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How SFPD Caught One of the Violent Panhandle Bike Thieves

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFPD says it has arrested one of the bike thieves who assaulted six people biking on the Panhandle in October and stole their bikes. Lieutenant Jason Sawyer of SFPD Park Station’s Investigations Unit said police “have no doubt” that the juvenile male was one of the assailants who threw bottles at bike commuters and jammed sticks into their spokes late at night.

Sawyer said police caught the suspect by setting up a sting after one of the victims saw their bike on sale on Craigslist. The victim contacted police, who initiated a faux sale to arrest him. Typically, bike thieves sell the bikes to a third party first, he said.

“He was not the smartest crook,” said Sawyer. “He basically committed the crime, and was right there selling the bike as well.”

Police must still prove that the suspect was directly involved with the attacks, but they “have no doubt,” Sawyer said. “As soon as he knew we were looking at him, all these robberies stopped. There were a rash of them within a few days — all very violent. Nothing since.”

In a blog post, the SF Bicycle Coalition gave “many thanks to the SFPD for responding swiftly to our calls, and for following through on the investigation.”

“Biking on the Panhandle needs to remain safe and comfortable, serving as a busy and important connector for people biking between the Eastern and Western neighborhoods of our city,” the SFBC wrote.

Sawyer said police can’t release many details on the ongoing investigation, or information about the suspect, because he’s a juvenile. He has been charged with possession of stolen property in the juvenile court system, but charges for the robberies haven’t been brought yet since the victims haven’t been able to identify their assailants. “It was dark and they were very terrified,” he said.

“We know he did it; he knows that we know he did it,” said Sawyer.

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Are Mayor Lee, SFPD, and SFMTA Serious About Ending Hazardous Parking?

Image: KRON 4

Mayor Ed Lee, along with the heads of the SFPD and SFMTA, vowed yesterday to crack down on double parking and “box blocking” as part of broader “Congestion Management Strategy to improve traffic flow and safety.”

It’s a big promise, upending SF’s history of lax enforcement towards parking violations that routinely make streets more dangerous and snarl transit. So it remains to be seen: Are city leaders really committed to a sustained crackdown on motorists who illegally disrupt streets for their personal convenience? Or will SF merely witness another short-lived gimmick that will falter once police and parking control officers return to their blind-eyed ways?

Targeted enforcement against drivers who block chronically-plagued SoMa intersections was among an array of enforcement and bureaucratic reform efforts that Lee announced. For some reason, drivers haven’t been regularly ticketed for this in decades. But now, “There will be no tolerance of blocking the box,” Lee told reporters. “Those that do will face the hefty fines already on the books.”

At the press event, held to inaugurate the SFMTA’s new Transportation Management Center, Lee also warned double parkers: SF is “a city where some actors and actresses in their vehicles, or in their delivery trucks, seem to think that double parking is helpful to themselves — yet [don’t] understand the impact.”

But double parking with impunity is “part of San Francisco’s history.” That was actually declared at a supervisors hearing last year by Lea Millitello, then the SFMTA’s director of security, investigations, and enforcement, and previously an SFPD lieutenant. Specifically, she was referring to double parking at churches on Sundays, but everyday experience shows that the exemption extends to everywhere and every day.

So it’s clear that the mayor, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr will have to do more than just flip a switch to overhaul the prevailing culture among drivers and enforcement officers, who typically just shrug at each other when a car stops cold in a bike lane, transit lane, intersection, or sidewalk.

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SFPD to Cite Driver Who Hospitalized Woman While Backing Up

SFPD said a ticket will be issued to a driver who hit a woman last Wednesday while backing up on 16th Street near Pond Street, next to the Eureka Valley Branch Library. In initial reports, police said the driver had not been cited:

The woman was hit at about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday near the intersection of 16th and Pond streets, about a block from Market Street and two blocks from Castro Street, San Francisco police Officer Gordon Shyy said.

16th and Pond Streets. Photo: Google Maps

The driver of the vehicle, described as a man in his 60s, was reportedly backing into a parking spot when he hit the pedestrian, Shyy said.

The victim was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with trauma to her head that was initially considered life-threatening, according to police.

However, Shyy said the woman is now in stable condition and recovering from her injuries.

SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy told Streetsblog that the driver will receive a ticket for violating California Vehicle Code 22106, which states, “No person shall start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway, nor shall any person back a vehicle on a highway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

Charges are unlikely to be filed, as the District Attorney’s office has said charges typically won’t stand unless the victim dies, thus proving recklessness.

But even in two similar cases, drivers were never charged or cited. Last December, 84-year-old Chinatown activist Isabel Huie was killed by a 76-year-old driver who apparently lost control while parking on Jackson near Stockton Street. In October 2012, a 28-year-old driver ran over a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk on Third Street near Bryant. She was pulling forward out of a garage.

