Street safety bill inches along

While The City’s pedestrian death toll hovers at an average rate of more than two per month, an ordinance to heighten pedestrian safety has languished in committee for almost two years.

The ordinance, introduced by Supervisor Fiona Ma in July 2004, would require The City to install countdown signals at lighted intersections citywide and to make curb cuts to provide access for the disabled, among other improvements.

At least 13 pedestrians have died after being hit by cars in San Francisco in the past six months, according to statistics compiled by the pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco. The problem made headlines in January when 76-year-old Joyce Lam, mother of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Newton Lam, was hit by a cable car in Chinatown and killed.

Ma’s ordinance was debated and continued in the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The bill has been slow to gain approval by the board’s Budget and Finance and Land Use committees because of its expense, Ma said Monday. “This is the watered-down version with the big priorities,” Ma said of the ordinance’s current version.

In addition to countdown signals and curb cuts, the bill calls for more striped crosswalks, the installation of bulbouts-sidewalk extensions at corners which reduce the distance pedestrians have to walk across the street, and the installation of 100 signs per year in the next three years listing prohibited sidewalk activities.

A report by the board’s budget analyst Harvey Rose has estimated the ordinance’s total one-time costs at $226,442,045. The bill identifies no funding source.

Ma’s spokesman Bill Barnes said Monday that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2006-07 budget includes $5.4 million for curb cuts. In addition, he said, the Municipal Transportation Administration, which administers revenue generated by a sales tax approved by voters in 2003, could authorize funds if the ordinance passed.

Walk San Francisco Executive Director Emily Drennan said Monday that the legislation is “a good place to start” for improving pedestrian safety, but that “if it's not funded, then it will just sit on the books and not make much of a difference.”

amartin@examiner.com

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