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Tough roads to walk in S.F.

Examiner View

Published on Tuesday, July 20, 2004

KEVIN LAM DIED on the way to the hospital Sunday night after he apparently was hit by a pickup truck, his death tragically dramatizing complaints that some San Francisco streets have become terrifying gantlets where pedestrians risk their lives just getting to the other side.

The San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office identified Lam as the man who was hit in the intersection of 16th and Bryan streets at around 9 p.m. Sunday. The driver of the truck did not even bother to stop to see if Lam was hurt. Witnesses reportedly told police that Lam was crossing the street with a green light to catch a bus, but neighbors told The Examiner on Monday that the intersection was dangerous, and they weren't surprised to hear that someone was hurt there.

It was only coincidence, albeit an eerie one, that residents and pedestrian activists gathered the morning after Lam was hit for a planned protest on the other side of the Mission District, at Cesar Chavez and Guerrero streets. They were there to draw attention to what they say are hazardous conditions for the St. Luke's Hospital patients, students and parents from one of six nearby schools and other pedestrians that make the crossing there.

Admirably, neighbors aren't just complaining and waiting for someone else to fix the situation. They put together $5,000 to pay for printing and installing banners in both Spanish and English urging drivers to slow down. That may not prove to be enough, but their initiative is commendable.

And on Thursday, the Board of Supervisors' City Services Committee is scheduled to consider a proposal to modify traffic patterns in the area of Guerrero Street and San Jose Avenue, in the interest of pedestrian safety. Now that city supervisors are thinking about the issue, perhaps now would be a good time to work with neighborhood residents for tangible progress toward making the entire city safer for pedestrians, from San Francisco State University students getting off the bus at 19th and Holloway avenues to business commuters hurrying across Fourth and Folsom streets.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranked has San Francisco the fourth most dangerous among large cities across the nation. San Francisco may rightly be proud of its many distinctions, but the being known as one of the worst places to walk is a reputation it should make every effort to erase.

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