Chinatown neighbors stop traffic near Portsmouth Square on Thursday night. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

Protesters stop traffic in Chinatown to call for more pedestrian safety

Angry Chinatown neighbors briefly stopped traffic near Portsmouth Square park on Thursday night to call attention to a need for more pedestrian safety measures in the neighborhood.

Many in the crowd of about 50 people chanting for safety were elderly residents of nearby single-room-occupancy hotels who want the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to create a pedestrian “scramble” at Kearny and Clay streets.

That’s a design in which pedestrians diagonally cross an intersection while cars in all four directions stop — and no car movement makes for fewer collisions with pedestrians.

“We want full scramble!” the seniors and an accompanying group of youth shouted as they crossed Kearny diagonally to stop traffic.

San Francisco Police Department Cpt. David Lazar crossed with them, stopping traffic safely and diverting it from the protest.

The demand took on special significance, according to those gathered, after a 77-year-old pedestrian, Ai You Zhou, was struck and killed at Kearny and Clay last summer. Many seniors live in the SRO’s surrounding Portsmouth Square and primarily walk to the area.

Chinatown advocates have pushed for a “scramble” there ever since.

Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA, said “the scramble is in,” specifically in April, when the streetlights were retimed to give pedestrians more than 20 seconds to cross in all directions at once.

Rose acknowledged “there has been a request” to install signal crossings showing countdown displays in diagonal directions, “and we have committed to installing those display screens.”

Protesters also said they wanted street striping that indicated diagonal crossing was allowed, as well as other changes to the intersection.

The protest was organized by Chinatown TRIP, an advocacy organization, in partnership with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

“We want to say thank you to MTA for starting the scramble,” Chin shouted to the assembled crowd of residents.

“But it’s not finished, is it?” he shouted, to which the crowd answered in a chorus, “No!”

That will require more time, he wrote in an email, because the SFMTA must install new underground signal infrastructure, as the current setup is too old for the upgrade.

Peskin said the SFMTA characterized the “more time” needed as two years, which Chin and other protesters said may allow ample time for more pedestrians to be in harm’s way.

Update 11/18: This post has been updated from its original version.Transit

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Supes move to reject Breed’s picks for police oversight body, call for strong reformers

Ronen, Mar cite qualification concerns in voting against Police Commission nominees

SF public defender urges police to explicitly bar technique used in George Floyd death

Public Defender Manohar Raju is calling for policy changes after a widely… Continue reading

Protesters turn out Sunday in San Francisco for second day in a row

“To me, it’s everyone’s breaking point,” said Chris Jackson, who handed out water to fellow demonstrators.

Businesses slam proposed COVID-19 worker rehire law as too ‘burdensome’

Supervisor Mar’s legislation would require employers to take back staff at same pay

Curfew to remain in effect Monday night in SF; dozens arrested from Sunday protests

Police chief estimates as many as 6,000 took part in demonstrations

Most Read