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Posts from the "Pedestrians" Category

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Six Months for Killing Hanren Chang: Even Drunk Drivers Get Off Easy

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Lowell High School student Hanren Chang. Image: ABC 7

It’s hard to imagine a more egregiously clear-cut case where a driver deserves a harsh prison term than when drunk driver Kieran Brewer ran over and killed a minor inside a crosswalk. Surely, unlike other cases where sober drivers killed pedestrians and faced few consequences, these circumstances would spur the judicial system into action.

Yet Brewer was sentenced to just six months in jail for driving drunk and killing Hanren Chang in a crosswalk on Sloat Boulevard last year, as she was returning home from celebrating her 17th birthday.

Kieran Brewer. Photo via CBS 5

Brewer’s total sentence includes six months in jail, six months in home detention, five years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and a nine-month treatment program for people who have driven under the influence, according to the SF Chronicle. Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy also ordered Brewer to pay the family more than $4,700 in restitution.

In addition, Judge Conroy struck down a bid from the prosecuting attorneys to apply the state’s “three strikes” law in this case. Prosecutors argued that Brewer inflicted great bodily injury, a crime that counts as a strike under the law.

“I don’t think the interest of justice will be served if Mr. Brewer gets this strike,” Conroy said in court, according to the Chronicle. “He has been consistently remorseful and cooperative with law enforcement.”

Remorse and cooperation apparently go a long way in court. So, too, does committing manslaughter with a car rather than a gun. As pointed out in a blog post by GJEL Accident Attorneys, a Streetsblog SF sponsor, “Involuntary manslaughter shootings usually result in sentences of years, not months”:

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Fourth Pedestrian Killed by Driver on Deadly Van Ness This Year

Van Ness and Golden Gate, where a driver reportedly killed a pedestrian while traveling northbound. Image: Google Maps

A car driver struck and killed a man who was crossing Van Ness at Golden Gate Avenue at about 11 p.m. last night. According to the SFPD, “Early reports indicate that the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk,” but the crash is still under investigation. Police didn’t say how fast the driver was going, or how close to the crosswalk the victim may have been.

As SFGate reported, the victim was the seventh pedestrian killed in San Francisco this year, the fourth just on Van Ness — and the third just on a two-block stretch of Van Ness behind City Hall:

In January, a 38-year-old man was hit and killed as he tried to run across Van Ness near Grove Street. In early February, a man was struck near Grove Street and later died from his injuries. About a week later  a pedestrian died in a hit-and-run crash near the corner of Van Ness and Pacific Avenue.

Van Ness, like other street-level highways slicing through San Francisco, has a design that facilitates dangerously fast driving, and the result is an unconscionable number of pedestrian injuries. Although cases where the victims weren’t using a crosswalk tend to be met with victim-blaming, the long distances between crosswalks (which hardly ensure safety) and long wait times to cross Van Ness invite pedestrians to “jaywalk” instead. And since Van Ness is designed to prioritize high-speed through traffic, pedestrian crashes are likely to result in injuries and deaths.

After the hit-and-run crash at Van Ness and Pacific that killed 35-year-old Paul Lambert, who also lost his cousin to a hit-and-run driver in New York City last June, KTVU noted that Van Ness isn’t slated to get any substantial pedestrian safety improvements until Van Ness BRT is built. That project, set to be complete in 2018, will reduce the street’s mixed traffic lanes from six to four, while also adding pedestrian bulb-outs and other safety upgrades.

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SFPD Finds SUV in Crash That Killed Oi Yeung, 82; Driver Still at Large

Police investigating the scene of the crash on Bayshore last Thursday. Image: KRON 4

SFPD has found the SUV in the crash that killed 82-year-old Oi Yeung in a crosswalk at Bayshore Boulevard and Visitacion Avenue Thursday morning, after which the driver fled the scene. The SF Chronicle reported that police located the white Dodge Durango seen by witnesses and in video footage near the intersection where the crash occurred, but that no arrests have been made.

A video still of the SUV involved in the crash. Image: SFPD

“We’re working on making a case for the suspect,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told the Chronicle:

Yeung was crossing Bayshore Boulevard in a crosswalk at Visitacion Avenue when a Durango, moving in the same direction on Visitacion, turned left into the northbound lanes of Bayshore without yielding to her, police said.

The driver continued for a block to Leland Avenue, did a U-turn, drove back slowly to observe the result of the collision, and then sped away south, police said.

The car was towed and was being processed Tuesday for evidence, said Officer Albie Esparza. Investigators were conducting interviews with the car’s registered owners, and everyone else who lives at the address connected to the SUV.

