As the light turns green, more than 50 students rush past the crossing guard at 19th and Holloway avenues as if she doesn’t even exist. Their minds are too preoccupied with the stresses of the day to come. But this doesn’t stop SF State crossing guard E.J. Pryor from doing her best to keep them safe.
In 2007, 24 pedestrians were killed in San Francisco according to the San Francisco Police Department. The leading causes were violations of pedestrian right-of-way laws and violations on the part of pedestrians.
“We’re out here just trying to keep everyone safe. San Francisco is known for pedestrians crossing the street when they feel like it. Your life is your life. It only takes that one freakin’ accident. Then you would be saying that you should have been more careful,” Pryor said.
All City Management Services, the only company in the country to specialize in crossing guard services, has been working with SF State for the last seven years. SF State contracts with ACMS, while ACMS pays the crossing guards directly.
“We are looking for more people,” said Pryor. “It’s only for 2 to 4 hours a day and the pay starts at $9 or $10 but is negotiable.”
Patricia Pohl, director of ACMS, understands the danger and high risk at the SF State intersection.
“That area has received a lot of attention lately,” said Pohl. “There was a tragedy at that intersection and that’s what precipitated the assignment of crossing guards there.”
Despite the dangers, many students just don’t care about crossing guards.
“I am aware there is a crossing guard, but I don’t care,” said cinema major Aerman Caride, 23, as he crossed the busy intersection of 19th and Holloway avenues.
He is one of the many students to share this viewpoint.
“I know how to cross the street,” said fellow cinema major Martin Noguara, 22. “I don’t need someone to help me. It’s pointless.”
Prior has advocated changes for the intersection through the company and SF State, but has yet to receive a reply to her concerns.
“I don’t know what ACMS is doing right now,” Pryor said. “I have tried to get them to turn up the volume on the crosswalk signal for deaf people but they haven’t gotten back to me. The SFSU representative hasn’t responded for three weeks.”
Pryor said the installation of a new street light would help the situation.
“What really needs to be done is to put a left turn arrow at this intersection. That would help a lot but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.”
Pohl said the installation of the light would have to go through the city, which is a difficult process.
“That’s an engineering criteria that the city would have to look at. Certainly no one knows that intersection like those guards out there. Sometimes it’s not that easy to bring solutions that are sensible because things are interconnected,” she said.
Even with traffic lights to facilitate pedestrian safety, Pohl said pedestrians still need to follow the crossing guards.
“The best thing everyone could do is to give the guard just two or three strong steps ahead of the pack. It’s not just about the traffic lights, it’s about people paying attention.”
Pryor advises pedestrians to be aware because you never know what can happen.
“Everyone needs to be more aware,” said Pryor. “Take your headphones out for a second when your crossing the street. We like to think it, but pedestrians don’t always have the right of way.”