Market Street Crash and the Sick Roulette that Comes With Bad Design

Robert Allevar, who works in the area, passed through this space shortly before a taxi crashed onto the sidewalk. Photo: Streetsblog.
Robert Allevar, who works in the area, passed through this space shortly before a taxi crashed onto the sidewalk. Photo: Streetsblog.

Motorists who drive through the intersections of Market, Sutter and Sansome Street don’t need to worry. Yesterday’s crash, involving a taxi cab that drove up onto the sidewalk and seriously injured two people, is already cleared up. Not much to see here, except for the remains of a street post and a kiosk that was too big to cart off yet. The SFPD is reporting, via an official statement, that the cab driver “…was having a medical issue when he hit the gas and drove up onto the sidewalk. The driver hit a public bathroom, a newsstand and then hit the [sidewalk] shoe shine stand where the two victims were working.”

The fear of safe streets advocates is that will be the end of it; there are three people in the hospital, but it will just be chalked up as another “accident” that couldn’t be prevented.

As the San Francisco Examiner reported it:

The crash occurred around 3:15 p.m. at Market and Sutter streets when the cab apparently drove up onto a crowded sidewalk, San Francisco police spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan said. The cab crashed into two people at the shoeshine stand. All three victims were taken to San Francisco General Hospital, according to hospital spokesman Brent Andrew. One of the patients, a 40-year-old man, is in critical condition, while the other two men, aged 59 and 66, are listed in fair condition, Andrew said.


CBS’s local affiliate covered the details as well.

Robert Avellar, who works in the area, had passed by the destroyed shoeshine stand and bathroom earlier that day. “I pass here every day. I was shocked when I saw it on the news.” Alexander Sullivan, who walks through the intersection frequently, was also working nearby. “This is a dangerous corner for pedestrians, but not cars–it’s clear for cars.”

And that’s the problem. It’s an oddly angled intersection, like so many on Market Street, with wide open boulevards that encourage speeding and give pedestrians little room for error–sometimes they don’t have to commit any errors at all to get hit, as in this case.

The speed limit on Market is 10 mph. Does this look like the car was going 10 mph? Photo: Streetsblog.
A look at the remains of the kiosk and steel posts on the sidewalk. Photo: Streetsblog.

“While our thoughts are with the people who were injured, this horrific crash is a stark reminder of why the City must make safety a top transportation priority. Yesterday’s destructive collision, involving two bystanders and the driver of the taxi who crashed his vehicle onto a busy sidewalk, took place at the intersection of two of the City’s high-injury corridors: Market and Sutter,” said Natalie Burdick, Outreach Director for Walk San Francisco. “This same intersection, which also includes Sansome, has been the site of at least 15 other severe crashes — and is part of the 12 percent of streets that account for over 70 percent of the city’s severe and fatal traffic collisions.”

Although a couple of years old, this graphic from SFMTA gives an idea of the toll of these dangerous intersections. Image: SFMTA "Safer Market Street" project.
This graphic from SFMTA gives an idea of the toll of these dangerous intersections. Image: SFMTA “Safer Market Street” project.

It’s difficult to imagine that, if these statistics were about a train line or an airport, either would be re-opened within a few hours. And it’s difficult to understand why, after such a horrible crash, the turn-off to Sutter Street from Market isn’t still closed, with investigators hurriedly working to figure out immediate safety enhancements.

The simplest thing to do–in Streetsblog’s view–would be to put in a heavy concrete planter/crash barrier on the point where the Sutter and Market sidewalk points towards Market Street (see photo below), to make sure any car that gets out of control has something solid to stop or at least divert it before it runs down pedestrians. There should also be raised crosswalks and other solid infrastructure to force cars to slow as they pass through.

And while SFMTA and Public Works have improvements coming for many of Market Street’s intersections, it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough. “As called for in the recent Mayor’s Executive Directive on Vision Zero, the City must redouble its efforts and fix at least 18 miles a year of its most dangerous streets in order to put an end to the traffic violence that continues to plague us,” said Burdick.

Lining the tip of the corner or Market and Sutter would help stop a car from intruding onto the sidewalk and serious injuring people. Photo: Streetsblog.
Pedestrians on the corner of this busy intersection are heavily exposed. Photo: Streetsblog.

As the SFMTA graphic shows, it’s hardly the first time someone’s been badly injured or killed on one of Market Street’s notorious intersections. “This is a crazy intersection,” said a city employee who was walking by it this afternoon. He asked Streetsblog to withhold his name so he could speak without getting permission. He described how the intersection was designed back when Market Street had horses and trolleys and pedestrians only. “It was meant for another time.”

A look at the crash site from the previous day. Nearly all of this is now removed and it's business as usual. Photo: Jesse Foley.
A look at the crash site from the previous day. Nearly all of this is now removed and it’s business as usual. Photo: Jesse Foley.
  • Senor_Wences

    That was not a public toilet kiosk. It was a newspaper kiosk that has been shuddered for two decades.

  • RichLL

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good car-bashing story

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It looks like it was the car that did the bashing.

  • RichLL

    Wait, so your big point is that sometimes the freedom. independence and liberty that come with private forms of transportation like cars and bikes carries a non-zero risk?

