Jogger Hit by Careless Driver as City Ponders Safety Fix

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Matt Smith
Not a great way to begin a Monday.
A driver blew through a red light this morning and slammed into a jogger along Masonic Avenue, throwing her into the air before plowing into the side of an SUV that had been traveling just in front of your correspondent and his daughter.

The collision happened as city officials added finishing touches on a long-overdue proposal to calm traffic along the deadly thoroughfare.

"The speeding on Masonic is out of control," said Annika Ehrlich, a UCSF nurse who lives a couple of blocks from the intersection where emergency workers had just picked up the jogger. "This is a neighborhood with families and children, yet motorists treat it like a highway."

The red-light-runner would have broadsided me and my 8-year-old daughter, rather than the SUV, had we arrived at the intersection two seconds earlier. Given we were riding a tandem bicycle, and not a 3,000-pound motor vehicle, chances are we'd have been injured as bad as the jogger.

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Matt Smith
Annika Ehrlich says motorists speed on the residential street as if it were a highway.
Neighbors and city officials have been talking for years about the possibility of making the four-lane stretch through the north side of the Panhandle safer. The  Planning Department is crafting a proposal that was supposed to be finished in May, yet it appears that will be delayed another month.

Meanwhile, neighbors complain the street remains a death trap.

Masonic Avenue has been the site of several recent high-profile collisions, with drivers hitting pedestrians and cyclists.

In today's collision, the driver blew through the red light at 30 mph, seconds after the light had changed from yellow to red. The driver hit the jogger, who went flying. She was taken away by an ambulance shortly after the accident with what appeared to be a severely broken leg. I and several other bystanders attempted to keep the victim warm, stable and comfortable while awaiting help. At press time police hadn't yet responded to a request for further information about the incident.

Last August, 21-year-old cyclist Nils Linke was killed by a hit-and-run driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street; that occurred just three months after I watched a motorist turn left and ram into a cyclist who had the right of way, splitting his Cannondale bike in half.

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Matt Smith
I know: let's have a few more meetings before deciding to make the street safer.
Javad Mirabdal, Planning Department project manager for a Fix Masonic proposal, said plans to revamp the street would make it better accommodate pedestrians, transit, and cyclists. He told SF Weekly that the plan will be presented to the public within the next two months.

If the plan -- which includes more bike lanes and other amenities -- gets the green light, so to speak, it will go to the SFMTA Board for final approval.

Michael Helquist, who has lived a block from Masonic Avenue for 18 years, writes the blog Bike NOPA and  is a member of the group, Fix Masonic. He described the proposed safety plan in a recent post:

A possible re-design of Masonic Avenue for safer use by everyone took a significant step forward last week when city planners completed the final report for the corridor. The account follows a six-month community planning process that included three public meetings attended by more than 200 Masonic area residents. Participants evaluated various options for a better Masonic and narrowed their preference to one, dubbed the Boulevard, as the best value for a complete set of traffic-calming improvements. Features of the proposal include a landscaped median, bus bulb-outs, 200 new street trees, a new plaza at Geary, and separated bike lanes. City planners previously described the Boulevard option as a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
As the Planning Department prepares the plan for public approval, neighbors fret for their safety, Helquist said in an interview:

"Masonic is not the most dangerous street or corridor in the city. But what you saw this morning happens frequently enough that we should ask the question: 'If there are this many incidents, should we try to fix them? Is there a threshold of traffic deaths where we have to fix the problems that cause them?'

On Masonic, there is also a perception of danger. People don't want to cross it on foot, they don't want to ride it on bicycles, and they aren't even comfortable in their cars, because so many people are running red lights, and going far beyond the 25-mph limit."

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20 comments
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susanmeade
susanmeade

I'm so sorry for the victim! I hope she will recover quickly! Unfortunately, a lot of serious accidents are caused by Toronto careless driving these days. To avoid these fatal crashes, drivers should be more careful, in my opinion.

Careless driving Toronto
Careless driving Toronto

As a driver with a few years behind I have a few principles when I'm in my car...Even if I see a person that runs on the road and that person is breaking the law because she's not allowed to job there I an very preventive and try to avoid any unwanted situation...In my opinion a driver should always be careful at everything around him because most accidents can be avoided this way....It's hard to live with yourself as a human if you accidentally or not killed one of your own.

Liz Ekering
Liz Ekering

this beautiful young lady is my daughter and i thank god she is alive,,,....and my compliments to the paramedic and the competent medical staff at san francisco general for putting my daughter's leg back together again......

Matthew Smith
Matthew Smith

For that matter, why was a woman jogging across the crosswalk?

Rob Anderson
Rob Anderson

If Matt Smith thinks Masonic is so dangerous, why is riding a bike there with his 8-year-old daughter?

Eugene
Eugene

I guess Rob's right; people have no business trying to cross Masonic, ride bikes on it, basically do anything on it except drive.

Rob Anderson
Rob Anderson

Nils Linke is the only traffic death on Masonic that I know of in the last 15 years, which hardly qualifies the street as "a death trap." In fact Masonic doesn't have that many accidents according to the city's own numbers, especially when you consider that the street carries more than 32,000 every day.http://www.sf-planning.org/ftp...

