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Pedestrians get more time to cross the street

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Advocates on Wednesday celebrated a move by city officials to extend crossing times at intersections. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Greg Gary, a stylish man in his “late 70s,” sported a peacoat, his signature curled mustache and his cane Wednesday morning, which helps him walk despite a life-long handicap. He said San Francisco streets have been difficult for him to cross since he moved here in 1965.

“The lights are so short no one can get across in time,” he said, standing at Geary Boulevard and Presidio Avenue with a group of seniors.

Now, however, Gary and others like him will get more time to cross the street.

SEE RELATED: Seniors say there isn’t enough time to cross SF streets safely

In a major win for safety advocates, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency on Wednesday pledged to re-time San Francisco’s 1,200 street signals as regular maintenance to street timing is conducted. The current timing of signals allows people who walk four feet per second to cross, but now signals will be re-timed for people who walk three feet per-second, the slower pace of some seniors and people with disabilities.

“We’re already underway retiming many intersections in the South of Market neighborhood,” said SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose, as well as north of Market Street. “It’s a lot of intersections.”

The process may take just shy of ten years to finally complete, but advocates laud the change. In July last year, sign-carrying seniors organized by the group Senior Disability Action and Walk San Francisco protested at the busy intersection of Geary and Masonic Avenue by simply crossing the street. Many seniors could not cross in time, demonstrating their point to transit officials.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who represents the Richmond District, lauded Wednesday’s announcement as a victory for families with small children and strollers, too. “With the added traffic in our streets, it’s wise and prudent to do this,” Fewer told the gathered seniors.

At Geary and Presidio, Sam Alicia Duke, an 85-year-old activist who uses a motorized wheelchair, smiled and acknowledged some drivers may not be happy about the change.

“The people turning in that automobile may be a little upset, ‘oh no, I have to stop for a bit!’” she said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. But, she added, “the pedestrians are safe.”

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