Pedestrians Bill of Rights

This week’s question comes from Bryan in San Francisco in response to the Dolan Law Firm’s “Bicyclists Bill of Rights,” published in the May 11 edition of the San Francisco Examiner as part of Bike to Work Day 2017. Bryan writes:

Q: “Do you have a Pedestrian Bill of Rights? I appreciate your efforts on making streets safer for bicyclists, but what about pedestrians. I am disabled and use a walker. I was walking on Bayshore and was barely missed by a bicycle riding quickly on the sidewalk. He came up from behind me on the sidewalk when there was a bike lane right there. Bicyclists need to obey the laws if they expect drivers to obey the laws.”

A: Bryan, I agree: It’s everyone’s responsibility — motorists and bicyclists — to keep our streets and sidewalks safe for pedestrians. As you remind us, pedestrians are not limited to persons solely on foot. A pedestrian can also be a person with a disability using a walker or wheelchair.

According to Vision Zero SF, a city task force working to prioritize street safety and eliminate traffic deaths in San Francisco, every year 15 to 20 pedestrians are killed in traffic collisions in The City. Another 100 people are seriously injured each year after being struck by cars. As you requested, Bryan, here is our Pedestrians Bill of Rights:

The Right-Of-Way When Using Crosswalks: Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way at crosswalks is the No. 1 dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Motorists “shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Motorists must always stop for pedestrians crossing at streets corners, with or without traffic signal lights and whether or not the crosswalk is marked by painted lines. Further, even if the marked crosswalk is the middle of the block, motorists must stop for pedestrians.

The Right To Unimpeded Use Of A Crosswalk: A crosswalk is the part of the roadway set aside for pedestrian traffic. Motorists and bicyclists must stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.

The Right Not To Be Struck By A Speeding Vehicle: Motorists traveling at an unsafe speed is the second most dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Speeding increases stopping distance and collision force. When a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour, there is a 90 percent chance of survival. The survival rate drops to 20 percent if a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour. Motorists approaching a pedestrian “within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.”

The Right Not To Be Struck In The Roadway: While pedestrians should not jaywalk and always use crosswalks to cross a roadway, even if the pedestrian is within a portion of the roadway other than a crosswalk motorists must slow down. Motorists are under the duty “exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian” no matter where the pedestrian is on the roadway. This rule also applies to bicyclists because, as a rule, bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motorists.

The Right To Unimpeded Use Of Sidewalks: Adult bicyclists, and even teenage bicyclists, are prohibited from riding on sidewalks in most California cities. In San Francisco, it is illegal to bike on a sidewalk if the bicyclist is 13 years of age or older. Of course, bicyclists can dismount and walk their bike on sidewalk. At that point, they are pedestrians under the law.

Finally, pedestrians and bicyclists should be aware that more than 70 percent of the severe injury and fatal traffic collisions in San Francisco occur on just 12 percent of The City’s streets. Please take extra care and be aware of speeding motorists while crossing intersections or biking on these streets.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions

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