“This is yet another reminder of how much further we need to go to put an end to traffic violence in San Francisco,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that streets like Bayshore are “dangerous by design.”

“In fact, in 2011, the Senior Action Network led a demonstration on this street just one block down,” she said. “They submitted their recommendations to the SFMTA, but no changes were ever made.”

Although a section of Bayshore to the north received a traffic-calming road diet earlier this month, with two of the four traffic lanes north of Paul Avenue converted to buffered bike lanes, the Visitacion intersection was not included in the project.

Yeung is the sixth pedestrian killed by a driver in SF this year. As the SFMTA Board of Directors considers approval of the agency’s two-year budget next month, Schneider said increasing funds for the pedestrian safety upgrades called for in the city’s WalkFirst plan is crucial to work towards the city’s official Vision Zero goal of ending traffic deaths.

“New figures from the city show that the economic and health related costs of pedestrian injuries total $564 million per year,” said Schneider. “Compare that to the $3.4 million per year that is secured for pedestrian safety in MTA’s budget. How many more people have to die before we start re-prioritizing?”

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Foster City Abandons Plan to Close Crosswalk Where Girl Was Injured

A 17-year-old Foster City girl was seriously injured after being struck by a BMW driver while walking in the northern crosswalk (on the right) at Edgewater Boulevard and Port Royal Avenue on January 24. Photo: Andrew Boone

Many Foster City residents were shocked last month when their City Council responded to the injury of a 17-year-old girl by closing off the crosswalk at Edgewater Boulevard at Port Royal Avenue, where she was struck by a driver. Hundreds of residents petitioned the council to take other steps instead of installing “No Ped Crossing” signs and physical barriers. The council reversed its crosswalk closure decision last week, opting instead to install pedestrian-activated flashing lights.

The intersection’s well-known hazards caught the City Council’s attention after the driver of a 2014 BMW 528i slammed into a high school student who was walking in the crosswalk on Edgewater on January 24, breaking both of her legs and knocking her to the ground unconscious. She spent several days in Stanford Medical Center’s intensive care unit but ultimately survived.

Mayor Charles Bronitsky places the blame for car crashes on both drivers and pedestrians not following traffic laws, and argues there’s little cities can do to reduce traffic collisions. ”It’s an issue of personal responsibility, folks,” he said. “There’s nothing the government can do to make people be responsible. We gotta do the best we can to try to babysit adults.”

The statewide fine for walking across a street where “No Ped Crossing” signs are installed, such as this one on Franklin Street in San Francisco, is $194.

Council members Steve Okamoto, Art Kiesel, and Gary Pollard were on the verge of voting to install stop signs on Edgewater Boulevard during their February 3 city council meeting when Bronitsky warned of “potential legal repercussions” that could arise.

A 2012 traffic report authored by professional traffic engineer Steve Fitzsimons of Republic ITS, a subsidiary of Siemens that installs and maintains traffic signals, concluded that stop signs are “unwarranted” according to a state standard that recommends a street to have either more collisions (five annually) or higher car traffic volumes before they’re installed. The report concluded that the left-turn conflicts, high pedestrian traffic (including many children), and poor visibility for drivers turning onto Edgewater from Port Royal were “not relevant,” despite well-documented evidence to the contrary, including calls from residents to fix those hazards in emails to the city and at public meetings.

Fear of litigation helps explain the city’s reaction. City Attorney Jean Savaree said that the city would lose its “design immunity” legal defense in the case of a lawsuit brought by the victim of a collision somehow caused by the stop signs.

“When you hire a traffic engineer and they make recommendations to you, if you follow those, you trigger what’s called design immunity,” Savaree said. “If you install a four-way stop where it’s not warranted and you have a collision, the city is sued [on the basis] that you created a dangerous condition because you have not followed a professional engineer’s advice.”

Okamoto pointed out to fellow council members that other stop signs classified as “unwarranted” by exactly the same type of traffic engineer’s report were previously installed at three other intersections after residents complained of unsafe conditions at those locations.

“I don’t think there has been any liability issues at those intersections,” said Okamoto. ”In spite of the concern of legal counsel, I still support four-way stop signs.”

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ABC 7′s “I-Team” #DidntLook at the Real Dangers for Pedestrians in SF

ABC 7′s “I-Team,” lead by reporter Dan Noyes, had a major opportunity to give viewers an accurate picture of what’s causing pedestrian deaths,” as the headline of its latest segment suggests. But Noyes didn’t let the facts get in the way of producing a pedestrian-shaming piece, at the end of which he asked viewers to tweet about self-endangering pedestrians with the hashtag #DidntLook.

