SFMTA Installs Red Light Camera at Fell and Masonic

Just before Christmas, the SFMTA installed a camera at the corner of Fell and Masonic on the Panhandle to help enforce the left-turn signal frequently violated by drivers.

A driver violates the left-turn signal in front of a bicyclist at Fell and Masonic. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Dale Danley at the Panhandle Park Stewards blog first reported the new automated enforcement mechanism, as well as a crosswalk upgrade at the nearby Oak Street intersection.

The red light camera was installed just days after a December 20 crash in which a driver injured a man on his bicycle at the busy crossing.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the SF Examiner the camera will be activated this month and that fines “will range from $480 to $522, depending on whether the offender takes traffic school.”

According to the SFMTA website, San Francisco was the first city in California to pilot photo enforcement in 1996, and the program resulted in a 40 percent decrease in violations at five intersections after six months. As of 2010 [PDF], 24 intersections in the city were photo-enforced.

The additional enforcement could provide a quick safety boost, but as Bike NoPa writer Michael Helquist pointed out in the Examiner, the number one priority for the neighborhood is the “Boulevard” redesign of Masonic. That project was approved by the SFMTA board of directors in the summer. However, advocates are concerned that Mayor Ed Lee’s commitment to the redesign has waned and that implementation could get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.

See photos of the improvements after the break.

Photo: ##http://panhandlepark.blogspot.com/2011/12/santa-brought-us-masonic-traffic-safety.html##Panhandle Park Stewards##
The upgraded crosswalk at Oak and Masonic. Photo: ##http://panhandlepark.blogspot.com/2011/12/santa-brought-us-masonic-traffic-safety.html##Panhandle Park Stewards##
  • Lauren Myers

    I just got a ticket for $480 for making a left turn at this stop sign. Saftyfirst, this is EXACTLY what happened to me. The lights are so confusing, the red arrow being higher and on the opposite side of the street. There is no signage, and by the time you get up to the front, you go because the furthest light to the left (which is exactly the bicycle light is green, so you go). I had no idea I couldn’t make a left until the passenger of my car told me they took my picture and I couldn’t yet. Very confusing! I am a very safe driver and I would never run a red light intentionally… I always slow down! I wish there was a sign or something to prepare you that there is a red arrow earlier. 

  • Lauren Myers

    I just got a ticket for $480 for making a left turn at this stop sign. Saftyfirst, this is EXACTLY what happened to me. The lights are so confusing, the red arrow being higher and on the opposite side of the street. There is no signage, and by the time you get up to the front, you go because the furthest light to the left (which is actually the bicycle light) is green, so you go. I had no idea I couldn’t make a left until the passenger of my car told me they took my picture and I couldn’t go yet. Very confusing! I am a very safe driver and I would never run a red light intentionally… I always slow down! I wish there was a sign or something to prepare you that there is a red arrow earlier, or at least in plain view of the left turn lane (like most other lights in SF). I want to try and fight this ticket because it’s not any safer if people don’t understand why the traffic light is there until after they run the light!

  • “Red Arrow” “Green Bicycle”. Confusion reigns.

  • Lauren Myers

    Murphstahoe, if you take a look at the image above, that is what the driver sees. Do you see a green bicycle on the far left? I didn’t know it was a green bicycle until I got out of the car and took pictures of the scene for court. I do not ride bikes, so this is the first bike light I have ever seen. I definitely agree that it should be white instead of green to eliminate this problem. I do not live in this particular area anymore, but I lived there in 2007, prior to the left lane and red arrow system being installed (when the method was to scan for pedestrians and bikes before turning left). When I lived near the Panhandle, I ran around it every morning at least twice for exercise, so I know how many people on foot don’t mind the red light there. When driving, I always look for pedestrians and cyclists before I make a turn (as anyone driving should do). If there was proper signage, I doubt anyone would continue to run the red arrow. I’m just posting this to let you and the other readers know. No need to be nasty, because the truth is IT IS CONFUSING for people unfamiliar with the intersection. I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t. Hopefully the city will see the need for proper signage there and that will likely resolve the dangerous flaw with that intersection.

