A “pedestrian scramble” allows people to cross the street diagonally as traffic is stopped. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Chinatown pedestrian ‘scramble’ will be installed where senior citizen was fatally struck

Chinatown residents are breathing a sigh of relief as a much-called for pedestrian safety measure is set to be installed at Kearny and Clay streets in the coming months.

That safety measure sought by the advocates is called a “pedestrian scramble” — a design in which pedestrians can diagonally cross an intersection while cars in all four directions stop.

There are scrambles throughout Chinatown — on Stockton Street, for instance — but not at Kearny and Clay streets.

The discussion around scrambles intensified after a 77-year-old pedestrian, Ai You Zhou, was struck and killed at Kearny and Clay streets last summer — and Chinatown advocates have pushed for a “scramble” there ever since.

Kearny and Clay won’t get a full scramble yet, said Angelina Yu, an organizer with the Chinatown Community Development Center. First, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency conducts a safety study of Chinatown streets, Yu said. In its place, they’ll get a “right angle scramble.”

That means Kearny and Clay streets’ stoplights will, during one interval, allow pedestrian crossing in all four crosswalks. No cars will be allowed to turn as pedestrians walk.

“That addresses the turn conflict that’s proved fatal for folks,” she said.

Yu said despite the new scramble, there are still more ways to enhance pedestrian safety.

“We’re still looking at pedestrian safety as a whole,” she said, and the organization is looking forward to a full diagonal scramble to be implemented by the end of this year.

“We’re encouraged by SFMTA’s first step on this,” Yu said.

If all goes well, she said, the “right angle scramble” will be installed late April. The decision is pending parking changes which must be approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors in March.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes Chinatown, called for a full diagonal scramble.

“It is urgent for The City to install the pedestrian scramble at Clay and Kearny streets because this is a matter of life and death,” Peskin said. “Our community has been patient but we can no longer wait, it is time for The City to respond and act now.”

Geen Lee, a 44-year-old software engineer and longtime San Franciscan, previously told the San Francisco Examiner that a similar pedestrian scramble on Stockton and Sacramento streets would have saved his mother’s life.

A scramble was installed there after Lee’s 78-year-old mother died after being hit by a car.

“If back in the day they implemented the scramble on Stockton, my mother would still be alive,” he said. “Every life matters.”

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