As a proud San Francisco resident, I’m excited when organizations or magazines rank the city as a great destination for anything and everything. That was my initial reaction when I saw this week that the website Walk Score ranked San Francisco as the country’s second most walkable city, and my former home, Oakland, as the country’s 10th most walkable. But as the writer for a Bay Area streets safety blog, it didn’t take long for this initial glee to turned to skepticism. I’m constantly reading about tragic pedestrian deaths on San Francisco streets – last week marked the city’s 8th already this year – and I know that even more pedestrian accidents go unreported. So while I’m glad to see that San Francisco is a walkable city on paper, the city must earn that reputation by getting serious about improving pedestrian safety.
Walk Score assigns cities a numerical score between 1 and 100 based on how easily the average city resident can access essential services like grocery stores, restaurants, schools and parks. San Francisco ranked second, behind New York City, with a score of 84.9, which means “most errands can be accomplished by foot,” according to the Walk Score website. Oakland, ranked the country’s 10th most walkable city, earned a Walk Score of 68.2, meaning “some amenities within walking distance.”
As a current San Francisco resident and former Oakland resident, I can attest to both of their walkability, and especially to the fact that San Francisco is much more walkable. But the significance of these scores would be greater if they included street safety information in their rubric to discover a city’s Walk Score. San Francisco may have great services within walking distance for the average city resident, but this year has shown that the city could improve its safety record for pedestrians and cyclists.
Let’s look at some of the pedestrian accidents might have been considered while determining the city’s Walk Score. In April, a jogger was blindsided on Masonic Avenue and rushed to the hospital with a broken leg. In May, a driver struck and killed 61 year-old James Hudson on Masonic Avenue and Turk Street, and only a week later another pedestrian was put in critical condition when hit by a driver in the Marina district. These are only a few examples of tragic pedestrian accidents, which have contributed to eight total San Francisco pedestrian deaths in 2011 alone.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has vowed to implement a safety plan to improve Masonic Avenue, but the city must get serious and improve pedestrian safety throughout the city in order to truly earn the title of one of the country’s most walkable cities.
Photo credit: Debs (ò‿ó)♪