If you're crossing the street at an intersection on University Avenue, watch out! Because 11 of the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians are on University in the five or so miles between Fourth Avenue and Winona Avenue, just east of Euclid Avenue, according to the city auditor.
According to the auditor's report, 138 people were hit by vehicles at the 11 worst intersections between 2001 and 2015, with University and Marlborough and University and 52nd at the top of the list. Eighteen people were hit by cars at each of those intersections in the 15-year span.
The auditor's report counts about 70 intersections on University; from Albatross to Winona, 342 pedestrians were reported hurt or killed.
The audit, released last week, looked at 2400 intersections where at least one pedestrian was hit in 15 years; that's of the 17,000 intersections citywide, and includes some of the 1600 intersections with traffic signals.
(No less than 70 intersections on University, from Albatross to Winona, had reported pedestrian crashes.)
In the 15-year span, 8000 pedestrians were injured and 270 were killed, according to the report. And the number of car-pedestrian crashes is rising, the report concluded.
"It's pretty alarming, the number of pedestrians who are hit," said Sherry Ryan. She's a partner in Chen-Ryan Associates, a mobility consulting firm that did a similar study for the city in 2014. "It's the behavior we want to encourage — we want you to get out of your car and then when you do, you become one of the most vulnerable people in the city."
More people on foot are killed in San Diego traffic than people in vehicles or on bicycles, the report says.
Who is more likely to be hit? Lower income people who don't have cars, older people, disabled people, and people in dense urban neighborhoods, according to the Chen-Ryan report.
Many of the hits were in the midcity area, with 11 of the most dangerous intersections in either City Heights or the College Area.
As a district, downtown has the most, with 14 of the most dangerous intersections yielding 142 pedestrian crashes. Three blocks of G Street (at Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues) are where 29 people were hit in the past 15 years.
Pacific Beach has seven of the top 50-some, with 3 on Mission Boulevard alone (at Hornblend, Garnet and Thomas). El Cajon Boulevard intersections at 33rd, 35th, and 36th streets, along with College and Oregon streets, also rank in the top 50-some.
The city auditor's study looked at how the city was using its resources to protect pedestrians, and if those efforts were aimed at the intersections where people get hurt. The answer they found: Kind of but not really. Infrastructure — brightly painted crosswalks, stoplights that talk, for example — tends to end up where residents are demanding it. Sometimes that's at dangerous intersections but often it is not.
The resource that the report cited as being hardly used at all to protect pedestrians: law enforcement.
Eighteen of the report's recommendations are aimed at the police department. The auditors found that, among the nearly 100,000 traffic citations the cops wrote in 2015, citing drivers for doing stuff that kills pedestrians — failure to yield while the driver is turning left or right, for example — the tickets amounted to about one percent of all tickets. And, they concluded, the policing efforts weren't informed by the data on pedestrian collisions.
"It is essential that the San Diego Police Department maximize the effectiveness of its limited enforcement resources by utilizing available data," city auditor Eduardo Luna said in an email. "We found day to day enforcement of certain driver violations that are most dangerous to pedestrians could likely be increased."
Some cities do pedestrian stings — where they have a plainclothes cop walking the intersection while other cops hand out tickets.
San Diego police Lt. Scott Wahl remembers pedestrian stings from when he was on patrol — and the public's reaction.
"We used to use a guy on our squad who was 6'5" and 275 pounds to cross at a marked crosswalk. He always wore a bright fluorescent shirt as well. We would get people all day nearly running him off the road," Wahl said. "We had soooo many complaints from the community that we were writing 'bush league tickets.' It is tough to please everyone."
As for University Avenue, a group called Circulate San Diego is working with the city on plans to reconfigure the thoroughfare — plans with several alternatives will be presented at a City Heights meeting on October 3. The plans are for the first stage, from 44th to 47th streets, according to Kathleen Ferrier, CirculateSD's director of advocacy.
"Failure to yield to pedestrians, who have the right of way in intersections is the main reason when crashes are the driver's fault," Ferrier said. "It is alarming to see 18 crashes at one intersection."
Ferrier agrees with the auditor recommendations — particularly the third prong.
"What makes things safer for pedestrians is engineering, enforcement, and education," she said. "We need to see a campaign against distracted driving."