SFPD Declares Open Season on Pedestrians With the Right of Way

Despite clear video footage showing a shuttle bus driver running over a man in a crosswalk at Eddy and Leavenworth Streets yesterday, pinning him for 20 minutes, San Francisco police saw no reason to even issue a citation.

The victim, who walked with a cane, was making his way through a crosswalk with highly visible markings while he had the walk signal. He was hospitalized after the crash with several broken bones. But because the driver stayed at the scene and was “cooperative,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told ABC 7 that police determined it to be nothing more than “an unfortunate traffic collision.”

“This video is shocking. You can see how dangerous a driver’s impatience really is,” said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk SF. “Everyone I know has stories of cars that fail to yield when they’re crossing the street. Here we see how deadly that can be. Dangerous driving has been tolerated for too long. There has got to be a penalty.”

disproportionately high number of pedestrians are run over by drivers in the Tenderloin. In November 2010, a UCSF shuttle bus driver was also caught on video killing a 65-year-old woman in a crosswalk at Leavenworth and Geary just three blocks away. The SFPD didn’t cite that driver either.

Although police typically charge drivers in similar cases if they are drunk or flee the scene, the SFPD apparently finds no fault with drivers who claim ignorance, no matter how clear the evidence of criminal negligence is.

“Dangerous driving has got to be penalized, or it’s not going to stop,” said Stampe. “We all have the right to walk safely in the city. The police, MTA, and the District Attorney need to show that they’re committed to defending safe walking.”

  • Caleb

    There is a lot of talk lately about “Distracted Driving”, perhaps more emphasis needs to also be placed on “Impatient Driving”, which can be equally as dangerous. 

    How could SFPD watch this video and not at least cite for reckless driving?  Hopefully the victim files a suit against this driver.

  • Phoca2004

    The driver in the van at a minimum needs to be cited for violation of CVC 21950. Middle of the day, clear visibility, pedestrian in walkway with the walk light. The law says:
    Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

    21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way
    to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or
    within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

    (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using
    due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb
    or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that
    is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may
    unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked
    crosswalk.

    (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked
    or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the
    speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation
    of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

    (d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty
    of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any
    marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

    Are the laws a joke?

  • Overseas observer

    Wow. It’s an ‘unfortunate accident’ to ignore yield laws on pedestrians crossing at the right place at the right time when you’re driving a 5 ton bus.
     

  • It is truly horrible to see just how hard the shuttle van hit that pedestrian. And then to pin him under the vehicle for twenty minutes.

    Drivers would be far more careful if all collisions (unless the other party were 100% at fault) resulted in an automatic three week license suspension.You wouldn’t even need to fine people or put points on their license. Three measly weeks of threatened inconvenience and collisions would drop 90%. (Of course penalties for driving with a suspended license would have to be *very* severe, i.e. two full years of a suspended license plus a hefty fine.) People who drive for a living would especially learn to be extremely careful.

  • The Greasybear

    The SFPD’s outrageous bias in favor of the most harmful road users is on display yet again, in what I can only describe as a denial of justice for the injured pedestrian. What is it going to take to get the SFPD to overcome its windshield bias and finally start doing its job? Our shared roadways will never be safe for the most vulnerable users if motorists know they can always count on the SFPD to protect them from paying any consequence for running down bicyclists and pedestrians, even in broad daylight, even in a crosswalk. 

  • Firstly, those vans need to be redesigned so drivers have more visibility of their surroundings; secondly, laws need to be changed to prohibit right turns on red and left turns when people are crossing on green; and lastly, there needs to be some basic street safety education taught in schools.

  • There is (only very) basic driver education that’s required to be taught before someone can get a license. The problem is, it’s not enforced.

    Educating the more vulnerable road users on “street safety” won’t do anything to lower risk, as this exact case shows. The pedestrian was crossing legally, with the light, in a crosswalk, and he was very nearly killed. What education do you think he still needs?

  • The van was turning right on a green. The person crossing was in the middle of the crosswalk.  He entered the crosswalk well before the driver went to make his turn.  He was nearly halfway across the intersection when he was hit.  If he wasn’t visible to the van driver, then no pedestrian would be and the van shouldn’t be in operation.