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It’s the Little Things: A Notably Positive SFPD Encounter on My Bike

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Last night, I was biking home on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset when I encountered an all-too-familiar sight: A double-parked car. I signaled and moved to the left to pass the car, in view of an SFPD cruiser behind.

At Irving Street near 10th Avenue, where drivers routinely double park, I had a refreshing encounter with an SFPD officer. (This photo was taken at a separate time.) Photo: Aaron Bialick

Normally, I’d expect the police to move along, doing nothing about this kind of situation. Other bicycle riders have reported far worse encounters with the SFPD.

But to my surprise, the driver of the police cruiser stopped behind the double parker and used their horn to buzz at them until they moved.

This might seem like a mundane encounter, but it left an impression since it’s so rare. I’m just not used to police actually caring about drivers who pose hazards to people biking or walking, or delaying Muni, even when the behavior is clearly illegal. Usually they just move along. When you get around by bike in SF for a while, it’s something you sadly can come to expect.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but if SF is fortunate, this officer’s little deed is not just a sign of a good apple, but rather of a larger shift in priorities at SFPD. Maybe it’s related to recent pushes from the top to pursue Vision Zero, or to crack down on double parking. Of course, citations might be more effective, but whoever the officer was — presumably from Taraval Station — thank you. The little things can speak volumes about SFPD’s attitudes.

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Witness: Hit-and-Run Driver Fled With Victim in Sunroof, Tried to Toss Booze

The car involved in the crash, post-clean-up. The driver reportedly traveled three blocks after striking the victim, whose legs were sticking out of the sunroof.

A drunk driver who hit a man crossing the street at Valencia Street and Duboce Avenue Sunday continued to drive with the victim hanging head-first inside the sunroof, according to a witness who saw the vehicle stop outside his home on Market at Guerrero Streets.

After continuing for three blocks past the scene of the crash, the driver, 29-year-old Luis Ayala of Redwood City, and his passenger then attempted to “ditch a bunch of booze and bail,” and left “a paper bag with booze a few yards from the car,” said the witness, who declined to be identified.

“The scene was graphic, blood all over the windshield, a lifeless body half in the sunroof with broken legs,” he said.

Even after the initial clean-up, blood could still be found on the rear of the car.

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The (Not-So) Odd Reasons Why SFPD Parks Cars All Around Park Station

This path outside SFPD’s Park Station is blocked by an SUV — for an unusual reason. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A few years ago, SFPD’s Park Station in Golden Gate Park started storing police trucks and vans on a short section of pathway adjacent to the station’s fence. I first noticed this while biking on Kezar Drive several years ago, and since then I’ve never seen the path without a police vehicle and/or barricade in the way. The section is at a fork between a pedestrian-only path and a shared ped/bike path, so people can still walk around the barricade to take the fork.

The explanation for the SUV storage, however, was unusual — stay with me and we’ll get to it below.

Around the same time, I also noticed stencils on the clear part of the bike/ped path, warning pedestrians and bicyclists to watch out for drivers entering and exiting the station — putting the onus on the vulnerable users going straight through, rather than the trained police officers making a turn. This absurdity wasn’t too surprising, given former Park Station Captain Greg Corrales’ reputed low regard for people on bikes. He was known, for instance, to order his limited enforcement staff to conduct stings of bike commuters rolling stop signs on the Wiggle. The “watch out” stencils on the path have mostly worn off by now.

But there’s another, more blatantly egregious use of park land nearby. Private automobiles, apparently owned by police officers, have long been parked on a patch of dirt (would-be grass), next to the footpath outside the station. Police cruisers also routinely drive down the path to get to the Stanyan and Waller Street intersection — circumventing the closure of Waller Street to all other motor vehicles years ago, when it was disconnected from Kezar inside the park.

Officers’ private cars are stored on park land. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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SFPD Arrests Driver for Killing Pei Fong Yim, 78, at Stockton and Sacramento

Image: CBS 5

SFPD arrested an SUV driver, 40-year-old Calixto Dilinila, for killing 78-year-old Pei Fong Yim in a crosswalk Saturday at Stockton and Sacramento Streets, outside the Stockton tunnel.

Calixto Dilinila. Photo: SFPD

Witnesses told CBS 5 that Dilinila was making a left turn from Sacramento onto Stockton when he ran Yim over, as she made her way across Stockton during what family members described as her routine daily walk. Dilinila was arrested for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

In January, SFPD’s Traffic Company Commander said a policy change initiated in 2013 allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes where there appears to be “probable cause.” This marked a departure from SFPD’s earlier failure to penalize reckless driving when drivers were neither intoxicated nor fled the scene.

Ever since that policy change, and beginning with two arrests in separate crashes on December 31, four drivers (including Dililina) have been arrested for killing a pedestrian while sober and while also staying on the scene. Out of the 13 pedestrian deaths this year, Dililina is the second such arrestee.

