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SFPD Increasing Tickets for Pedestrians Faster Than Tickets for Drivers

SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” tickets for dangerous driving violations dropped 6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to that of last year. Image: SFPD

First, the good news: In the last quarter of 2014, SFPD increased speeding enforcement 91 percent, from 933 to 1,781 citywide.

The bad news? Tickets to pedestrians more than doubled, from 436 to 1,110, continuing a recent trend of increasing tickets for people walking and biking faster than those for dangerous driving. All told, pedestrian fines accounted for 3.6 of total traffic citations in San Francisco, up from 1.7 percent over the same period the year before.

More than two years into the SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, the department still shows no signs of changing an agency culture that seems unable to prioritize enforcement of motorist behavior that endangers life and limb.

SFPD Traffic Commander Ann Mannix. Image: SFGovTV

At a supervisors committee hearing yesterday, SFPD Traffic Commander Ann Mannix, who took her post in January, expressed no intention of meeting the department’s official goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations to the top five most dangerous violations, which are all driver violations.

Mannix presented SFPD’s latest enforcement stats [PDF], showing dismal progress. The share of “Focus on the Five” tickets increased just two percent last year compared to 2013, from 22 percent to 24 percent. The trend is looking worse so far in 2015: In the first quarter of the year, the share of “Five” tickets dropped by 6 percent compared to the year before.

“We won’t change much from 2014 to 15,” Mannix told the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee. “I believe that you’ll see the numbers rise. Will we be at 50 percent? I don’t think so. Richmond District will be at 50 percent.”

Richmond Station continues to be the only station to meet the 50 percent goal. Mannix asserts that SFPD can’t meet its self-imposed Focus on the Five goal because officers can’t be choosy about what they enforce, and that police staffing is occupied with non-traffic duties.

Mannix repeated the argument of her predecessor, Mikail Ali, that the SFPD is increasing traffic enforcement overall, with a 54 percent increase in total traffic citations between 2013 and 2014.

But that statistic masks troubling enforcement trends. For instance, tickets for failure-to-yield, a leading cause of pedestrian fatalities, actually declined in the last quarter of 2014 compared to the last quarter of 2013, from 104 to 81.

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SFPD: Car Was Reported Stolen After Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Caught on Video

The car used in a pedestrian hit-and-run caught on video was reported stolen by its registered owner the morning after the crash, according to the SFPD.

Screenshot from ColdFire/Youtube

As we reported this week, video was posted online after a crash that occurred at Second and Howard Streets in the early morning hours of April 18. The driver was seen making a left turn from a right-hand lane, hitting a second vehicle and striking a man in a crosswalk. The driver has not been found.

Although SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan initially said the crash wasn’t reported, information on the case was uncovered after she was given the case number provided by the YouTube user who posted the video. Details from police were consistent with the comments posted by the YouTube user, who said he was driving the car with the camera and that he’d reported the crash to Northern Station the next day. The pedestrian has not reported the crash to the police.

​The Infiniti SUV was reported stolen by the owner at 10:52 a.m., the morning after the crash, said Gatpandan. The owner told police her car could have been stolen between 6 p.m. April 17 and 10 a.m. April 18, when she discovered it was missing. The crash was reported to police, apparently by the driver who took the video, at about 7:10 p.m.

“The pedestrian victim is vital for further investigation, as that victim will have to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle,” said Gatpandan. “The registered owner, especially in this case since the car was stolen, is not always the person driving the car. The case is being investigated by the Hit-and-Run Collision Investigations unit, but again there’s only so far the investigators can go without that victim ped information.”

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Video Emerges of Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Crash at Second and Howard

Screenshot from ColdFire/YouTube

Screenshot from ColdFire/Youtube

A disturbing video has emerged of a pedestrian hit-and-run crash at Second and Howard Streets in SoMa. Warning: It’s not for the faint-of-heart.

The crash took place on Saturday, April 18, at 2:05 a.m., according to the timestamp of the dash camera video. In the video, the driver of a grey Infiniti SUV stops at a red light in a crosswalk on northbound Second, then makes a sudden left turn from the right-hand lane, hitting another driver who was headed straight and running over a man in the crosswalk.

The victim can be seen waiting for the walk signal, looking toward the driver and apparently hesitating to cross. The driver accelerated into him until both the victim and the car were out of the camera’s view. The driver apparently fled westbound on Howard.