    One thing the city could indeed do is have more pedestrian scramble lights in congested areas so that when pedestrians are crossing no cars are moving at all.

  • Peter M

    Is it just me, or does it look like the driver of the shuttle speeds up significantly right before hitting the pedestrian?

  • maaaty

    Listen to the witness, SFPD.  The driver was BLOWING HIS HORN at the car in front of him for letting people through.  Then he accelerated into a man with a cane in the middle of the crosswalk.  That’s sick.  Jail time.  Now.

  • Sorry, elderly people and children. In this city, walking across the street is a privilege for those nimble and quick enough to dodge traffic. Ramming other people with three tons of steel, breaking their bones, and ruining their lives is a right.

    Love,
    Your police department

  • I love how the law can’t just say people on foot have right-of-way. No, only in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. And you better not jump out into the road! Make eye contact with the driver before crossing the street! And of course, when in a crosswalk, you cannot “unduly” delay traffic. Some clear biases here.

  • Anonymous

    “But because the driver stayed at the scene and was ‘cooperative,’ SFPD
    spokesperson Albie Esparza told ABC 7 that police determined it to be
    nothing more than ‘an unfortunate traffic collision.'”

    Okay, biased SFPD, I’m calling you on this one …. then why do you give tickets to speeders or red light runners (or whatever) when you pull them over? Or how about bicyclists rolling through stop signs? After all, they are being “cooperative”, and according to this ridiculous excuse by your own spokesperson, then that means all is forgiven, right?

    So again, let’s just get this straight: SFPD is saying that, as long as it was an accident and you are “cooperative” afterwards, then no matter what laws you broke, then you won’t be cited? Is that how it works now? I would just love to talk to this spokesperson and watch her try to worm her way out of this illogical nonsense. I’m so glad at least Streetsblog calls them out on their irrational, car-centric bias, but unbelievable how no other media picks this up and runs with it. Because man can you run far with this one ….

    Everybody here should be writing letters to our mayor and SFPD about this kind of utter nonsense. We cannot tolerate this sort of blatant and dangerous bias.

  • I see this same misconception over and over.  The police on the scene will only cite for what they personally witness.  If they didn’t see the incident with their own eyes, they refer it to a detective.  The detective gathers evidence and may or may not cite/indict later.  That is just how the system works.

  • mikesonn

    Possibly, but how do you explain this:

     >that police determined it to be nothing more than “an unfortunate traffic collision.”

  • which aligns with the cyclist killing the pedestrian on the Embarcadero. We’ll see if this driver is prosecuted. Given that Ang got Community Service, it would seem that this incident – no hit and run, no drinking/drugs, no death – will not even merit charges.

    By the way, where are all the “STREETSBLOG CARES ONLY ABOUT BIKES NOT PEDESTRIANS” crowd today?

  • Timothy W Hilton

     If this is accurate, it sounds reasonable, and I can accept it.

  • Timothy W Hilton

    OK, I botched the comment interface and posted before my I had typed my full thought.

    If this is accurate, it sounds reasonable, and I can accept it. In that case, though, it is curious to me that the SFPD spokesperson did not mention anything about a followup investigation.

    Bottom line for me: No consequences for the driver is an unacceptable final resolution.

  • Walter W

    Come on SFPD, I’m sure you can do better than this given the witnesses and video security tape.  Pedestrians need your support.

  • Anonymous

    @jefposkanzer:disqus If that’s the case, then why don’t they just say it? They could say, “It appears that the van violated the pedestrian’s right-of-way, but this will not be determined until further investigation” or something to that effect. There’s no reason to slough it off as “an unfortunate traffic collision”. There are “unfortunate traffic collisions” with much less minor consequences for which SFPD has no problem giving tickets.

    The point is: SFPD wasn’t there to witness the accident, so if they can’t assume it was the driver’s fault, then they certainly can’t conclude it was *NOT* the driver’s fault. The non-biased action here would be to say an investigation is needed. That is why SFPD’s response shows a clear bias against anybody who is not a motorists. And it is utterly unacceptable.

  • mikesonn

    Aaron, can you press SFPD spokesperson Esparza to explain herself and ask if there will be a follow up investigation?