  • mikesonn

    Hopefully your eyes aren’t as bad as your camera phone.

  • “the method was to scan for pedestrians and bikes before turning left”

    The number of accidents during that timeframe shows that this system was pretty confusing as well.

  • “by the time you get up to the front, you go
    because the furthest light to the left (which is actually the bicycle
    light) is green, so you go.”

    Think about this one for a second. To get to the front, you either
    1) Arrived at the intersection while the light was green for Masonic, red for you, red for bikes, red for everybody. Then the bicycle light turns green, but your red arrow is still right there, primary.
    or
    2) You were following other cars through the intersection. At this point the bicycle light is red. Apparently you are able to figure out that there is this green arrow is letting you turn left despite the red bicycle light.  The converse is not true?

    I feel for you paying your ticket, I’ve gotten a ticket before, it’s a lot of money. My reaction was “I need to be a more attentive driver” not “the city trapped me”. A big red arrow is a pretty clear indicator that you’re not supposed to turn. Fortunately for all of us, you got a cheap lesson. Had you run someone over and killed them due to not figuring out the red arrow, you might have to do 20-30 hour of community service as well.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    In the interest of justice and safety, we are trying to get a group together to encourage the city to make some changes to this intersection. If you are interested in joining us, please email: fellmasoniccameraticket@gmail.com

    My experience with this intersection is as follows. I received a $480 ticket in the mail for running the left red arrow. My main concern with this, in addition to the intersection being confusing, is that I did not run the red light. The images and the video the city provided me with show me stopping at the red light before entering the intersection. I tried to communicate this error over the phone to the police department, but was told my only option is to contest this in court.This intersection is confusing to drivers. It literally sends us mixed signals. murphstahoe, I understand your point of view that drivers must be attentive. However in this case, the intersection is confusing to a large number of drivers making it unsafe for  pedestrians, bicyclists as well as drivers. The intention of the red arrow is to reduce accidents, but drivers are running the red arrow because they cannot see it or they are confused by all the green lights. In my opinion, installing a camera in this intersection was not the best allocation of money on the city’s part if the desired outcome was to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety. The camera does not help drivers see the red arrow. What would reduce accidents is if the arrow was made obvious, and perhaps a sign was posted indicating that a driver cannot turn left on the red arrow. This is a very unique intersection, and it requires more clarity for the driver. 

    While I agree that camera enforcement deters drivers from intentionally running red lights, the camera does not deter drivers from taking an action they cannot determine as illegal. 

    Thank you for reading. Again, please join us as we fight this. Many people have unfairly received a ticket at this intersection and we believe the city needs to make some changes. At this point, the city appears to be profiting greatly at the expense of pedestrian and bicyclist safety. If enough of us fight this together, the city will not be able to ignore us.

    Please contact us here: fellmasoniccameraticket@gmail.com

  • jjsmack

    Umm, you can’t turn left on a red arrow whether or not you stop first. How is that an unfair ticket? It’s the same as a sign that says no left on red. In any event, drivers should be erring on the side of caution and not make the turn if they’re confused, and the ticket is a good reminder that your decision could have seriously jeopardized someone’s safety.

    What’s so confusing about a red arrow? They’re used all over the country, and if you did a left on a red arrow in any of those other places, you’d promptly get a ticket for running a red if caught.

    I would argue that, with people like you paying $480 a pop, it was a *great* allocation of the city’s money.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    jjsmack, I did not run the red arrow. I stopped completely, and only proceeded after the light turned green… I stopped at the light, before entering the intersection (as opposed to stopping in the intersection). This is shown in the images and the video captured by the camera. 

    According to the citation that I received, the camera snaps a series of images if you are nearing the intersection over a certain speed (so the camera often captures images of people who do not actually run the light, they are just going a little fast before stopping). Technicians and an officer are supposed to review the images before issuing the ticket, but clearly this did not occur in my case.

