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Eyes on the Street: The Kinda Raised Crosswalk at Duboce Park

SFMTA's first raised crosswalk on a through street. Photo: Streetsblog
SFMTA's first raised crosswalk on a through city street. Photo: Streetsblog
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Streetsblog was thrilled to hear about the quiet unveiling of San Francisco's first raised crosswalk on a through city street, at Steiner and Hermann, across from Duboce Park.

For a safe-streets advocate, raised crosswalks represent a clean break from the auto-über alles perspective that has so dominated our streets. By keeping the crosswalk at the level of the sidewalk, it sends a message: this is pedestrian space. Motorists--yeah you! Slow down! Be safe. Because if you try to race across one, not only are you going to drop your cell phone and spill your latte, but you might even damage the undercarriage of your car.

And unlike a normal speed hump, raised crosswalks slow cars down exactly where they should--where walkers need to cross.

Now, technically, the Duboce Park crosswalk isn't the first raised crosswalk in San Francisco--but the existing ones are on backstreets, such as Pearl where it meets Market. The handful that exist are in low traffic areas/places where cut-through traffic can be hazardous, such as in the designated "home zone" around Marshall Elementary in the Mission. There's also one on Nancy Pelosi Drive, but that's deep inside Golden Gate Park.

And there's one other that sometimes gets overlooked. More on that below.

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Up until now, raised crosswalks have been restricted to low speed "home zones," such as this one at Adair and Carr. Image: Google Maps.
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The raised crosswalk on Steiner Street, connecting the sidewalk of Hermann with Duboce Park across the Wiggle, is the first one--far as we know--that bridges across a fairly heavily trafficked through street in the middle of the city. And it's a place that screams for a raised crosswalk because of the connection to the pathway in the park.

Which is all great. But, alas, it has some unfortunate compromises.

"The crosswalk at Steiner & Hermann is extremely shallow. It doesn't seem high (or "humped") enough to actually slow down passing cars," wrote Cathy DeLuca, Walk SF Program and Policy Manager, in an email to Streetsblog.

In other words, this "raised crosswalk" is not a continuation of the sidewalk. There are still ramps from the sidewalk on Hermann down to street level, then there's a shallow climb back up to the level of the "raised" crosswalk, which is barely above street level anyway. Same on the other side.

"I wouldn't even call this a raised crosswalk," wrote DeLuca.

Notice no brake lights on the back of the truck to the right. Photo: Streetsblog.
Another angle on the raised crosswalk to Duboce Park. Notice no brake lights on the back of the truck to the right. That was typical. Photo: Streetsblog.
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For motorists and cyclists, it's a very gentle gradient up to the crosswalk level and back down the other side. And, perhaps not surprisingly, Streetsblog observed car after car speeding over the crosswalk, with few if any motorists touching the brake pedal.

So why isn't the crosswalk at curb height, as a proper raised crosswalk should be? "Cost and speed of implementation," explained Ben Jose, spokesman for SFMTA's Livable Streets division. "The cost for a curb-to-curb raised crosswalk is approximately $110,000 and requires extensive design, overland flow analysis from Public Works and is usually constructed by an outside contractor...the raised crosswalk at Hermann and Steiner cost $10,000 and was designed and implemented quickly."

The reason for the cost? Jose said it's about drainage. "Since the raised crosswalk at Hermann and Steiner is along a block segment, water can only flow along the gutter line. At a standard intersection where curb-to-curb raised crosswalks are more common, water can flow in a number of directions."

And what about the other raised crosswalk referenced above? One doesn't have to go to Denmark to see a full-blown raised crosswalk on a busy street. Ironically, there's one on 20th Avenue in the Stonestown Mall.

The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going--works fine for the rare cyclists too. Photo: Streetsblog
The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going--works fine for the rare cyclists too. Photo: Streetsblog
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It's perhaps the only mid-block (maybe mid-mall-parking lot is a better moniker?) crosswalk we've seen in San Francisco where motorists consistently stop for pedestrians. The height of the crosswalk is exactly level with the sidewalk, which defines it clearly as pedestrian space. The ramps are just steep enough that it's no problem to bike over, but a motorist who doesn't slow down gets an uncomfortable bump.

How much did the Stonestown Mall crosswalk cost? Can its design be copied and dropped elsewhere? Streetsblog is trying to find out.

Post or send us shots of your favorite--or most hated--pedestrian crossing locations at tips@sf.streetsblog.org. And be sure to comment below on what treatments work and what don't at these intersections.

As to the Duboce crosswalk, let's hope SFMTA can figure out how to fix the drainage problems--and get it up to curb height--without breaking the bank.

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