Making your way through busy city streets can be difficult for any pedestrian, but let’s face it, even more so for someone who is blind or has low vision. Between all the one-ways, left turns, U-turns, and unforeseen construction detours, at times it can feel as though your safety is being challenged by the ongoing street traffic. The city of San Francisco is working to keep all its residents and visitors safe, whether you are in the car, on public transportation, or on foot.
With that in mind, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has launched its newest campaign entitled, “Safety—It’s Your Turn.” It is partnering with LightHouse to create a safer and more accessible city environment for all San Francisco travelers.
The shocking truth about traffic fatalities in the city is this: 40% of all fatal San Francisco traffic accidents in 2019 involved drivers making left turns. Drivers need a clearer indication of when pedestrians are crossing with enough time to stop. These tragedies are completely avoidable with a few seemingly minor changes to the way the city conducts traffic. SFMTA has centered the focus of their safety campaign specifically on left turns. For starters, the city has installed trial left turn guide bumps as a “calming” strategy. Similar to speed bumps, these left turn guide bumps are meant to incentivize drivers to slow down. This will allow the driver enough time to make complete left turns at the intersection, where the crosswalk and crossing pedestrians are in plain view. The goal of the campaign is not only to encourage better driving behaviors and increase the safety on the street for everyone, but hopefully to instill a sense of security and increase the number of cyclists, runners, and walkers in San Francisco.
Although we are always taught via general traffic rules that the “pedestrian has the right of way,” that unfortunately does not necessarily ensure their safety. It is our responsibility as pedestrians, both sighted and blind, to educate ourselves, be aware of our surroundings as much as possible, and to err on the side of caution when it comes to travel. As part of the Safety—It’s Your Turn campaign, SFMTA has partnered with LightHouse and a number of other community-based organizations throughout the city to provide more education and information regarding left turn safety and traffic protocol.
At LightHouse, our highly skilled Orientation & Mobility instructors have been reaching out to our community of blind and low vision city travelers to provide training and information to our mobility students. Along with tactile diagrams and accessible information designed and produced by our very own MAD Lab, LightHouse has been a viable resource in bringing awareness of the SFMTA safety campaign and building the confidence in independent travel skills of the local blind community.
To get your hands on the accessible safety guides and tactile left turn diagrams, you may contact Briana Kusuma at BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7335.