  • jim

    This sounds like a case of technician error and has nothing to do with the intersection.  If you didn’t run the light and the photos show that, contest the ticket.  It will be pretty easy for the courts to figure out.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    I do not doubt that camera lights deter drivers from intentionally breaking the law thus reducing accidents. However, it seems like clear traffic signals would reduce accidents even more. If safety is the main concern in this situation, then we should all be on the same side of the argument: The camera light should stay AND the intersection lights should be less confusing. This will make it safer for everybody.

  • Question: How does the camera make the intersection less safe?

    Question: How does the current traffic light setup make it less safe than before?

  • jjsmack

    It wasn’t clear to me in your original post that you got a ticket when the arrow was green, in that case I agree the ticket is unwarranted.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    I think you make valid points, and I really do appreciate that the city is trying to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

    However, the issue with this specific intersection is that it is very unique, even in SF, to see a left turn red arrow when turning from way one street. Bicycle signals are also rare in the city, and from the drivers point of view, the bike signal looks like a regular light (the bicycle shape cannot be made out from the intersection). I was able to see the arrow in time to stop before entering the intersection, however it was very confusing and difficult to see the red arrow. The cars behind me that were honking at me to go were also annoying (the cars behind the front car cannot see the red arrow). The city still sent me a $480 ticket despite the “evidence” showing that I stopped.I am not saying this is an intentional trap that the city set up. This is a new light, and the traffic signals are relatively new as well. There is often a trial and error process, and in the interest of safety I think it is important to voice these concerns to the city so that changes can be made.The majority of drivers in this intersection do not see the red arrow in time to stop. If you observe this intersection, you will see a violation occur. It seems to happen multiple times a day. Traffic signals should not be so confusing. It would be safer for everybody if a sign was put up and if the red arrow was more prominent. As a driver, I agree that we should be as attentive as possible and learn from these kinds of experiences. However, if almost every driver is having trouble with this intersection, then something needs to change to make it safer for everybody. Unless that light is more prominent, accidents will continue to occur.

  • jjsmack

    I would propose: Instead of making the bike signal look like a traffic light, change it so that it’s a big lit-up green circle with a picture of a bike in the middle, and make it blink.

    Further, there should be an additional signal arm on the left side of the street, showing 2 red left turn arrows in separate signal heads, and a third signal head with a straight-thru arrow for cars in the next lane to the right.

  • Anonymous

    @5f1eadd017fb25ace6b2fe143e64b7e6:disqus As others have pointed out, it sounds like you didn’t in fact run the red light. That doesn’t sound like a problem with the concept of the red light camera, but with the fact that it isn’t working correctly (or technicians aren’t reviewing it correctly).

    “My main concern with this, in addition to the intersection being confusing, is that I did not run the red light.”

    You need to separate out the two issues. Like I said, if you didn’t run the red light, then that was a mistake and you need to go to court and you’ll obviously win. But why are you conflating this with the intersection being “confusing”? There are plenty of confusing intersections in cities all over the world, but that doesn’t mean motorists have a right to not pay attention and that somehow the unlucky pedestrians or cyclists who get hit by a minority of cars who can’t seem to handle paying attention must instead pay the price. And don’t get me wrong: I’m all for making intersections less confusing, but you seem to be against the red-light camera? Why? You seem to be saying: well, if the intersection is going to be confusing, don’t punish people for not paying attention. You should be for the red-light camera but also for making the lights more clear. Otherwise, it kinda sounds like you’re making an excuse for messing up ….

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    jim, thank you for your post. I agree, I believe this to be a technician error. The reason I posted about the intersection is because I almost ran the red light, but stopped in time. The red light is hard to see, and the intersection is confusing. A bicyclist friend of mine got hit by a car in this intersection a few years back, and I am saddened to see that the city’s efforts to install proper signal lights for vehicles has not been as effective in promoting safety as it should have been. This is a dangerous intersection, and there is no room for ambiguity or confusing signals.