An SFPD spokesperson said the crash was not reported. YouTube user “ColdFire,” who posted the video and left comments claiming to have been the driving the car with the dash camera, said he/she reported the crash the next day to SFPD’s Northern Station, and could provide a case number. The user hasn’t responded to a Streetsblog request for the case number.

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SFPD Arrests Driver Who Hit Three Bike Commuters on the Wiggle

The SFPD has arrested 25-year-old Bianca Lopez of Fremont for hitting three people on bikes at Scott and Fell Streets on the Wiggle on April 6.

According to an SFPD press release, Lopez has been charged with felony hit and run causing injury, misdemeanor hit and run involving property damage, and driving without a license. Her bail was set at $100,000.

Lopez allegedly drove a Jeep Cherokee through a queue of bike commuters in the northbound bike lane on Scott at Fell after rear-ending the driver of a Mini Cooper on Fell at about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 6. She then hit a parked car, which was wedged into a garage, as she left the scene.

Two of the victims suffered non life-threatening injuries, and a third sustained a fractured pelvis, compact fracture of an arm, and a lacerated liver, according to the SFPD.

The vehicle was found in South San Francisco later that day. The owner was located and questioned, but not believed to be the driver, who was described by witnesses as a Hispanic woman.

No booking photo or other information on the arrest or investigation was immediately released.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Arrested After Injuring Cyclist at Cesar Chavez & Valencia

John C. Fox tweeted this photo and: “To the shithead in the Silver SUV who hit and ran a cyclist at Cesar Chavez & Valencia: you’ll be found.”

The SFPD arrested a driver who hit a man on a bike and fled at Cesar Chavez and Valencia Streets yesterday at around 6:44 p.m. The victim is reportedly in stable condition and suffered a shoulder injury.

SFPD spokesperson Carlos Manfredi said the female driver fled, reported the crash about an hour later Mission Station, and was subsequently arrested and charged with felony hit-and-run.

The crash occurred while Streetsblog’s happy hour was happening at a bar around the corner. Some attendees who arrived after the crash reported seeing the crash scene, where a mangled bike, with its fork and front wheel broken off, was in the street.

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SFPD Finds Owner of Car in Wiggle Hit-and-Run That Injured 3 Cyclists

SFPD has located the owner of the Jeep Cherokee that was driven in a hit-and-run crash that injured three bike commuters on the Wiggle late Thursday afternoon, though police don’t believe the owner was driving at the time.

At around 5:30 p.m., the driver, described by witnesses as a Hispanic woman, plowed through three people on bikes at Scott and Fell after she rear-ended the driver of a Mini Cooper on Fell. The driver reportedly turned left into the oncoming left-turn bike lane on Scott, plowing into the three cyclists. The driver then slammed into a parked car, which was wedged into a garage, as she escaped.

The car, registered in Alameda County, was abandoned in South San Francisco, where police recovered it later that day, said SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan. The owner was found on Friday and taken in for questioning. Police couldn’t confirm if the car had been stolen.

According to police and witness reports, two of the victims suffered minor injuries, and another was thrown nearly 20 feet but is expected to survive. Kevin Dole, a member of the SF Bicycle Advisory Committee, said soon after the crash he arrived at the scene, where an “older man” being tended to by paramedics who was in “pretty bad shape.”

D5 Supervisor London Breed said the crash “is really sad… It’s important that we continue to aggressively move forward to make changes to our infrastructure so that we can do everything we can to hopefully prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future.”

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SF’s Freeway-Like Streets Increase the Risk From Distracted Drivers

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Image: Zendrive

Image: Zendrive

Distracted driving in SF is no accident. A new map of cell phone use by drivers in SF reveals where drivers are most likely to use a mobile device, increasing the risk of crashes and injuries, and the pattern is unmistakable.

There’s one thing that streets with high rates of distracted driving have in common: They’re designed like freeways.

According to the map created by Zendrive, which “measures driving safety using only the sensors on a driver’s phone,” the streets with the most mobile device use by drivers were overwhelmingly designed as routes to freeways, leading to on-ramps and off-ramps, especially along the Central Freeway that divides the South of Market and Mission districts.

Sections of Duboce, Folsom, Eighth, 10th, and the interchange at Brannan and Division Streets all ranked in the top 10 of distracted driving streets.

Also high up the list were Fell and Oak Streets and 19th Avenue, which act as surface highways. Fell and Oak whisk west side drivers to and from the Central Freeway, and have synchronized traffic signals so drivers don’t have to worry about stopping often.

