New SFMTA Safe Driving Video Is Required Viewing for City Truckers

The SFMTA has produced the city’s first training video to teach truck and bus drivers safe urban driving practices and highlight the extra care needed to operate in close proximity to people walking and biking on city streets.

The video will be required viewing for all truck and bus drivers employed or contracted by the city, as well as companies that operate under the SFMTA’s private shuttle regulation program. “A variety of private companies will [also] share it with their employees, and the Teamsters union will share it with their locals,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post.

The video explains bike and pedestrian infrastructure like bulb-outs and protected bike lanes, which are relatively new features on SF streets. It also notes the heightened responsibility of truck drivers to keep people safe, due to the weight and blind spots of vehicles like garbage trucks and big rigs.

From the SFMTA:

Although just 4 percent of collisions in San Francisco involved large vehicles from 2007 to 2011, these collisions accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. Collisions between large vehicles are eight times more likely than collisions involving small vehicles to result in death to people walking or biking.

Most of the people killed while biking in San Francisco in recent years were run over by truck or bus drivers, including Amelie Le Moullac, Diana Sullivan, Robert Yegge, Dylan Mitchell, and Cheng Jin Lai. In the past two years, truck drivers have killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a Richmond crosswalk and a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore Street.

Tricia Decker came across an all-too-common scene this morning at 14th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, where a truck driver had struck a female cyclist who “was sitting on the curb surrounded by police officers with her twisted bicycle nearby,” she wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “She was sitting upright and appeared to be conscious and responsive. The mangled bicycle was still partly under a Recology flatbed truck.”

A Recology truck driver hit a woman on bike this morning at 14th and South Van Ness. Photo: Ty Smith/Twitter
A Recology truck driver hit a woman on a bike this morning at 14th and South Van Ness. Photo: Ty Smith/Twitter

Decker noted that she “normally bikes on 14th,” which has a bike lane, “but had ended up on a different route after I narrowly avoided being right hooked by a painter’s van. I guess that female cyclist could have been me had I taken my normal route.”

Two blocks away at South Van Ness and 16th, in May 2013, 21-year-old Dylan Mitchell was killed while biking by a garbage truck driver employed Recology, a city-contracted waste collection company.

The truck driver reportedly failed to yield as he made right turn, which is often the case in truck-bike crashes. The same year, Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a trucker making a right turn at Sixth and Folsom Streets. Despite video of the crash, the driver never faced charges.

When turning right, drivers are mandated by state law to “turn from as far right as practicable,” and merge into the bike lane (yielding to people on bikes), contrary to what many drivers, police officers, and media outlets say.

The right-turn law was the “most enlightening portion” of a safety presentation for many of the tow truck drivers who took a class from the SF Bicycle Coalition last month, the SFBC’s Libby Nachman wrote in a recent blog post. “In San Francisco, the number one cause of injuries to people biking is unsafe vehicle turning, so it’s imperative that both drivers and people biking know the law about safe turning.”

The SFBC helped the SFMTA produce the truck driving video (in addition to a video for Muni drivers in 2013), and plans to use it in the safe driving classes it conducts for the city. The SFBC began teaching classes for city-contracted tow truck drivers last month, expanding its program from drivers of Muni vehicles, trucks, taxis, and more.

The SFMTA announced its truck driver education requirements in January as part of the SFMTA’s Safe Streets SF education campaign, which falls under the city’s Vision Zero umbrella.

  • PaleoBruce

    That bicyclist hit today (right hook by a truck) at 14th & S. Van Ness seems likely to have been more safe had she been (illegally) using the center traffic lane instead of staying practicably right in the bicycle lane.

  • Darksoul SF

    Yea for some reason i seen SF Bikers do that…is unsafe…

  • theqin

    It seems that if all of the recent bicyclist deaths were at intersections with trucks, even separated biking infrastructure would not solve this problem. In fact other than Yegge’s head on collision a sharrow where the bicyclist could (and would be recommended to) take the lane might have prevented the deaths.

    I do definitely feel safer with separated biking infrastructure, and it is possible that it prevents many non fatal accidents. But I’m glad to see this video produced since at least some problems can’t be solved exclusively by increasing bicycle facilities (at least until the city reaches a certain minimum threshold of bicyclists).

  • Michael Morris

    Situationally it’s always safer to be in the center of the lane, in front of the car, than to the right of the car. But that’s not a sustainable way to bike through the city, eventually you have to get to the right to let cars pass, especially if you’re legally obligated to. the SFBC woman is right, cars that are turning without considering bicycles are the #1 concern. Drivers need to be consistently reminded that they are sharing the road with bicycles.

  • Of course it can be fixed by separated biking infrastructure. You need a separated intersection. Usually we do this by separating traffic in time, using traffic lights.

  • PaleoBruce

    I know that bicyclists are legally obligated to stay to the right when there is a bike lane. (Except when the bike lane is hazardous.) The irony abounds. Not to mention, bike lanes are hazardous due to being ‘de facto’ double parking lanes for cars, trucks, taxis, etc.. Also hazardous due to the proximity to hidden pedestrians, and car doors. It turns out now that bike lanes are also hazardous because of the motorist right hook phenomena seen above. Staying in the center of the “automobile” lane is indeed most safe.

  • theqin

    Because bikers are so good at obeying traffic lights.

  • Are you just shit disturbing on purpose here? Or do you really not know that just like sidewalk riding, the best way to get cyclists to obey signals is to design signals that work for cyclists. Specifically countdown timers that show time to green are extremely effective. Study after study shows this. And besides, what do you care? You care about having safe infrastructure, if someone chooses to run the red and gets hit for it, I could care less so long as if I don’t run the red, I don’t get hit, which isn’t the situation now. Of course, the real problem is that drivers don’t follow reds much better than cyclists, but we can probably overcome that too.

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