Eyes on the Street: SFPD Tickets Illegal U-Turners in the Castro

Photo: Bryan Goebel

Here’s another sign that the SFPD is continuing to make good on its pledge to increase enforcement against reckless driving.

This update comes from Bryan Goebel, Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, who lives in the Castro. He said he’s noticed a recent uptick in enforcement in his neighborhood against illegal u-turns. Illegal turns are on the SFPD’s list of the five violations most commonly cited as a primary cause in pedestrian crashes.

Goebel said he spoke to one of the officers, who confirmed that the enforcement efforts are a response to the recent rise in pedestrian injuries. He told Goebel that drivers pose the greatest danger on the streets.

“Pedestrians are distracted, yes, but cars are what’s going to get you,” the officer reportedly told Goebel.

“It was refreshing to hear,” Goebel said.

Richmond Station officers have also been spotted recently performing crosswalk stings against drivers who violate pedestrians’ right-of-way on Fulton Street along Golden Gate Park.

  • I hope they can also do some enforcement in the Inner Sunset business district. I see too many illegal u-turns along 9th Avenue between Irving and Judah; sometimes in front of Muni Metro vehicles and incoming cars. A lot of time, it’s restaurant delivery drivers, but sometimes those who make a u-turn to beat other drivers to an open parking space.

  • voltairesmistress

    I hardly think this qualifies as one of the five killers — not the u-turn and not that neighborhood. Seems more like easy pickings for police in cruisers. How about calming the traffic and ticketing violators of pedestrian right of way at any number of high incident intersections? Or speeding south of market? That would police require exercising discernment, something in short supply with SFPD.

  • Chris J.

    I hardly think this qualifies as one of the five killers…

    I don’t know. While bicycling, I’ve almost been hit several times by cars making fast U-turns (and overshooting the road into the bike lane). I might rank it as the second-worst maneuver I’ve had to deal with — next to cars turning right without signaling. The thing about U-turns though is that, unlike cars failing to signal, it’s a lot harder to anticipate and protect yourself against a U-turn. They can come out of nowhere because normally one’s focus is on the cars and road in front of you rather than the cars on the other side of the road.

    (Edit: I see now that it is only saying top five for pedestrians, but I think U-turns by cars are also dangerous for bicyclists, too.)

  • voltairesmistress

    Yes, I see your point. I guess like most driving maneuvers it is mostly in how someone does something. And many drivers cannot handle the complexity of such a turn with all the possible users who can enter the space from different directions.

  • phoca2004

    I have noticed an uptick in traffic enforcement including pedestrian right of way stings in the Richmond and I am really happy for it. While not the tenderloin or SOMA, who have the biggest traffic challenges in the city, each neighborhood has its issues and the cavalier disregard for pedestrians in this neighborhood needs to be countered.

    There is a particularly tough issue with the Senior Center on Fulton at 37th Ave in the park. Many of the folks who use the center have to cross Fulton on foot, in a marked, but not signal controlled crosswalk. Fulton is used like a raceway by many drivers. If there is a stream of cars, nobody stops for you despite being in a crosswalk. It is scaring the bejeezus out of some of our elders.

    While I firmly believe that we should be targeting enforcement and engineering at our demonstrably worst intersections, should it require a death or serious injury to get some focus? I sure as heck hope that it doesn’t.

  • jd_x

    I agree with you in that this doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem, yet I also agree with @cjerdonek:disqus that, as a bicyclist, 1 of the 2 very close calls I’ve come to being smashed by a car was an idiotic motorist with their *right* turn signal on who pulled off to the right side of the street in the parking lane and, as I went to pass him, the idiot swung left for a U-turn. I have no idea how I didn’t get hit, but all I can say is way too many drivers pull this kind of maneuver and there’s no way you can’t argue it’s not dangerous. Just go around the block people! Honestly, having SFPD enforce *any* kind of motorist violation is progress in this city. Sure, I agree that much worse stuff is going on in SOMA and other traffic sewers in the city, but I’ll take this instead of useless stings on bicyclists rolling stop signs on the Wiggle or pedestrians jaywalking.

  • murphstahoe

    The absolute worst spot for this is Townsend between 5th and 4th – specifically at the train station. Cabbies and private autos picking up passengers don’t want to have to go all the way to 3rd to head back south and u-turn across the heavily used bike lane.

    A sting there would be of great value. Though I suspect all they will ticket is cyclists on the sidewalk

  • Brad

    If you live across Townsend from the Caltrain you get to experience cabbies going south on Townsend refusing to pick you up because you’re trying to jump the line at the train station. No, I walked out my front door. Then, they make a u-turn before 5th to join the cab line up. Of course, when you ask them to drive you to the mission, they say a u-turn on Townsend is illegal and drive you up to 3rd. So, as a cyclist who lives on Townsend, I would love to see a u-turn sting right outside my house. Safer bike lane, plus maybe easier to get a cab going the right direction as well!

