John Billovits is all too familiar with the perils of one of the city’s most hazardous intersections for bicyclists. For the past decade, he has traveled through the Market and Octavia intersection on his daily bicycle commute. As a senior planner at the San Francisco Planning Department, Billovits was also the project manager for the Market and Octavia Neighborhood Plan, and fought against building the Central Freeway touchdown on Market Street.
Right turns for eastbound drivers on Market Street are prohibited at Octavia because they present a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians. Allowing the right turn would also create a huge traffic queue on Market Street, causing congestion on the city’s most important transit and bicycle corridor. Billovits outlined the case for banning the right turn in this 2003 memo [pdf].
Drivers who have made the illegal sudden turn south onto the freeway, where there is a bike lane and pedestrian crossing, have caused numerous right-hook collisions over the years, leaving dozens of people hurt. Two people, a pedestrian and a bicyclist, have died from injuries suffered in collisions caused by drivers at the intersection.
Yesterday, Billovits became the latest victim. As he was pedaling his Bianchi Volpe through the intersection around 9:25 a.m., on his way to work at the Planning Department, a German tourist behind the wheel of a rental car made the dreaded right turn and sent the 49-year-old flying.
“I just kind of plowed right into it, and bounced off the car, flew over it, and landed on the concrete, kind of head first, on the other side,” a shaken Billovits told Streetsblog, just hours after being released from the hospital yesterday. “I had a helmet on, which is a sturdy helmet, and so it felt pretty good. I just kind of crumpled over to the side, and it happened really quick.”
“It doesn’t appear right now that I have any kind of broken bones, or broken back, or anything like that. I’m a little achy. I have to wait to see how my body reacts,” Billovits explained, adding that doctors are monitoring him for a concussion. “I wouldn’t say I’m seriously injured. I’m not broken down. I’m at home, you know. They brought me home this afternoon. I think I’ll be okay.”
Billovits wasn’t riding fast “because I’m not much of a speedster person,” and he always slows down because he gets off Market and takes the McCoppin Street cutoff for bicyclists. After the collision, he found himself conscious, but lying injured on the pavement, directly under the no right turn sign.
“I can’t imagine a situation where a citation would be more blatantly called for, you know what I mean? Somebody lying under the sign and a car there at an angle, obviously just made the turn, you know?”
But there was no citation issued. “Impairment is not suspected. No citation issued at this time,” a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department, Sgt. Michael Andraychak, wrote in an email to Streetsblog. He described the collision itself in cop talk that seems forgiving of the driver, with no mention that the turn was prohibited.
A small white Chevy sedan driven by an adult female, resident of Germany, made a turn from eastbound Market to Octavia on ramp to US 101.
An adult male bicyclist traveling eastbound Market Street contacted the Chevy, ejecting the bicyclist.
The driver of the car remained on scene. The bicyclist was transported by ambulance to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Impairment is not suspected. No citation issued at this time.
“I really am not aware of what transpired there, besides me just getting carted away,” he said of the police investigation. “This hasn’t happened to me before like this, but it was a little confusing. I’m in an accident and they took a report with a piece of paper that says I can request a copy of the report in writing in 7 days.”