    murphstahoe, thank you for your questions. To clarify, I don’t think the camera light should be removed nor do I think it is making the intersection less safe. However, the camera is not making the intersection safer, which was the stated intention. Therefore, action should be taken by the city to make the intersection safer and that is what I am trying to accomplish.If drivers are having issues seeing the red arrow, a camera will not help clear up the confusion in regards to the traffic signals in the area. The lack of visibility of the traffic signal is a safety concern, but the cause of the safety concern was not addressed by the city when they installed the cameras.This is a list of what I understand the city’s efforts to be in an attempt to make this intersection safer over the past few years:1. Accidents happen often in this intersection.2. The city set up a bicycle signal, and added a red arrow for vehicles turning left. 3. Vehicles continue to run the red arrow, causing accidents. (Despite a decrease in accidents, accidents still occur and vehicles often run the red arrow light.)4. The city installs a camera to deter vehicles from running the red arrow, but does not install new red arrow lights or post signs indicating there is a left turn signal. Additionally, the red arrow is not visible for all drivers in the left turn lane.5. Vehicles continue to run the red arrow light because the camera does not help explain the confusing intersection or provide them with better visibility of the traffic signals.Safety should be the top concern, so the traffic signals should have been changed to become more obvious for drivers when the camera was installed. If the majority of drivers cannot recognize a signal, the signal needs to change in order to prevent accidents.This is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians and bicyclists. The traffic signal is relatively new, and the camera has been up for two months. I believe this is a trial and error process, and the city needs to change the signals in this intersection otherwise accidents will continue to occur. To explain the statement from my original post: “At this point, the city appears to be profiting greatly at the expense of pedestrian and bicyclist safety.” – Instead of installing less confusing traffic signals, the city installed a camera without addressing the ambiguity of the traffic signals that led to a high amount of traffic violations. Confused drivers continue to run the intersection many times a day. (Just stand on the corner for 15 minutes and count the number of violations…) To sum it up, the city did not address the safety concern that arises from the confusing traffic signals, and is now making $480 per violation due to the confusing (there for unsafe) signals. A more logical use of tax payer money would have been to make the traffic signals less confusing, then (if violations did not decrease) install a camera. 

  • mikesonn

    These are two separate issues, like @jd_x:disqus stated.

    @5f1eadd017fb25ace6b2fe143e64b7e6:disqus seems to just be venting about the system and found a forum in which to do so. @twitter-14678929:disqus questions are applicable and should be answered.

  • The “confusing signals” do not make the intersection less safe than before. Before, drivers got a far less confusing “Green light”. It was expected that nobody would get run over because one thing that should not be confusing to anyone is that you are not to turn left if there is a person in the crosswalk.

    The arrow has made the intersection *more* safe – the majority of drivers are not confused by it, don’t run it, and are therefore prevented from making the further error of failing to yield. Someone who is confused by a red arrow and a green bike would hopefully nonetheless be able to figure out “if I turn left now I will mow this person over”.

    I applaud your efforts to improve the signal but all that really should do is lower the number of traffic tickets, not improve safety. If the drivers have not figured out the key point – “if I turn left now I will mow this person over” – then the best remedy is to revoke their drivers licenses.

  • As I’ve pointed out a number to times, the city’s own studies show that this intersection is not particularly unsafe. It’s all anti-car hysteria fostered by the Bicycle Coalition to further its anti-car agenda.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-report-debunks-big-lie-about.html 

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

     

     @mikesonn:disqus  and @jd_x:disqus – Perhaps I should have separated my personal experience from my post that this intersection is not safe. I have addressed the questions of  @twitter-14678929:disqus in my previous post. (I apologize for the lack of formatting, it was lost when I submitted the post.)

    I am currently in the process of contesting my ticket in court, and simply wanted to share my experience with this intersection to illustrate that I am aware of the ambiguity in the signs first-hand. My efforts are in the interest of safety, and I regret unintentionally implying otherwise in post. In fact, I believe stating that I did not actually run the red light gives me more credibility as I don’t really have anything to vent about. This is a minor inconvenience for me that will be cleared up in court. My personal experience aside, the best course of action for the city would be to make the signs less confusing in order to prevent further accidents. After the traffic signals are updated, the camera should stay as I do believe cameras are a deterrent for intentionally breaking the law.

    @d2422f1b9beb8650ff31e63b23372f71:disqus  is on the right track with his signal change proposal. There really should not be any confusion here. It is too dangerous. 