  • Fran Taylor

    WalkSF is soliciting letters to the SFPD and DA. Here’s a copy of the one I wrote:

    Now I know that when I cross on the green in the crosswalk, the San Francisco Police Department has declared that any driver who isn’t drunk or fleeing the scene can run right over me and suffer no consequences. I have always suspected this to be true, but now it’s official. Will the SFPD be issuing bull’s-eye targets for all pedestrians to wear? Will they start collecting point for how many of us get mowed down? My blood boils every time I see a cop in a patrol car, wondering will this be the officer who laughs when I get hit?
     
    Pedestrians are not large wingless pigeons that can be expected to flutter out of the way whenever a driver wants the same space. Can the San Francisco Police Academy please convey this information to future graduates? It seems to have been skipped in previous classes.
     

  • “That is just how the system works.” – No, that is how the system fails.  It’s clearly not working.

    We have drivers caught breaking the law on video and still they can’t manage to write so much as a traffic ticket — nevermind bringing criminal charges for dangerous driving causing injury or death.  As a society, we are far too willing to forgive and dismiss killing someone due to negligent driving.  This needs to stop.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if the lacksidaisical police response is because they regard vehicle-pedestrian accidents the same way they do fender benders.  When two vehicles collide, the involvement of the police is not necessary; drivers exchange addresses, report it to their insurance companies (or not) and go about their business.  By that line of reasoning, so long as a driver doesn’t leave the scene of the accident then there is no crime, so no police involvement.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if the lacksidaisical police response is because they regard vehicle-pedestrian accidents the same way they do fender benders.  When two vehicles collide, the involvement of the police is not necessary; drivers exchange addresses, report it to their insurance companies (or not) and go about their business.  By that line of reasoning, so long as a driver doesn’t leave the scene of the accident then there is no crime, so no police involvement.

  • Josh Bingham people think they are safe from harm in a crosswalk, especially if they have a walk signal indicating it is safe to cross. Safety education advising people to keep looking left while crossing the first half of the street then keep looking right when crossing the second half of the street would prevent many crashes.

  • Sorry, but a vehicle collision causing bodily injury needs to be an automatic fine/suspension of license/restitution; I know this may fly in the face of the 5th Amendment, but then, so do ‘field tests’ for DUI.

    I’m not advocating in favor of drunk drivers, but it is a fact; walking a straight line, and other balance/coordination tests done on a public street, by marginally trained cops, does NOT constitute “due process”.  Yet it is accepted nationwide.

    When someone is injured by a vehicle in traffic, the burden should be on the driver to prove mitigation; absent that, GUILTY, loss of license for at LEAST a year, a fine equal to one month’s pay (based on latest 1040), and full restitution.  (AND, if they want to drive while suspended under these circumstances, well. . . I think it’s time for that ‘long-term eye dilation’ I discussed elsewhere last year — can’t drive if you can’t SEE.

  • mikesonn

    I believe this is referred to as “blaming the victim”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming 

  • peternatural

    I don’t think it’s blaming the victim. I always do what Janel suggested (look for cars turning, even if they’re coming from behind me). I just don’t want to end up pinned under a van with broken bones. It’s good advice, while at the same time, I blame the driver in this case, who ought to be cited by the police.

  • 5th amendment?  How’s that?  I don’t see how that applies to automatic fine/restitution or to DUI field tests.

    I can see 4th amendment issues with DUI check points due to the lack of probable cause.  Even the 4th amendment allows search with probable cause (like erratic driving).

  • Anonymous

    First, I have to say that I disagree with the fact that, in fender benders involving only cars, SFPD does not respond and hence does nothing to help establish fault. Instead, it’s left to the insurance companies and the people involved in the accident and often ends up being one person’s word against another (which obviously isn’t fair to the innocent party). Years ago, I was hit in my car by a guy who ran a red light and there were no witnesses (very, very early in the morning), and the cops refused to come even though I thought he seemed drunk. It occurred to me: this is ridiculous that, just because nobody was severely injured, somebody can get away with being drunk and smashing into somebody else. If the cops came, they could instantly establish whether or not somebody was drunk (or otherwise intoxicated). I understand SFPD is busy, but it seems to me the solution is that we need more police to respond to such events. That way, we catch a lot of people doing stupid things *before* somebody is seriously hurt. Pro-active instead of reactive.