Police Captain David Lazar told reporters that officers are still investigating Saturday’s crash. “We’re going to make a determination as to what signal lights were green, and if there was a red hand up,” he told the SF Chronicle. “On some of the blocks on Stockton Street, the light may be green, but the hand is up.”

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SFMTA Launches a Smarter Safe Streets Ad Campaign

The SFMTA has launched a new ad campaign called “Safe Streets SF” that takes the most thoughtful approach to addressing the causes of pedestrian injuries of any city campaign thus far.

The ads have started rolling out on Muni buses. One depicts cars stopped in front of a busy, unmarked crosswalk, with the text, “It Stops Here.” A side panel says “all intersections are crosswalks” — a message aimed at combating the misconception that crosswalks aren’t legal unless they’re marked.

“We’ll be targeting the driver violations of pedestrian rights-of-way that are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all pedestrian collisions,” said SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin at an agency board meeting yesterday. “We’re trying not to just put random ads out there, but to really be thoughtful and strategic about what behaviors we’re targeting.”

Reiskin said the campaign, part of Vision Zero, is a collaboration between the SFMTA, SFPD, Department of Public Health, and Walk SF. Next month, it will be complemented by “24 high-visibility enforcement days” from police on streets with high rates of pedestrian injuries. “Officers will be on the streets citing drivers for violating pedestrian rights-of-way,” Reiskin said, noting that it will add to SFPD’s ongoing “Focus on the Five” enforcement campaign.

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Tow Truckers Pledge to Reduce Fell Bike Lane Parking, Thanks to Sup. Breed

“Three tow trucks blocking the bike lane on Fell now. Forcing people on bikes towards vehicle traffic,” writes Patrick Traughber on Twitter.

Updated 9/5 with comment from the SFPD captain below.

Ted & Al’s Towing company pledged to make a stronger effort to avoid parking its trucks in the Fell Street bike lane, an illegal practice that forces bike commuters to veer into heavy motor traffic.

Supervisor London Breed on Bike to Work Day. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

D5 Supervisor London Breed said that her staff came to an agreement with Ted & Al’s owner Larry Nasey and Raj Vaswani, the new SFPD Park Station captain. “Both were very responsive and helpful, and we are optimistic that this dangerous, illegal parking will not continue,” she said.

“Public safety is my greatest concern,” said Breed, who pushed the SFMTA to accelerate the installation of the neighboring bike lane on Oak Street last year. “When these tow trucks park in the bike lane, they force bicyclists into an active lane of traffic and jeopardize everyone’s safety.”

Nasey said he couldn’t promise a complete end to tow trucks stopped in the bike lane, since the driveway there is the only entrance they have to the building, and truckers must often wait for others to make room first. But managers will encourage truck drivers to move out of the bike lane more quickly, and to stop in one of the three traffic lanes available to motor traffic instead when car traffic isn’t too heavy.

“Had the bike lane been there [first], I never would’ve put my business there knowing the disruption it would cause,” said Nasey. “But because we’re there, and now the bikes are there, we’re trying to work it out so we can co-exist.”

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SFPD Arrests Aunt for Leaving Two-Year-Old Mi’yana Gregory in Crosswalk

SF police have arrested 25-year-old Lorysha Gage for leaving two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory in the downtown crosswalk where she was run over and killed last Friday night. Even as police seek the driver who struck Gregory and fled the scene, Gage is set to be arraigned tomorrow on charges of “felony child endangerment, with an enhancement allegation for causing death.”

Media reports initially quoted family members saying Gage had the walk signal when she crossed Mission in the crosswalk between Fourth and Fifth Streets, with Gregory and her twin brother in tow. The SFPD now says Gage was crossing against the signal, had left Gregory in the street unattended to retrieve her brother from the sidewalk, and that the driver had a green light.

“The investigation showed some evidence that there was some child neglect that resulted in the death of the two-year-old toddler,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told KTVU.

On the day of the arrest, SFPD Sergeant John Bragagnolo targeted citations towards “jaywalking” pedestrians at the crosswalk where Gregory died, telling KTVU he pointed to Gregory’s memorial when ticketing them.

“Pedestrians feel their speed and their hurry is more important than their safety,” Bragagnolo said.

Putting aside generalizations about the feelings of people who walk, this is an unusual case among pedestrian crashes: The SFPD’s data show that the top five causes are all driver violations, which the SFPD has pledged to focus enforcement on. In May, however, we reported that although SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” citations were reportedly increasing, its tickets issued to people walking and biking were increasing far faster. After a peak of 723 citations issued to pedestrians in March [PDF], the monthly number dropped at 444 in June [PDF], the latest month for which citation data has been reported.

Police say it’s unclear whether the driver who caused Gregory’s death was even aware he or she had run over an infant.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Scheider said “it’s a really challenging case, in that the arrest is broader than just an issue of pedestrian safety at this point.”

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