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    @twitter-14678929:disqus , I never said the signal made the intersection less safe. I said the camera does not make the intersection more safe. (To clarify, I am not saying the camera makes the intersection less safe, it is just not contributing to safety in the way that was intended.)I am curious where you base your statements that the majority of drivers in this particular intersection are not confused by this intersection? Do you have facts and statistics to back up your claims?I agree with you, if a driver sees a green light and turns without seeing a pedestrian or a bicyclist, that driver should have their licenses taken away. That is not what is happening at this intersection.The signs are ambiguous, and there are not always pedestrians or bicyclists in the crosswalk so a driver only has the traffic signals to follow.In regards to your post: “I applaud your efforts to improve the signal but all that really should do is lower the number of traffic tickets, not improve safety. “Your logic is not sound.You agree that an improved signal would lower traffic tickets, but you say that this would not make the intersection safer. Why would a new traffic signal lower the number of traffic tickets? Could it possibly be because more drivers would see the signal? If more drivers saw the signal, then less drivers would run the red light. How is that not a safer intersection?I am not sure why I am being met with so much opposition. I think the camera should stay and I believe the ambiguous traffic signal should be improved in order to improve safety. 

  • jjsmack

    If there’s been a 71% increase in bike traffic thru that intersection since 2006 then the accident rate has dropped dramatically, even as the absolute # of collisions with bikes stays the same, and the intersection is therefore safer. Yes, that’s assuming the increase in bike traffic there is the same as cited in the latest bike counts, but there’s been an indisputable and significant increase in bike ridership in that time nevertheless.

    These safety improvements are especially important once the new separated bike lane is in place as the # of cyclists in the area may increase at an even greater rate

  • You say – I am curious where you base your statements that the majority of drivers
    in this particular intersection are not confused by this intersection? 

    Rob says – “the city’s own studies show that this intersection is not particularly
    unsafe. It’s all anti-car hysteria fostered by the Bicycle Coalition to
    further its anti-car agenda.”

    Snark aside – if the majority of drivers were confused by this intersection, the number of tickets and collisons would be several orders of magnitude higher.

    You say -I am not sure why I am being met with so much opposition.

    Because no matter how many times you claim that this is about safety, the clear belief is that this is about traffic tickets. Witness this.

    You say – Your logic is not sound.You agree that an improved signal would lower
    traffic tickets, but you say that this would not make the intersection
    safer. Why would a new traffic signal lower the number of traffic tickets?
    Could it possibly be because more drivers would see the signal? If more
    drivers saw the signal, then less drivers would run the red light. How
    is that not a safer intersection?

    Most drivers understand the signal. Among those that do not understand the signal, most understand the concept of not running someone over. The population you are trying to affect in a manner that improves safety with an even more obvious signal is very small.

    The population that does not understand the signal but does understand not running over someone is larger. The primary impact of manipulating the signalling of the intersection would be to reduce the number of tickets to that population. Safety would be a negligible secondary impact. Given a fixed budget, now that we have the red arrow this might not be the proper direction for a budget for safety improvements (Rob Anderson’s head is now spinning that I would say that, but I think Rob would claim that the arrow was a waste of money and I disagree).

    You say – I said the camera does not make the intersection more safe.

    There are reams of evidence showing that red light cameras do make intersections more safe. If nothing else I’m pretty sure you will never run that light again… 😉

  • peternatural

    Rob, the city’s own studies show that this intersection is tied for 5th most dangerous in the city, with 5-6 injury accidents per year. Thank you for linking to the report that contains those facts.

    Your blithe dismissal of all those injury accidents is simply a product of your anti-bike hysteria.

  • Yeah, peter, but that injury rate has stayed constant, ergo “not particularly unsafe”

  • mikesonn

    Much like Rob’s views on CEQA, “the status quo is as good as it’s going to get” so don’t change anything.

  • Peter:

    Not true. See page 8 of the latest SF Collisions Report for the Highest Collision Intersections:
    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/rtraffic/documents/Collision_report_2009.pdf

    Then look at page 9, where Masonic and Fell does make a three-year list. But the report on page 16 provides context with accident numbers from 2000 through 2009. Turns out that the intersection has had a consistent average of 6 accidents a year for that ten-year period. The report says: “This location has had a stable pattern since 2006 of 6 to 5 reported intersection collisions a year.”