It stands to reason that wide, multi-lane streets designed to lull drivers into “cruise-control” mode fail to keep their attention. As Tom Vanderbilt wrote in his book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, “The relative ease of most driving lures us into thinking we can get away with doing other things.

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SFPD Explains: Driver Won’t Be Charged for Killing Cyclist at 14th & Folsom

A ghost bike at the corner where Charles Vinson was killed. Photo: GhostBike.org/Twitter

Three witnesses told SFPD investigators that Charles Vinson, 66, biked through a red light when he was killed by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets on March 2, according to police officials.

An SFPD spokesperson told Streetsblog earlier this week that Vinson had been found at fault, contrary to an initial witness cited in the press who said the driver ran a red. The spokesperson declined to provide details at the time, since “the case is still open and active, we do not discuss open and active investigation matters.”

SFPD Sergeant Eric Mahoney later explained the department’s investigation, telling Streetsblog that Vinson may have misjudged the traffic signal timing at the complicated intersection. SFPD Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix shared the same details with the SF Examiner yesterday.

Mahoney said Vinson was traveling eastbound on 14th and was hit by a driver headed northbound on Folsom. According to three eyewitnesses, Vinson began to ride against a red light. However, given the signal timing at the intersection, it’s also possible the driver blew through a red light. Police have yet to determine if that is the case.

“We’re not 100 percent sure what the vehicle did, but we’re 100 percent sure what the bicycle did,” said Mahoney. “The bicyclist, I’m thinking, assumed that as long as nobody’s going to make a left turn in front of me, I can keep going straight.”

Mahoney said the driver can’t be charged since it was established that Vinson had a red light. “Not saying that what [the driver] did or didn’t do was unimportant, but once we’ve established a violation here, we know that, even if we can prove [the driver had] a red light, the DA is not gonna charge that person with a crime because there’s a contributory factor.”

So there you have it: If you make a mistake on a bike, the law will give a pass to a motorist who strikes and kills you, even if there’s conclusive evidence of reckless driving.

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SFPD Blames Victim for Biking Through Red Light But Won’t Cite Evidence

Contrary to initial reports, the SFPD says Charles Vinson, 66, ran a red light on his bike when he was hit and killed by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets on March 2.

Immediately after the crash, the SF Examiner reported that a witness “saw the vehicle blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green.” But on March 17, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan said investigators had determined that Vinson ran a red.

Streetsblog asked how the SFPD arrived at that conclusion. “There are many different factors involved, such as examining skid marks, measurements, placement of evidence from the collision, etc,” said Gatpandan. “As the case is still open and active, we do not discuss open and active investigation matters.”

So, while police are comfortable releasing their determination that the victim was at fault in this crash, they say it’s too soon to disclose any supporting evidence.

Is there video of the crash? Is there witness testimony? If so, does it come from bystanders, the driver who struck Vinson, or both? We don’t know, and SFPD isn’t saying.

Gatpandan said the driver won’t receive a citation. We’ll request the police report to get more details on the investigation.

A ghost bike was placed at the corner where Vinson died. Photo: GhostBike.org/Twitter

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SFPD Sends 86-Year-Old Driver On Her Way After She Injures Mom and Child

SFPD returned an 86-year-old driver (left) to her SUV after she hit a mother and child in a crosswalk outside the Stonestown Galleria. Images: KTVU

An 86-year-old driver hit a 45-year-old mother and her 5-year-old daughter in a crosswalk yesterday at 20th Avenue and Buckingham Way, outside the Stonestown Galleria mall. According to KTVU, the driver was taken away in an ambulance “for an undisclosed ailment” but was soon returned to her SUV to drive home. The police said “they didn’t need to impound the vehicle because they have the evidence they need to investigate.”

The child was reportedly sent to the hospital with a life-threatening head injury, and the mother suffered a broken arm. They were in a crosswalk at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way, according to California law.

With an aging population in car-dependent areas, California cities have seen many cases of elderly drivers causing injuries and property damage, often reporting losing control of their vehicles while attempting to park. But like most drivers who hit pedestrians when they were sober and stayed on the scene, they’re rarely known to face a license suspension, let alone citations or charges.

In December 2013, a 74-year-old driver was attempting to park on Jackson Street in Chinatown when she suddenly accelerated and plowed into a car, a power pole, and two people, killing 84-year-old neighborhood activist Isabell Huie. In 2011, a driver in his 70s jumped the curb and smashed into Naan N’ Curry restaurant on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset.

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