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San Francisco Supervisor Wants Narrower Streets For Pedestrian Safety, Fire Chief Slams Idea

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – There's only so much available room on San Francisco's streets, and it seems to be shrinking daily. As a result, a turf war is brewing between those worried about pedestrian safety and those worried about fire safety.

"We are having an epidemic of pedestrian accidents," said Supervisor Scott Wiener.

He said one big reason is wide streets. "You have more speeding, you have longer crossing distances," Wiener said. "And you end up losing safety."

Wiener wants new neighborhood side streets, such as those at the Hunters Point development, limited to 20 feet of clearance. The San Francisco Fire Department wants 26 feet of clearance, saying an extra six feet could be critical.

"We need to make sure that we can get down streets, particularly when we are building a new project," said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

As an example, the chief points to the recent massive construction fire in Mission Bay.

"It's one thing to navigate to get there. But once you are there you have to strategically place the rigs. And you need more clearance so that they can get by one another," Hayes-White said.

Narrow streets also mean more crowded streets, which is also affecting public safety citywide, according to Hayes-White.

"There are more cars on the road, there are more bicyclists on the road, and there are more pedestrians, there's just more congestion," the chief said. "We pride ourselves on getting to the scene of an emergency within 3-5 minutes. We're finding its getting more towards the five minute range, because it's tough to navigate through these city streets."

Wiener responded, "If the Fire Department believes that 20 feet of clearance is not enough for them to get around safely, we need to take a look at whether the fire trucks need to be slightly smaller."

Mayor Ed Lee didn't have much to say at this point about this fight between pedestrian safety and fire safety.

"I've got to leave it to the experts," he said.

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