    The bike-shaped traffic signal was installed in 2008, and, after a full year of operation, there were—wait for it—six accidents at that intersection in 2009!

  • Mike: My point is that the SFBC’s campaign of hysteria about this intersection has never been justified by the facts. Nor, by the way, do city reports tell us who’s responsible for those accidents. Street design can only go so far in making people safe, but—this bulletin just in—people driving autos and people riding bikes sometimes like to try to beat traffic lights.

    When I cross that intersection as a pedestrian—usually traveling north—I’m more concerned with cyclists on the path rushing to beat the light than I am with motor vehicles.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

     @twitter-14678929:disqus , thank you for reading my response and replying to it. If I understood you correctly, you believe that improving the light will not impact safety enough and it is your opinion that my main concern is reducing traffic tickets as opposed to increasing safety. Additionally, you agree that improving the traffic signal would reduce the amount of traffic citations issued. This means that you do not disagree with me, rather you just do not support the cause of justice for drivers in this interesection. Yes, I believe it is unjust for the city to issue tickets when the signal is ambiguous. I also believe that it is wrong for a city to spend money on installing cameras in a confusing intersection, when a new signal would have been a better use of money. Instead of a camera, a new signal would have made the red arrow more obvious for drivers and would also increase safety. (Unlike the camera, which really just ensures that every confused driver will get a ticket. No increase in safety in this specific case…)

    I want to clarify, I did not run the red light. I saw it in time and stopped, but was issued a ticket in error. (The photo evidence and video show me stopping at the red light. I did not enter the intersection and I did not proceed until the light turned green.) In my ongoing effort to contest this, I have met many people who have had similar experiences at this intersection. Yes, we are driven by justice but safety is also a concern. I jog in the panhandle almost every day, and cross that intersection as a jogger often. Additionally, a friend of mine was hit by car while riding her bicycle at this intersection. Please don’t assume you fully understand my intentions. My intentions, as I stated in my original post, are justice AND  safety.
    That being said, I agree with you that traffic cameras make intersections safer, however in this case the camera does not help make the confusing light less ambiguous. 

    Improving the signal would reduce traffic tickets – by saying this, you agree with me that the intersection is unnecessarily confusing to drivers. Perhaps it is a small amount of drivers that are confused, or maybe it is a larger amount. The truth is that neither of us really know the actual numbers, and we would have to collect data for this particular intersection to determine how many drivers are confused by the intersection.

    Drivers know to avoid crosswalk traffic when turning left, but saying that replacing a confusing traffic signal is not important because it would mostly bring justice to drivers and only supply a minimal additional safety to pedestrians and bicyclists seems unfair to drivers. It is ok not to actively support us in our attempt to find justice, but to say that we are wrong to ask the city to provide proper signals still does not make sense to me. Signals only work if drivers can understand them.

    I agree with you that the city is on a fixed budget, and must be careful. This is why it is frustrating that instead of fixing the signals of an ambiguous intersection, the city chose to install a camera. Traffic cameras are very expensive, and in this case do not serve as a deterrent for running a red light, because the light is still confusing. If the city truly was concerned with the safety of this intersection, then the city did not properly allocate funds. 

  • Yes, I believe it is unjust for the city to issue tickets when the signal is ambiguous.

    Finally you stopped pretending this is about safety. Doesn’t it feel better?

  • peternatural

    Okay, Rob, let’s take this slow.

    You said:  “…the city’s own studies show that this intersection is not particularly unsafe.”

    I replied: “…the city’s own studies show that this intersection is tied for 5th most
    dangerous in the city, with 5-6 injury accidents per year.”

    You replied: “Not true. See page 8 of the latest SF Collisions Report…”

    That report shows that Fell/Masonic is not tied for fifth most dangerous in the entire city in the latest 1-year statistics, but it IS tied for 5th most dangerous in the latest 3-year statistics, covering 2007-2009 (see p. 9). And the rate of injury accidents has held steady at around 6 per year for the past 10 years.

