Stencils Draw Attention to Deaths by Autos by Leah Shahum

Every few weeks you may read a brief snippet in the paper Ñ more likely, you never hear anything about it. But at a rate of one death every nine days, people are being killed by automobiles as they walk in San Francisco. With such an alarming statistic, you would think the city would declare a public health emergency and pull out all the stops to make sure traffic safety is rightly prioritized. That has hardly been the case.

As a result, some concerned activists have taken it into their own hands to raise awareness of the vehicular violence on our streets. They are memorializing these preventable deaths by painting stencils at the sites of the incidents.

The red stencils are full-size body outlines, painted in pavement-marking chalk that lasts six weeks. The message includes the date of the incident, the sex and age of the victim, the words Killed Here by Traffic, and a website address.

"One by one these crushed bodies become just statistics, just background noise, just one more bump in the road," declares the stencil project's website report. "To many, these deaths seem somehow inevitable in such a modern society." Another, more sanctioned effort to draw meaning from these deaths has been initiated by Supervisor Mark Leno, who wants permanent markers put up at the sites where pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed. These would serve not only as memorials but also as reminders that all road users should travel safely. The SFBC commends Supervisor Leno and the stencil activists for preserving the memory of those who died and for aiming to transform the culture of our streets.

Check out www.pedsafe.org for more information about those who died and why. To help make our streets safer, get involved with an advocacy group, such as the SFBC or Walk SF.