Another Bicyclist Injured at Market/Octavia; Driver Not Cited

2124046450_d89da2d544.jpgFlickr photo: sfbike
San Francisco's most dangerous intersection for bicyclists was the scene of yet another crash this morning, caused by a driver making an illegal right turn onto the freeway on southbound Market Street at Octavia Boulevard. 

San Francisco Police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said it happened around 8:25 a.m. The driver called 911 to report that she hit a 29-year-old San Francisco woman riding a bicycle.  The bicyclist was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with injuries to her face and was expected to be released.

"I don't know the extent of the facial injuries but it's non-life threatening and she was able to talk to the officers," said Tomioka. Her bike was "taken into police custody" and will remain at the Mission station until she's able to pick it up.

When asked if the driver, an unidentified San Francisco woman, had been cited, Tomioka said she had not, "but that doesn't mean that she won't be cited. She may be issued a citation at a later date." She added, "In this case, it was the driver who actually called it in and took responsibility."

But why wasn't she cited on the spot, if she was the one who called 911 and admitted to making an illegal right turn? 

"The officer wasn't on the scene to witness the accident. And sometimes they'll look for supporting evidence, interview witnesses more thoroughly, then determine if a citation is in fact appropriate."

According to Streetsblog San Francisco commenter Whit, there were numerous witnesses "waiting around to speak with the police."

The fact that the driver hasn't yet been cited is disturbing to Andy Thornley, the program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, but he isn't surprised. When a bicyclist was severely injured at the intersection by a truck driver who took off but was later stopped, Thornley said police refused to charge him with a hit-and-run.

"Everyone was appalled by that, the fact that you could hurt someone so badly with a careless act of your truck and the worst thing that would happen is a $120 ticket for making an illegal turn,"he said. "It woke a lot of people up to the whole notion of traffic justice and the huge disconnect between acts of carelessness with a motor vehicle and the consequences, which are almost none."

Streetsblog San Francisco has requested numbers from the SFPD on the amount of citations that have been issued to illegal right turn drivers at Market/Octavia since 2005, when Market Street reopened after a portion of the Central Freeway was removed.

As we've written many times, Market/Octavia is ground zero in the debate over bicycle safety in the city. The MTA now says at least 18 crashes have been reported at the intersection in the last three years between cyclists and drivers making illegal right turns onto Highway 101.

When the MTA Board backed the removal of the bike lane in response to safety concerns in January, the SFBC, along with some high-profile politicians, rallied to save it, arguing it would make the intersection more dangerous. In the end, a judge refused to grant a modification to the bike injunction that would have, at the time, allowed MTA engineers to merge bicycle and motor vehicle traffic. 

MTA spokesperson Judson True said the plan for a shared lane is what remains on the table and will be reconsidered when the injunction is lifted sometime in June.

"Our big hope continues to be changing the streetscape to make the bike lane more evident, coloring the bike lane, raising the bike lane as it passes through the intersection," said Thornley. "It's much too open. It looks much too much like a freeway on ramp and not enough like a city intersection."

Thornley would also like to see camera enforcement at the intersection, something that requires state legislation. A bill that would have done just that failed last year in the Legislature because of opposition from State Senator Leland Yee.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. Special thanks to bicyclist Ted Goldberg at KCBS for the original tip on this story.