Safety changes planned, others discarded, where Paratransit bus fatally struck woman

The curb where an elderly woman was fatally struck by a Paratransit bus last month was deemed unsafe by San Francisco transit officials and had been slated for safety improvements, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on June 9, Lurilla Harris, 86, was hit by a Paratransit bus at Franklin Street and Geary Boulevard after she had exited the vehicle.

Harris was on her way to a meeting of the advocacy group Senior Disability Action. As she made her way toward the front of the bus, which was traveling north on Franklin Street, the bus apparently struck her, San Francisco police spokesperson Officer Giselle Talkoff said in June. Harris was pronounced dead at the scene.

After her death, pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF found that pedestrian “bulb-outs” were once considered for the intersection as part of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project, but the idea was discarded by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency due to a combination of engineering difficulties and cost.

The SFMTA denied money was a factor.

“Funding was not an issue that impacted any decision having to do with bulb-outs along this corridor,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said in an email. “There were other issues at this specific location, including existing construction projects and the short and long-term transit requirements at the location.”

Those improvements may still be possible, according to Walk SF.

Since Franklin Street is one-way heading north at that intersection, the bulb-out would not perform the purpose of slowing down cars making turns. This would give it less value for the money spent.

But, as Walk SF pointed out, the bulb-out may have made Harris more visible to the Paratransit vehicle.

The SFMTA has more safety improvements planned for the intersection where Harris was killed, including “stop bars” — miniature concrete islands placed on crosswalks. The SFMTA may also reduce traffic lanes on that section of Geary Boulevard and install leading pedestrian intervals.

Between 2014 and 2015, the agency painted striped crosswalks and added pedestrian countdown signals and curb ramps at that intersection.

“In general, bulb-outs help reduce crashes,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk SF.

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