    So if you use the latest statistics, Fell/Masonic is no longer tied for 5th most dangerous in the whole city, but it does seem to be in the top 20 most dangerous. Estimating there are over 8,000 intersections in the city, that means this intersection is more dangerous than 99.75% of intersections, with an injury accident every 2 months on average.

    So the untrue statement was yours: “…the city’s own studies show that this intersection is not particularly unsafe.”

    Thanks for pointing out the report that contains these facts!

  • The point I make here is the years-long campaign by the Bicycle Coalition about the Fell/Masonic intersection based on the claim that there’s an ongoing safety emergency there, that cyclists are in eminent danger from motorists. As you concede, the number of accidents there has been steady for ten years. So where’s the emergency? Why not a campaign on all the other intersections on the two lists? Besides, as I pointed out, all the changes urged by the Bicycle Coalition have now been made to no effect.

    It’s just a busy city intersection like many others. As the city tells us, more than 32,000 vehicles use Masonic Avenue every day, and more than 67,000 use Oak and Fell. Seems like six accidents a year is not any kind of an emergency.

    That intersection was singled out by the Bicycle Coalition to be used in its campaign to convince City Hall and the public that the streets of SF are so dangerous that anti-car “calming” measures had to be taken, including of course the Bicycle Plan.

  • mikesonn

    Aaron, can you move Rob’s comments to where they belong?

  • Aaron Bialick

    @mikesonn:disqus I actually can’t, but Rob, you seriously need to use the reply button. Given that I’ve seen that you can use it, I suspect the only reason you don’t is to promote the visibility of your comments.

  • peternatural

    Fair enough. I guess reasonable people can differ on whether or not it’s worth addressing an intersection that has approximately one injury accident every 2 months.

  • Sprague

    It’s entirely reasonable for the city to attempt to improve safety at what may be one of the least safe points on one of the city’s most popular bike routes.  The Panhandle bike path is well used seven days a week.  Further improvements are underway (or in the planning process) to the bike infrastructure in Golden Gate Park (as well as further east along Fell and/or Oak) and these new improvements will likely result in higher bicycle usage of the Panhandle path.

    In response to other recent comments on this subject, it is worth noting that the city did decrease the visibilty of the green bike light, from the vantage point of the left turn lane, so that motorists were less apt to confuse it with a green light for them.  This occurred about a year or two ago and was covered by streetsblog.

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    UPDATE: I had my court date, and was found not guilty. There were about seven people there contesting tickets received at this intersection.
    Of the seven people who contested the ticket, the two (including me) who were sent a ticket without actually running the light were found not guilty. However the other five had mixed results.

    The first two people were found guilty and had to pay the amount in full. Neither of them described the confusing intersection. Then, the next two people had not actually run the red light, and they were found not guilty. By this point the judge was getting suspicious of the intersection, and the officer confirmed that all the red light camera violations for the day were for the same intersection.

    Then another person went up who had actually run the light, but he explained to the judge that the light is confusing. He showed her pictures and pointed out that seven people were in the court on that day contesting their tickets at this intersection. He explained his case well, and the judge agreed that the intersection was confusing and she found him not guilty despite the fact that he ran the red light

    I left after that point, but I can only assume that the other person was found not guilty as well.

    I hope that anybody who receives a ticket at this intersection chooses to contest it. If enough people fight the city on this, they will have no choice but to change the light. It is confusing and the camera set-up at a confusing intersection really seems like a trap for drivers. The intersection is also unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists as it gives them a false sense of security.
    If you want more information, please email: fellmasoniccameraticket@gmail.com

  • Fellmasoniccameraticket

    I hope  you fought this ticket! I recently did and was found not-guilty. The judge agreed that the intersection is confusing to vehicles turning left.