Turk/Masonic Neighbor
Turk/Masonic Neighbor

This news hits home. I not only live off Masonic, I was also very nearly hit just yesterday while legitimately crossing Fell and Masonic on foot. I hate to say this danger isn't something new to my experience as a pedestrian in my neighborhood. We need better protection NOW. Visibility, speed limits, restrictive turn signals, and police enforcement would be some great starts to saving our lives from preoccupied drivers who have the unfair advantage when up against a jogger, bicyclist, or a resident walking home with groceries. Let's get loud about this neighbors!

keenplanner
keenplanner

I was riding along Fell today, in the bike path. I watched aggressive drivers pass at speeds that I estimate to be 40-55 MPH. The signals, apparently timed for 30MPH, do little to slow drivers who turn into the street and speed up to catch the signal sequencing, or other drivers at the back of the pack who hammer to catch up with the front. Same for Masonic.

Oak and Fell are residential streets. The speed limit should be 25. MTA constantly denies that there is a problem, but everyone knows that there's rampant speeding. If MTA doesn't believe it, why not go out with a speed gun and measure the speed, rather than tell neighbors that it's not possible to drive that fast.

There's so much MTA could do if they weren't so busy accommodating drivers.

Rfkolbe
Rfkolbe

I think a concentrated effort at problem intersections by the police department would help.Say they concentrate on this intersection for a week, writing tickets for egregious violators.Then the next week they target another intersection -- word gets out. -- It could be paid for by the money collected from the tickets written.Isn't this the way it is supposed to work? Yes, we are limited on law enforcement --but hey -- isn't a red light runner hit with a $300 ticket?I am tired of the "we don't have the resources" line -- I would pay $50 for enforcement right now and I will be many SFranciscans could chip in more -if we saw some results.thank you for this story.rfkolbe

SOMALady
SOMALady

This is simple, really:*Enforce the law and cite every driver entering a crosswalk with pedestrians in it with attempted assault. *Enforce the law and cite every driver who hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk and crossing with the light with attempted murder.*Get SFPD out in force enough so drivers know the law has to be obeyed - it isn't a 'suggestion' or a 'guideline'.*If anyone says they are 'right to lifers', double the penalty - you should stand by your dogma even after the kid drops. Otherwise, you're a hypocrite.*STOP quoting ass***** who say the law should be obeyed because 'there are children and families'. I'M AN ADULT HUMAN BEING AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT BE MURDERED BY A MOTOR VEHICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE LAWS SUPPORT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Richard H
Richard H

Getting SFPD to do anything (or the DA for that matter) is beyond a herculean task. We'll have people living on Mars before that happens.

jamiewhitaker
jamiewhitaker

I've sat through 3 hearings on pedestrian safety in City Hall in the last few weeks, and I keep hearing from SFMTA representatives that there is no money to improve pedestrian safety. Bullshingles!

1) Program the intersections where pedestrians tend to get hit by drivers rounding corners too fast so that there is a pedestrian exclusive crossing cycle where all vehicles should be stopped (just like Fourth Street at Howard and at Folsom). Programming a traffic signal shouldn't cost $1 million or whatever ... SFMTA can do that right now, and it can start with Main & Harrison, 1st & Folsom, Essex & Folsom, 2nd & Folsom, 2nd & Harrison, and 2nd & Townsend. What's the hold up SFMTA??

2) For $10,000, SFMTA can get the crosswalks painted with zebra striping to help remind drivers that they are not on freeway ramps (much-needed in SoMa where there are 5 lanes all going in one direction on long, uninterrupted blocks). Fire Nate Ford, and don't replace him for one year (ditch his PR guy while you're at it) ... unless the City has to pay off some idiotic golden parachute just to get rid of the guy (yeah, I'm counting on it), that should provide funds for about 60 intersections to be painted at the government overpriced rate of $10,000 per intersection.

3) Lower the speed limits around Schools to 15 MPH as state law now allows, for Christ's sake.

4) Implement congestion pricing for weekday evening, outbound traffic ... this will hopefully push some worker commuters to use public transit instead while raising $60 - $80 million a year (according to the SFCTA's website on the subject) to help improve MUNI, bicycling, and ped safety

Somebody smack the SFMTA folks into reality - they only see the most expensive solutions when the top 3 listed above cost little to nothing compared to their Central Subway to Nowhere project that folks outside of the SFMTA forecast will lose the Agency another $7 million per year once built.

MrEricSir
MrEricSir

Doesn't changing signal timing require an EIR?

jamiewhitaker
jamiewhitaker

I don't know with certainty, but if it does, they should kick it in to the America's Cup EIR while they're prepping for 200,000 more folks ... or the Transit Center District Plan while they're preparing to increase zoning for commercial buildings downtown up to 1,000 feet (Transit Tower next to the new Transit Center)

Drewcab415
Drewcab415

part of the problem is that visibility is severely hampered by the hill at Masonic/Turk. I think changing the light timing would help i.e. a 3 second all directional red @ that intersection

Bay Area Gooners
Bay Area Gooners

And we still don't have justice for Nils Linke. Last time, I checked the drunk driver who hit him and drove off leaving him to die in the road, was still out on bail, while his lawyers get repeated continuances, delaying his trial, presumably hoping the public would forget.

Lauren
Lauren

and while it's unrelated to the problems on masonic, let's not forget that another murderer of a german tourist, Mechthild Schroeer, is still walking the streets, despite us knowing full well who he is. SF justice...

Richard H
Richard H

Your awesome DA at work! Following in the footsteps as other tough on crime pansies such as Terence Hallinan and Kamala Harris. I bet you sleep well at night knowing that Harris is the state's attorney general now. I know I do!

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