    @pchazzz:disqus wrote: “But of course, the two are not alike and an investigation should be
    conducted a and citation should be issued if warranted.”

    Agreed: any accident involving a vulnerable road user should immediately get police involvement on the scene. And again, if the cops don’t feel they can determine fault, then they should never just make a guess at it like they did in this case (especially since we have video showing that it was indeed the motorist’s fault). Instead, they say an investigation is needed. And that would quickly lead to the video tape, which would quickly lead to SFPD citing the driver and ideally, as others have mentioned, the revoking of a driver’s license even if only for a few weeks.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know about automatic.  I was a passenger in a car driven by my father.  He was making a left turn in broad daylight, on a green light, when all of the sudden he struck a motorcyclist that suddenly appeared traveling in the opposite direction.  My dad did everything right. He stopped to wait for the intersection to clear before he proceeded. Why should he be subjected to a fine or license suspension? I think the motorcycle accelerated to beat him through the intersection and he misjudged. The person who gets injured isn’t always the person in the right. The person who causes the injury isn’t always in the wrong.

  • Ggray97

    Something very sick going on in SFPD, they need to be investigated. I was shocked they excused the driver of the van, he/she should have been lead away in cuffs.

  • “Pedestrians are not large wingless pigeons that can be expected to flutter out of the way whenever a driver wants the same space.”

    Bless you, Fran. This is brilliant.

  • VooDoo2

    SFPD always does everything they can to prove wrong-doing, the buck doesn’t stop with the Media.  Honestly being a pesestrian hit by a speeding vehicle myself & experiencing outcome of No Perpetrator found, it’s F**KING frustrating as hell, but everyone help each other and support law enforcement by making the wold around U safer every day. Tx!

  • Anonymous

    It’s true.  I was hit in the intersection of 18th and Valencia, crossing Valencia northbound on the east side of the street by a driver turning left from southbound Valencia onto eastbound 18th Street.  I wasn’t seriously injured, fortunately, but when I asked to see his driver’s license, he drove away!  I got his vehicle license off the back of the car, but when I went to Mission Station

  • Dave Moulton did a great post about this today too.  Someone gets run
    over?  Oh well, whoops-a-daisy! 
    http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2012/2/17/whoops-a-daisy.html

  • mikesonn

    “My dad did everything right. He stopped to wait for the intersection to clear before he proceeded.”

    But he didn’t.

    “I think the motorcycle accelerated to beat my dad through the intersection and he misjudged. ”

    Motorcycle still had the right away, acceleration or not.

  • mikesonn

    Of course that is good advice, but this is forcing the pedestrian to be in a constant state of fear because we have to accept that drivers will continue to error and put pedestrian lives at risk. No, the responsibility lies with the one operating a several ton vehicle. Saying that the pedestrian needs more education when said pedestrian did nothing wrong is blaming the victim.

  • Anonymous

    While the SFPD does some wonderful things, sometimes totally outside of their duties like making that “It Gets Better” video, the dismissive attitude about enforcing traffic laws and, in this case, ignoring what is clearly a negligent, violent assault on a pedestrian by another person is inexcusable. We need a police force that doesn’t just do traffic stops to satisfy a momentary focus on the problem … We need a police force that ALWAYS enforces traffic laws and protects the most vulnerable, pedestrians, on the roads,first and foremost.

  • Mario

    This kind of stuff needs to be publicized right away.

    Streetsblog should have a special “report institutional bias against livability” feature where such incidents are prominently featured and pressure is put on said institutions to respond and adjust their practices.

  • jjsmack

    I learned in driving school that there is no such thing as a car accident. They’re all preventable, and they can all be attributed to bad and/or reckless decisions. If road conditions are bad, go real slow or just don’t drive at all because you’re putting lives at huge risk.

    Don’t be aggressive the way this driver was about trying to be a pedestrian across the street. This was no accident. The driver is clearly at fault. The fact that he stayed and cooperated means he’s not guilty of the felony of hit and run, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty for causing the accident or physical injury.

