PG&E Power Outage Kills Traffic Lights in Lower Haight, Leaving Vehicles on Honor System. They All Fail.

Categories: Local News
Joe Eskenazi
Nothing slowed this Muni bus down -- not even state law or common sense. Note malfunctioning traffic light to the right.
Unless you've had the joy of working off a moving violation via traffic school -- and if you take online traffic school, there's nothing to keep you from Googling the hard answers -- Driver's Ed is a distant memory. For yours truly, it was so long ago that we were made to watch a video featuring dancing CalTrans workers and none other than Richard Grieco ostensibly working off some misdeed of his own by urging us to slow down and "Give them a break."

In any event, Driver's Ed is a cornucopia of motoring hypotheticals: What do you do when confronting someone on a steep, one-lane road coming the other way? What hand signals do you use if, inexplicably, your blinkers malfunction? And what to do when traffic signals go kaput? Well, the last one came to pass this morning on Haight and Stener -- and everyone failed. That includes you, multiple Muni bus drivers!

The proper thing to do when traffic lights cease functioning, according to the state's driver handbook, would be to "proceed as if the intersection is controlled by a stop sign in all directions." But that's not what happened.

  Instead, cars, trucks, and even Muni buses blew through the intersection -- some with nary a glance to the sides. In the few minutes we observed the scene, no blood was shed. But there were close calls. A crimson pickup truck driving north on Steiner had to floor it to avoid being T-boned by an outbound No. 71 bus roaring through the intersection. The woman sitting in the truck's passenger seat shouted for the driver to speed it up while waving her arms about like a pro football analyst breaking down the Wildcat Offense.

Incidentally, the power outage also affected all the stores along Haight (and, possibly, residences as well). A PG&E worker on the scene blamed a "bad cable" of advanced age, and said the power outage ought not to last for more than an hour. This sort of thing, he says, happens fairly often -- though Lower Haight residents can be thankful that their own Sunny Jim Rolph-era wiring didn't result in a Tenderloin-style fireball.

At least it won't until the next Muni bus barrels into a pickup truck.

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