Image: ABC 7

ABC did put some of those pesky facts in the segment, like the SFPD statistics that two-thirds of pedestrian crashes are primarily the fault of the driver. (Noyes, however, made no mention of the fact that driver error accounts for the top five most common violations.) But why should the I-Team’s “investigation” allow rigorous data to spoil the slant of the segment — which was mainly focused on shaming people crossing the street against lights and outside of crosswalks?

As it happens, #DidntLook backfired. Search the hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll find across-the-board criticism of the segment. Noyes tried to counter some of the jabs himself, arguing that it’s just pedestrians’ turn for an I-Team segment, since they’ve done pieces on drivers and bicycle riders. Because that’s how journalism is supposed to work — everybody gets a turn. Next up for the I-Team: a hard-hitting look at the menace of babies in strollers.

By the way, Noyes is capable of better stuff. His most recent bicycle-related segment, “I-Team gets street view from cyclists,” wasn’t as egregious, telling stories through footage submitted by cyclists.

Here are some prime cuts from the #DidntLook discussion:

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Supes, SFPD, SFMTA Stand With Crash Victims and Advocates at City Hall

Crash survivor Monique Porsandeh speaks alongside Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider and city officials holding the names of those killed by drivers. Photos: Walk SF

SFPD officials, transportation department heads, and three supervisors stood outside City Hall this morning alongside safe streets advocates and people whose lives have been affected by traffic violence. The press conference served as a call to action and a memorial for victims of traffic violence in the past year, with participants holding Valentines featuring names of the deceased.

Walk SF, which organized the event, was joined by Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and John Avalos, the sponsors of the “Vision Zero” resolution introduced at the board. Also in attendance were SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum and top brass from the SFMTA and the SFPD Traffic Company, including Commander Mikail Ali and  SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, as well as SF County Transportation Authority Executive Director Tilly Chang. Mayor Ed Lee was absent.

“The violence has to end,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that since December, 11 pedestrians have been killed by drivers, four of them this year. Introducing a segment about the event today, an ABC 7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings said it “feels like open season on pedestrians.”

“We’ve acknowledged that this is a crisis,” said Schneider, “and now we’re calling on city leaders to fund the [SFMTA's] Pedestrian Strategy and implement Vision Zero — zero traffic fatalities in 10 years.”

“It’s a tragedy that it is becoming a common occurrence for children, parents, spouses, relatives and friends to lose a loved one in San Francisco because of recklessness on the roads,” Supervisor Yee, who has been hit by a driver, said in a statement. ”Let’s slow down, be alert, and be respectful. It will take our whole community to make Vision Zero a reality.”

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Speeding Driver Arrested for Killing Pedestrian, Walking Away on Van Ness

Image: KTVU

SFPD has arrested 27-year-old Mageb Hussain of Emeryville for hitting and killing an unidentified pedestrian on Van Ness at Pacific Avenue at about 1 a.m. last night. Hussain was reportedly driving a rental car and attempted to walk away from the scene of the crash.

Mageb Hussain. Photo: SFPD

Police said Hussain faces felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run charges. According to KTVU and the SF Chronicle, Hussain was traveling at freeway speeds when the unidentified victim attempted to cross mid-block. The impact of the crash was so severe, the car’s hood and windshield were smashed in.

The Chronicle reported that Hussain has a “checkered driving record”:

In March and April of 2011, he was cited twice for speeding and once for driving on a sidewalk in three separate incidents. He later failed to make court appearances, records show, and his license was suspended in November of 2011 – an action that ended in October of last year. Hussain’s license is currently valid, the DMV said.

Hussain is the fourth driver to be arrested by SFPD for killing a pedestrian since New Year’s Eve. The drivers in the previous three cases stayed on the scene. Prior to those incidents, it was unusual for police to arrest drivers who were sober and didn’t attempt to flee. But this year SFPD has adhered to its recent change in policy, which allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes when there appears to be probable cause.

In the most recent crash on Sunset Boulevard last Tuesday, 71-year-old driver Jenny Ching was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. In Hussain’s case, it appears the manslaughter charge may have been elevated to a felony since he attempted to flee.

The victim, whom police haven’t identified, is at least the third pedestrian killed by a driver this year. Today’s KTVU report said a fourth pedestrian, who was previously reported to have suffered critical injuries, has died after being hit by a driver in a crosswalk at Van Ness and Grove Street last Wednesday. That driver fled and evaded police.

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The Chron Still a Podium for Willie Brown’s Anti-Bike, Pro-Freeway Garbage

Willie Brown’s successors don’t look so bad when reading the former mayor’s windshield perspective drivel in his latest Chronicle column.