  • Andychow

    I wouldn’t suggest that all accidents are preventable because driving (along with biking, and walking) is a human behavior, and that humans are not perfect. It happened because the driver didn’t scan the intersection and the pedestrian entered the crosswalk without caution. While here we consider pedestrian to be an endanger species, but I don’t think it is a smart strategy to depend our lives only on those who design the road and other road users (It is like kind of not locking our doors and securing our properties because it is already illegal to trespass and steal.)

    Even without citation, there’s a strong likelihood that the driver would get fired and not employable for similar jobs.

    I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing not to cite (or cite less) for those who are cooperative. Yes, one accident has occurred but they’re not making any worse since. You don’t want to create a system where people ended up making an immoral choice. In China, some drivers who injured a pedestrian ended up running that person again to kill him or her since the civil financial penalty there is higher for an injured victim (medical care for life) than a dead victim (funeral).

  • Andy Chow, did you watch the video?  This collision didn’t happen because the driver didn’t scan the intersection and the pedestrian entered without caution.  The pedestrian entered the intersection when the van was rolling very slowly to his left.  I’m sure he expected the car to his left/rear to wait as the law requires. The driver was impatient (according to the witness honking to hurry the car in front of him) and aggressively accelerates into the intersection, hitting the pedestrian from the left/rear angle.

  • LB

    In complete contrast- in England, a bus driver was just sentenced to 17 months in jail plus prohibited from driving  for 2.5 years, for deliberately hitting a cyclist.   http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/bus-driver-deliberately-hit-cyclist-sent-prison-145207884–abc-news.html

    “During the sentencing, Judge Mark Horton said the incident “was not an accident,” and told Hill, “You used the bus as a weapon to bully and intimidate Mr. Mead.”

    That sounds more like it.

  • Andy Chow

    I did. The driver indeed wasn’t supposed to drive right through. On the other hand, it would be naive for me as a pedestrian to put complete faith of my safety on drivers.

  • mikesonn

    Let’s say this particular pedestrian did see the driver start to aggressively engage him, what do you suggest the pedestrian with a cane should have done?

  • GregAllmanondog

    SFPD never issues traffic tickets. Until SFPD starts patrolling and issuing people traffic tickets in cars, on motorcycles/scooters AND bicycles, the safety of everyone is at stake. Another recommendation would be to remove the crosswalks that are in the middle of streets where there are no stop signs or traffic signals. Encouraging people to walk in front of moving vehicles not only goes against common sense, it goes against the laws of physics to think that a heavy object traveling at a normal rate of speed can just instantly stop when people walk out into the street. This city is backwards in the way it approaches public safety and transportation and unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a single person at City Hall that care or has any idea what to do.

  • Andrew Mathias

    Perhaps it is time that we reconsider the primacy of the pedestrian and stop teaching kids that you always have the right of way when on foot. It would appear far more responsible to tell them they better look both ways befor crosing the street. When I look at this video I see the pedestrian walks into the intersection without looking any where but the ground directly in front of him. It appears as if the man never knew what hit him. Im not assigning blame or talking about traffic law here. The van never looked like it was going to stop its a huge vehicle almost a bus. You cant step in front of a vehicle going that fast and hope with your life that the driver sees you. Not every one is the perfect driver all the time everyone who drives walks or rides a bike will occasionally do some thing stupid in traffic. Thankfully most of the time we get lucky and we don’t cause an accident. I wonder if people who react to every infraction of the trafic code they witnesses as a deliberate attack ever consider that. To jjsmack ; the driver is not considered guilty of causing an injury accident. They are responsible for causing it. In the law its the diferance between lightning and lightning bug just words .

  • mikesonn

    Boo this man.

    “Perhaps it is time that we reconsider the primacy of the pedestrian and stop teaching kids that you always have the right of way when on foot. It would appear far more responsible to tell them they better look both ways befor crosing the street.”

    I was always taught to look both ways, but I was also taught to look in the direction that I’m driving. 

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Eyes on the Street: Trucker Blocks Crosswalk at New “CityTarget”

|
As if Geary and Masonic wasn’t already hostile enough to pedestrians, here’s an example of street dysfunction exacerbated by freight traffic at the newly-opened CityTarget. Winston Parsons happened upon a delivery truck driver setting up shop in a crosswalk and, he said, impeding buses on the 43-Masonic. In the video he submitted, Parsons confronts the driver, […]