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City Celebrates Sixth Annual Walk to Work Day

Walk SF’s Cathy DeLuca, Mel Beetle, an advocate for seniors, and Supervisor Jane Kim take the new midblock crossing on Howard. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

To kick off this year's Walk to Work Day, the SFMTA activated the city's newest signalized crosswalk Thursday morning at Howard and Russ Street in the South of Market neighborhood. "It's wonderful," said Mother Elaine Jones, who lives up the street. Jones added that she feels trapped and unable to get around because of the speeding cars on the streets of SoMa. She's seen seniors hit. "It's a death trap!"

"This is my neighborhood," said Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the district. The streets were originally designed to serve warehouses and trucks, not people, she explained, and the new mid-block crossing is just one of many going into the area to make it easier to get around. "This really breaks up the long blocks."

Sam Alicia and Mother Elaine Jones live up the street from the crossing

Every major street in SoMa is part of the high-injury network--the 13 percent of streets that result in 75 percent of severe and fatal crashes.

"We're here to celebrate everything we love about walking and reflecting on all the work we need to do towards Vision Zero," said Jodie Medeiros, the Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, the organizer of the event. She pointed at the new crosswalk, adding, "We're very satisfied with these results... bulb-outs, extended sidewalks--it's everything that makes a complete street."

"Every day we played frogger trying to get across this street," said Rudy Valintino, Executive Director of United Playaz, an area nonprofit that works with at-risk youth. "This is one piece of the safety plan--but we still have a lot of work to do."

The crossing, with its new signal, control box, concrete extensions, curb ramps, etc. cost $350,000 according to the SFMTA.

A look inside the control box for the intersection

After the new signal was officially activated, a group of about 20 people--advocates and officials from the major transportation agencies--started their trek to City Hall. The walk took them down Russ Street, with a recently completed street treatment that was as a stark contrast from the main drags of SoMa. That street is now lined with stanchions and it has a level sidewalk that clearly indicates that this is primarily a pedestrian area where cars are guests.

Walk SF's Josie Ahrens, Jane Kim, SFPD Commander Teresa Ewins, SFCTA's Tilly Chang, and Rudy Valintino, admiring the new Russ Street

But as the group turned the corner on Natoma and then emerged on 6th Street, they got a reminder of Valintino's rejoinder, that "we still have a lot of work to do." At the intersection with Natoma there isn't even a painted crosswalk, forcing pedestrians to "play frogger" across 6th or divert to the next major intersection. Walk SF's Cathy DeLuca talked briefly about the upcoming 6th Street Pedestrian Safety Project. "SFMTA will put in a light and widen sidewalks, reducing crossing distances by 20 feet."

At 6th and Natoma, the car is still king and absolute ruler--and pedestrians have no way to cross.

The group made its way up the narrow, uninviting sidewalk of 6th Street and turned left on Market, where it joined with walkers from other Walk to Work Day hubs, including Mayor Mark Farrell. "When you walk to work you feel great and find new parts of your city," he said. "Such as yarn bombs--who would have thought to see yarn octopuses on the way to work!"

Mayor and Jodie
Mayor Farrell and Walk SF's Jodie Medeiros
Humanity's rule over the Earth nears its end as the invasion of land-dwelling Octopuses begins

But the Mayor was very cognizant of the serious point of Walk to Work Day. "Last year we had the lowest number of deaths on our streets in over 100 years, but one death is unacceptable."

Walkers from 11 Walk to Work Day hubs, scattered throughout the city, convened on the steps of City Hall for a presser to remind the public how much work remains to be done to make the streets safe. "When I was a child we used to walk to school, and we used to help seniors cross the street," said Supervisor London Breed. "But last year 90-year-old David Grinberg was killed crossing Fell at Baker right in front of where he lived... we have to make sure people like David don't die on our streets in the future."

City hall
The walkers approaching SF City Hall

Walk SF, meanwhile, will be keeping up the pressure for rapid improvements on 5th, 6th, 7th, Folsom, and Howard in SoMa, and on high-injury streets throughout the city, said Medeiros in a statement about the event. "They must become safer for the neighborhood's many workers and residents--including people of all ages and abilities."

Photo op at the conclusion of Walk to Work Day

Counts aren't in yet, but Walk SF estimates some 10,000 people participated last year, and, based on sign-ups at the various hubs, it's thought this year saw a much higher turnout. "We believe we blew our numbers out of the park!" wrote Medeiros in an email after the walk. Not bad for an event that started only six years ago.

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