walkup Melodia team recognizes the importance of making city streets as safe as possible for cyclists.

Cycling safety advocates are sharply criticizing recent statements made by San Francisco Fire Chief Johanne Hayes-White regarding pedestrian safety. The San Francisco Fire Department is opposing safety enhancements to city streets designed to help protect pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles.

Fire chief Hayes-White says that such projects will slow down emergency vehicles and told the San Francisco Examiner that up to 74 percent of pedestrian injuries are due to jaywalking and inattentive pedestrians.

“There’s no telling where San Francisco Fire Chief Johanne Hayes-White got the patently false stats on pedestrian safety she cited to the SF Examiner yesterday,” Aaron Bialick wrote on the San Francisco Streets Blog, adding that the fire chief’s “victim blaming” was wrong and dangerous.

“Despite the complete lack of data to support “distracted walking” as a significant cause of pedestrian deaths, Hayes-White and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr continue to blame the victims,” Bialick wrote.

Bialick also pointed out that according to the 2010-2011 SFMTA Collisions Report, 573 of the 844 non-fatal pedestrian crashes in 2011 were due to driver error. The top five most commonly-cited pedestrian accident causes were driver-related errors, with the top problem being the failure of drivers to yield to pedestrians with the right-of-way in the crosswalk.

The pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco estimates that pedestrian accident cost San Francisco $34 million in medical expenses alone on an annual basis. Walk San Francisco’s director Nicole Schneider says that enhanced bike lanes and bulb outs will help to make the city safer for pedestrians in the long run.

“We’re all working on public safety here,” Schneider said. “What we need to be doing is building safer streets. These sort of improvements reduce deaths.”