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Crossing to safety

April 2, 2007

Photo of one of the crossing guards at 19th and HollowayThe SF State campus occupies one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in San Francisco. The corner of 19th and Holloway avenues is dominated by bus, shuttle and Muni rail stops and six lanes of traffic rushing to and from the 280 freeway just a mile away. While city police are cracking down on speeders and red light runners, the SF State police are focusing on pedestrian safety with the installation of crossing guards during peak hours.

"We wanted to add an additional level of safety for pedestrians crossing against the lights, running to and from the Muni platform," said Kirk Gaston, SF State chief of police. "We have observed an alarming trend of pedestrians walking on the train tracks and jaywalking while talking on the cell phone or listening to portable music players, oblivious to oncoming traffic."

Gaston reports that while his department saw an overall reduction in traffic accidents on the roadways around the campus in 2006, they thought that the added human element might foster more safety awareness and gain more pedestrian compliance with crosswalk traffic signals. "It's harder to disregard a trained crossing guard than a mechanical signal," he said.

The department contracts with All City Management Services, a firm that trains and certifies crossing guards throughout California. Two guards assist pedestrians at 19th and Holloway avenues from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Taking their cues from the automatic traffic signals, the guards wear bright colored safety clothing and hoist oversized stop signs over their heads as they walk to the middle of the intersection. The effort has discouraged red light runners as well as jaywalkers.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, 1,205 traffic-related injuries and deaths occurred from 2000 through 2005 along the 19th Avenue/State Route One corridor, which connects Marin and San Mateo counties. Between 2000 and 2005 police responded to four accidents involving pedestrians at 19th and Holloway avenues, including one that resulted in a fatality.

"In accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles, the pedestrian always loses," said Gaston, who regards the crossing guard program as part of the department's mission to eliminate accidents through education as well as enforcement.

"We want to get across the fact that pedestrian safety begins and ends with the pedestrian," Gaston said. "People who pay more attention to iPods and cell phones than traffic signals and crosswalk boundaries are risking their lives."

The University Police Department plans to run the program annually from September to June. Comments and questions about the program's effectiveness are welcome and can be sent to

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified April 2, 2007 by University Communications