  • NoeValleyJim

    I too have seen more enforcement lately: some of it much needed ticketing of cars on Valencia. Hopefully they are ticketing the constant double parking in the bicycle lane there.

    I have also seen increased enforcement of cyclists that run the red light at 12th and Market. I am a very law abiding cyclist: I stop at stop signs and signal and even I slowly roll through this light quite often, only after clearing the intersection. But I guess SFPD wants to hand out some tickets and this is an easy place to do it. So keep your eyes peeled fellow cyclists.

  • rfkolbe

    I’ve had to run out of the way of a u turner who swept the entire intersection. But they got their parking place! Good. Enforce vehicle codes.

  • jj

    I slow and roll through that light every time. Don’t care what anyone says, sitting at a barren intersection on a bike where nothing is happening is idiocy. I ride a bike because it gets me places quickly, and standing on the side of the street staring at red lights for nothing is a waste of time. Haven’t been hit or hit anyone in my 17 years of SF bike riding, and don’t think I’ll start anytime soon.

  • Greg

    Sitting in my car at a red light at a barren intersection is idiocy – so I just run the light! I drive because it gets me places quickly,
    and sitting in my car staring at red lights for nothing
    is a waste of time. Stopping at stop signs also a waste of time, so is going around the block when I can just make an illegal u-turn instead. I haven’t hit anyone is 17 years so all of this must be a-ok!

  • jj

    Blah blah blah di blah blah. Talk to the hand. I’m not talking about cars. I’m talking about bikes. On a bike you’re exposed, you’re alert. You crash, you hurt yourself, which is all the incentive I need to make sure I’m doing things safely and not causing conflict. I’ll also *gasp* do rolling stops at stop signs if the intersection is clear and no other cars are waiting. This behavior will continue until I’m too old to ride bikes … because it’s perfectly safe.

  • Bruce Halperin

    I always do stop at such intersections. (Some of the Embarcadero crosswalks come to mind.) Even if it is a waste of time, those of us who ride bikes share the same responsibility to obey the rules of the road as car drivers. When drivers see bike riders rolling through red lights, it perpetuates their stereotypes of us. I want respect from car drivers, therefore I obey the rules of the road. It’s that simple.

  • murphstahoe

    Haven’t been hit or hit anyone in my 17 years of SF bike riding

    Still not a large enough sample size to discern “skill” vs “luck”

  • murphstahoe

    I rode to Bear Republic Brewery the other day. Waiting outside, I observed a conversation where one of the principals say “Don’t take anything I say seriously, I’m (expletive) hammered!” He then proceeded to walk to his car. I said “Drive safely!” and he said “Oh (expletive – you’re not a cop are you!” – thus perpetuating the stereotype of car drivers.

  • jj

    Given that over that entire time I’ve been a daily, year-round bike commuter, as well as an active long-distance cyclist on weekends, I beg to differ.

  • Mom on a bike

    What’s really annoying about intersections like that is, like how much would a bike signal cost there? Wouldn’t we have more than paid for it by now with the amount of SFPD resources policing that intersection? Or is this the crosswalk near the 12th/Market intersection we’re talking about? How about a ‘bicycles must yield to pedestrians’ reminder sign? I mean, jeez, talk about pennies to fix a problem.

  • tungwaiyip

    “I slow and roll through that light every time. staring at red lights for nothing is a waste of time.”

    You are genius! Why didn’t all the cars and buses figure this out and stop wasting time. What an idiots they are.

  • jj

    Wish I could return the compliment, but I just think you’re a simpleton who can’t tell the difference between a bus and a bike.

  • tungwaiyip

    I can tell the difference from their behavior. Bicycle run red light all the time.

  • Bruce Halperin

    One can make the argument that the Idaho stop (stop at a red light and proceed when safe to do so) should be legal in California, but until it is, all of us should be obeying the law.

  • Bruce Halperin

    I wasn’t aware of the stereotype that all drivers drive drunk.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Riding my bike on the Embarcadero, I’ve seen many a fellow cyclist think the same thing at intersections like Green, Broadway, and Washington… only to be nearly hit by a car driver (who had the green light) moments later. It’s not perfectly safe at all and I pray that I continue to only witness close calls and not an actual collision.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    That motorist U-turn in intersections by pulling right then suddenly swinging left with no warning across the entire four-way intersection is new-ish and terrifying and absolutely lethal.

    Where the fuck did it come from all of a sudden, and how can we arrange to kill everybody who engages in this insanity?

    Oh, you’re turning right (with or without signalling)? OK … I’ll go around your left so I don’t get run over by a right hook. Except all of a sudden you are pulling left as fast as possible you fucking psychopath, without signalling, without looking left, without looking back, without thinking, just do it.