  • some guy

    I think the reason why drivers have problems with this intersection is not because they are self-absorbed a-holes as the bike community would have you believe, but because this intersection is totally unique, and totally flawed in its design. Most drivers do not expect to see a left turn arrow on a one-way street with no dedicated left turn lane. I mean where else does something like this exist? The City ought to make the left most lane a “left turn only” lane with proper striping and signage and either hang the left turn arrow light directly in line with that lane and/or put another left turn light on southeast corner. Of course this might mean that we would have to do away with some parking spaces on Fell, but so be it. The absence of cars parked on the curb would also increase the visibility of cyclists/peds using the path as they approach the intersection from the east. If turning left from Fell onto Masonic felt more or less like you were exiting Fell, my guess is you would see a lot less driver confusion and fewer drivers errantly coming into the intersection on a red arrow. It seems like this would make things a whole lot safer.

  • There is already a dedicated left-turn lane along the curb and two left-turn signals.

  • No

    It’s not just turning traffic that’s a problem. Because they let south bound traffic turn east on Oak, cars regularly jocky for position and vehicles get stuck in the Masonic/Fell intersection. I note that the cameras don’t appear to cover north or south-bound traffic as they’re only pointed east and west. They don’t have any “keep lane clear” stripes on Masonic, which would allow people to back up if stuck.

  • Mm__observer

    Just rode past this intersection today and spotted at least one new sign, a “No turn on red arrow” sign. Granted, in SFMTA’s ever-inefficient way, they decided to post it on the first red light (furthest from the intersection) and ABOVE the light itself–which is VERY high up and not as visible as a sign positioned lower. As with the rest of this intersection, they’ve half-assed their “improvements”. A second sign, closer to eye level and closer to the many lights at that actual corner, would be much more effective. But no, I guess they overlooked that too. Or they just want to keep the camera money coming in while having a sorry excuse for an improvement. Great mediocre work as always, SFMTA!

  • Mm__observer

    Oh btw, if you get a ticket here, and run all the way through the light, you’re probably f*cked. Hard to argue that if it’s on film/video for the judge and police to see. You can try arguing your case that it’s confusing, but with the new (and not-so-obviously-placed) sign warning against a left turn on the arrow, well, you’d be hard pressed to win, in my opinion. 

    If you think your judge might be sympathetic go for it, but be prepared to lose, pay the full fine, and possibly lose your chance for traffic school (at the judge’s discretion). Sit on a hour of traffic court (yes, you’re allowed) to get an idea of how it works, and what to say/not to say, and how different judges react. Come later in the session since the first hour or so will be taken up by lawyer/police testimony–in-person appeals appear to be saved for last, after all the absentias, etc, have been heard. On the other hand, if you don’t actually go all the way through the intersection, or didn’t actually run the light (some sort of camera/equipment malfunction), and the video shows that, by all means, fight it! At the very least you can ask that it be reduced to a lesser charge such as blocking the crosswalk. 

  • Mm__observer

    “I think the reason why drivers have problems with this intersection is not because they are self-absorbed a-holes as the bike community would have you believe, but because this intersection is totally unique, and totally flawed in its design. Most drivers do not expect to see a left turn arrow on a one-way street with no dedicated left turn lane.”

    Exactly. For those on bikes, keep in mind that many of us drivers also ride bikes (because who can bike to Ikea and back with a mattres on our back?) and I’m guessing a fair amount of those biking also have cars, or drive on occasion. It really is a badly designed intersection that needs a re-vamp. Want it safer, SFMTA? Then shut down traffic in *all* directions to let bikes ride unimpeded, with traffic stopped all around. And put some well-placed, obvious signs in warning of that red arrow! Then it’s fair to all…

  • Anonymous

    Of course the reasonable thing to do here would be to dig a bike/ped tunnel under this intersection since it is essentially the bike freeway through this portion of the city.  oh but $$$, too bad.

  • mikesonn

    How is that reasonable?

  • sfmta sucks

    Well, they’re generating $3 million/year in revenue from the cameras. If they could earmark those funds they would have enough for a tunnel or bridge in a few years.

  • sfmta sucks

    There’s no need to go to traffic court, at least not initially anyway. I’m currently attempting to fight this through a Trial by Written Declaration. If you’re found guilty you can request a Trial de Novo and then appear before a judge. I’m hoping it doesn’t go that far, but who knows in this town.