Willie Brown. Image: ##http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?id=9242261##ABC 7##

Willie Brown. Image: ABC 7

It’s hard to imagine San Franciscans once again electing a mayor who responds to a spate of pedestrian injuries by lambasting everything but the primary cause: reckless driving. But according to yesterday’s column from the increasingly out-of-touch Brown, San Francisco wouldn’t be plagued by “increasingly unsafe streets” if only we had more freeways and fewer people walking and biking:

We have only ourselves to blame for San Francisco’s increasingly unsafe streets.

We tore down the Central and Embarcadero freeways and in the process dumped thousands of additional cars onto the already crowded streets, many driving at nearly the same speed they did on the freeways.

We encouraged more people to ride bicycles, then all but exempted them from following traffic rules.

We brought thousands of pedestrians into downtown, then allowed them to jaywalk at will, often with their heads buried in their latest mobile devices.

We tell the cops to write more tickets, then when they do, some supervisor accuses them of racial profiling or picking on the poor.

And now, in the name of tech, we’re allowing hundreds of ride-share gypsy cabs onto the streets without commercial driver’s licenses.

Ten years after Brown left office, even the SFPD is re-shaping its policies around what its data shows — that the vast majority of pedestrian injuries are caused by reckless driving. Not that we should expect data to be relevant to a man who seems to base his transportation and street safety views on no data or empirical evidence whatsoever.

Apparently, little has changed since September 1996, in Brown’s first year as mayor, when his limo driver hit Karen Alexander in a crosswalk. Hold on to your jaw as you read the Chronicle’s report of Brown’s casual dismissal of the incident:

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SFPD Arrests Driver for Manslaughter for Killing Man on Sunset Boulevard

Photo: CBS 5

The SFPD has arrested, cited, and released a driver for killing 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon as he crossed Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in the Outer Sunset Tuesday at about 11 a.m. This is the third known instance of the SFPD arresting a driver who killed a pedestrian, and wasn’t drunk or fleeing the scene, since New Year’s Eve. Previously, such drivers typically faced no legal penalties.

Jenny Ching, 71, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, police told the SF Chronicle:

Berenzon was walking east across Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in or near a crosswalk just before 11 a.m. when Ching, traveling south, hit him with a Toyota Corolla, police said.

The road has three lanes in each direction, separated by a median. The crosswalk near where Berenzon was struck features warning lights that flash when a pedestrian hits a button to cross, but police have not said whether the lights were in use at the time of the crash.

Berenzon was pronounced dead at the scene. Ching and her two passengers were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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Chuck Nevius: People Who Don’t Walk in Fear Are Part of a “Militant Cult”

When KQED asked Jason Henderson in a recent interview whether distracted pedestrians are contributing to a rise in traffic injuries and fatalities, he countered the nonsense. “Well, let’s think of it this way,” said Henderson, the author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco. “A pedestrian talking on the phone that bumps into another pedestrian is probably not going to result in a fatality.”

The Chronicle’s Chuck Nevius begs to differ in his column today. Nevius apparently has nothing but scorn for people who “step confidently into the crosswalk” — “even when they’re right” — saying they’re part of a “militant cult.”

For Nevius, ranting from behind the windshield is old hat, so his latest drivel is not exactly a big surprise. Still, it’s kind of astounding that the Chronicle thinks it’s okay to publish a column ranting about seniors who enter the crosswalk near the end of a countdown signal. Nevius is taken aback, for instance, by a “little old lady, carrying a cane, who stepped blithely off the curb with one tick left on the crossing clock. She tottered across three lanes of traffic with cars waiting, but I can’t say she was oblivious. She held her free hand up in a ‘stop’ gesture.”

Nevius apparently feels that San Franciscans need to be reminded that they should expect to get run over when they walk. “The pedestrians in San Francisco are freaking nuts,” Nevius wrote. Yet he admits he, too, crosses the street — gasp — and dabbles in the cult’s “nutty” way of life:

We have lots of jaywalkers near The Chronicle building. Which is understandable — long blocks, people downtown in a hurry. I’ve jaywalked and I am likely to do so again. But I also think I’d better watch it. I’m in the middle of the street, no crosswalk, and cars may not stop.

At least Nevius starts off his column with “the necessary stipulation” that “granted, drivers in San Francisco are a menace… and generally scare the bejeebers out of all of us. Bad, drivers, bad.” Then comes the follow-up: “having fulfilled our politically correct responsibilities, we can get back to the real topic.”

To Nevius, the “real topic” is not the drivers piloting multi-ton motor vehicles through the streets, who can maim or kill a human being when they mess up. The focus must be on the behavior of those pesky, unarmored human beings. (“He might as well tell us that he has lots of friends who are pedestrians too,” one Streetsblog commenter remarked.)

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