    This shit wasn’t happening ten or even five years ago. Who suddenly decreed it was not only possible but acceptable? Doughut sideshows?

    Simply terrifying, and I’m not remotely a timid or inexperienced street user. And — of course — it’s almost de rigeur for the “Baby on Board” SUV crowd.

  • Eliza

    Signal timing should absolutely be better.

  • murphstahoe

    I guess you got my point, even if you didn’t

  • Bruce Halperin

    The percentage of bike riders who run red lights and stop signs is far greater than the percentage of drivers who drive drunk.

  • gneiss

    Citation, please? Here’s an actual study showing that compliance rates for people on bicycles at stop lights is much higher than conventional wisdom would suggest. http://bikeportland.org/2013/06/25/94-of-bikes-wait-at-red-lights-study-finds-89025

    What you experience is something known as ‘confirmation bias’, where every time you see someone do something, it confirms your bias that ‘everyone must be doing it’. Until you offer a study, please don’t spout off with unreasonable anecdotal observations.

  • Eliza

    The percentage of drunk drivers that hurt other people is far greater than the number of people hurt by a bicycle. I am not advocating that anyone disregard the law.

  • murphstahoe

    That still doesn’t explain to me how there is such backlash against anonymous people running stop signs, while 10 people heard this man say “I’m (expletive) hammered” and didn’t blink when he got into his car, and he didn’t care as long as he wasn’t going to get a ticket.

    For the record I replied to him “No, I just (expletive) hate drunk drivers” and he replied with a string of expletives.

  • murphstahoe

    And on the opposite, when you see a car pass by, you rarely have an indication that the driver is (expletive) hammered, yet we have minimum parking requirements for bars in far flung strip malls offering Bottomless Festaritas.

  • murphstahoe

    George Wallace would have loved you.

  • Bruce Halperin

    Awfully close to fulfilling Godwin’s Law, aren’t we?

    I would support an Idaho stop law, but as one isn’t yet on the books in California, I choose to stop at red lights on my bike and in my car.

  • murphstahoe

    You choose to obey those laws. *why* do you choose to do so? Because they are the law? Because you don’t want a ticket? Because they keep you safer?

    Any of those answers are reasonable. It’s illegal to smoke pot – and many people smoke pot anyway because they think the law is bullshit. I don’t smoke pot in large part simply because it’s illegal, but I do roll some stop signs on my bike even though it is illegal. I guess in large part because the illegality of rolling a stop sign does not keep me safer, but I consider smoking pot to be bad for me specifically because it is illegal in that the illegal status results in drug wars and uncontrolled illegal grows by “bad people” in the hills around my house.

    Maybe you’ve determined that not running a stop sign keeps you safer, thinking that even though running that stop sign is harmless, it makes it less likely we get some snifty new bike lane or that some driver will hit you out of anger because he doesn’t like those stop sign running cyclists.

    I think my pot argument is stronger. I hear a lot of complaining about stop sign running but have very little anecdotal evidence of a real physical backlash, and I don’t believe that 100% compliance would result in peace and harmony. YMMV

    I say this as someone who is probably in the top 5% in terms of traffic compliance on my bike.

  • Bruce Halperin

    I’ve asked the SFBC to advocate for a bike signal there that would move the bike lane to the left of the right lane approaching Van Ness, to untangle the “slalom”. No response as yet.

  • Bruce Halperin

    I do it because of all three reasons. And because by following the laws, I believe that drivers will be more likely to respect me on the road and to support new bike infrastructure with their tax dollars in the future.

    Not once have I said that someone who disagrees with me is a bad person (or an infamous Southern racist integration holdout). I began this conversation only by stating my own personal philosophy, not by judging others.

  • jj

    You can choose to obey, I’m not. I will continue my reasonably cautious riding style.

  • murphstahoe

    I think we’ve ended up at the same place then.

  • rfkolbe

    Just because he was going to his car does not mean he would turn the key and drive. Might have gone to sleep it off.

  • murphstahoe

    Nope – he got in his car, pulled up to me and said “cuz I can’t afford another DUI” and drove off…

  • rfkolbe

    Bummer. Shaking my head. — I’d make most of our streets “no cars” if I were king. 😉

  • Sanfordia113

    How about banning left turns M-F, 7:00a.m.- 7:00p.m. (except for green arrow protected turns).

  • Sanfordia113

    This from the guy who proclaims to be objective and data-oriented. Selection bias anecdotes do not make for credible analysis.

  • tungwaiyip

    @Sanfordia113:disqus, are you saying I’m the guy proclaims to be objective and data-oriented? Thank you! I feel honored to have the reputation.

    There is nothing objective in my statement above though. I was being called a simpleton and I just have to shoot back.

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