    And that the voters are incapable of assessing that risk?

  • YOW! You think the SFPD and the Examiner are pushing the car-bashing angle?

  • Wait, so your big point is that you are unable to assess which metal object did the bashing?

  • chetshome

    You are a troll. Please stop.

  • RichLL

    So you support lying and misrepresentation as long as it serves your biased cause?

  • RichLL

    When you gain limited success, at least own it.

  • RichLL

    I’ve carefully considered your request and have decided to reject it.

  • StrixNoctis .

    Maybe it was being repurposed as a public toilet since we lack actual public toilets here in SF and have to make due (when ya gotta go, ya gotta go)?

  • Drew Levitt

    Just block the user 🙂

  • p_chazz

    The crash took place at the intersection of Market, Sansome and Sutter, not “Samsome”.

  • p_chazz

    The police statement reported it as a public bathroom, which is where Streetsblog got the erroneous information. The Decaux public toilets are much larger. It was obvious from the pictures that it was a newstand, not a toilet that was demolished.
    http://www.sfpublicworks.org/services/public-toilets

  • RichLL

    Interestingly, of those three streets, two are two-way streets which is unusual downtown where most major streets are one-way.

    Many here claim that one-way streets are more inherently dangerous and advocate making them two-way streets. Evidently that didn’t apply here.

  • RichLL

    You know, Drew, it is trivially easy to not read a post from anyone whose contributions challenge your thinking. If you have to block a user to avoid reading their posts then evidently you don’t have much will power.

    I hope your mission to avoid any views that you disagree with is a success for you.

  • Donovan Lacy

    Rich,
    Lying normally includes a deliberate action, this simply appears to be an oversight.

  • p_chazz

    Although the accident occurred near this intersection, no other vehicle was involved. The cab veered off Market Street and into the shoeshine stand and kiosk as a result of a medical emergency, so I don’t see how this applies.

  • p_chazz

    A cab is not a private form of transportation, so I don’t see how this applies.

  • RichLL

    Well yeah, the fact this was a medical issue means that the entire article is moot. No street design would prevent such an accident, except for massive concrete barriers between every road and the sidewalk, and the people would never vote for such an intrusion and inconvenience.

    Sometimes an accident is just an accident.

  • RichLL

    I wasn’t suggesting that anyone lied. Only that, as you say, there was a mistake about the facts.

  • RichLL

    When Streetsbloggers engage in a battle in the war on cars, they typically include cabs, Uber etc. in with cars (bad) as opposed to buses. trains, shuttles, bikes (good).

    Of course bikes are private transportation as well but miraculously get a pass despite that,

  • Alicia

    Is it a “fact”? Is the source for the medical issue claim a doctor’s documentation or the driver’s self-reporting?

  • Donovan Lacy

    Then what were you referring to in your previous comment when you “So you support lying and misrepresentation as long as it serves your biased cause?”

  • Donovan Lacy

    Every time I hear “war on cars”, I can’t help bu think of this:

    http://giphy.com/gifs/mad-max-jc5Jc4bzRLLBm

  • SF Tour Driverguide

    Drivers are frustrated because pedestrians almost completely ignore the walk/dont walk counting signals. To many walkers it’s fine to start crossing when the timer is between 1 and yellow while drivers wait and only one or two cars can make a right turn. It’s great to advocate for safer street design but if pedestrians continue to casually cross because the politics is on their side, they will continue to get hit.

  • Alicia

    if pedestrians continue to casually cross because the politics is on their side, they will continue to get hit.

    Nope – that’s not how it works.

    The more honest way to phrase that sentence would be “If drivers continue to make turns before checking for pedestrians, they will continue to injure and kill pedestrians.”

  • RichLL

    The statement is in the article. Do you have any reason to believe the article author is wrong?

  • RichLL

    I was referring to roymeo’s rationalization and mischaracterization, and not the original article..

  • Franko

    We all know where this is headed. Banning all cars except for busses and taxi’s in the financial district. They’ve already done it to Market St. and have begun the process on Mission St.

  • RichLL

    Yes, there is something ethically disturbing about how somebody’s tragedy is hijacked to further an ideological agenda.

  • SF Tour Driverguide

    That’s true. But can you admit that pedestrians share some responsibility for their own safety and obeying walk lights is part of that? Is it okay to start to cross when the counter is at 1 about to go yellow? If pedestrians obeyed the laws, drivers would be less frustrated and safety would improve.

  • RichLL

    Of course. And there is no amount of infrastructure change, with all the attendant delays, congestion and confusion that they typically cause, that can immunize a person against their own carelessness and stupidity.

  • Alicia

    I don’t know. Do you think it’s okay for a car to enter an intersection on a yellow light?

  • Alicia

    I’m a skeptic in general when it comes to police reports. I ask questions. And yes, the article says what the SFPD says. It doesn’t say how they concluded that the driver was experiencing a medical issue, which takes me back to my question: what are the SFPD’s sources for claiming the driver was suffering a medical issue – is it a doctor’s documented diagnosis, the driver’s self-reporting, or third party eye witnesses?

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