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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes.

SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic lane.

Tickets were issued to people headed downtown who are essentially given no safe, legal, or practical alternative to use this official bike route. It’s one more sign that the department has no plans to stop targeting innocuous, common-sense behaviors by people on bikes while violations that hurt people remain under-enforced.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” said Jason Henderson, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

“Bicyclists don’t want to be doing that,” Henderson said. “It’s because the city has shirked its moral responsibility and left bicyclists to fend for themselves at that intersection.”

Squeezing to the left on Page, where the oncoming westbound traffic lane is mostly empty, has been normal for years and hasn’t been known to cause any crashes. The SFMTA has actually proposed a partial center-running bike lane on Page to legitimize the behavior as part of street improvements on and around Octavia.

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Wiggle Riders to Show Folly of Stop Sign Law By Complying With It

Demonstrators plan to muck up the flow of traffic on the Wiggle by daring to follow the letter of the stop sign law on bikes. Photo: Aaron Bialick

What if everyone on a bike followed the letter of the law and made a complete stop at every stop sign, as if they were driving a car?

“It would have disastrous effects to traffic patterns,” say the organizers of a “Wiggle Stop-In” demonstration planned for Wednesday evening. “That’s what we intend to show.”

Organizers at the Wigg Party hope to demonstrate the absurdity of the state stop sign law, which fails to account for the way people negotiate stop signs on bikes. It’s a response to plans by SFPD’s new Park Station captain to institute a crackdown on bike behavior (particularly at stop signs), diverting enforcement resources from violations that actually hurt people.

The group “want[s] to gather 50-100 cyclists to ride around the Wiggle/Lower Haight and stop at every stop sign in single file order,” the Wigg Party wrote on its Facebook event page. “We want to make the point that, in fact, requiring cyclists to come to full stops at every stop sign is a really terrible idea for everyone on the road.”

On the average day on the Wiggle, people walking, biking, and driving move mostly without incident. Reports of injuries involving bicycles are rare. The vast majority of bike commuters practice typical common-sense behavior at stop signs: slowing down, looking, and being prepared to yield to others with the right-of-way.

When bicycle riders who clearly have the right-of-way avoid unnecessary stops that kill their momentum, drivers and pedestrians can get moving faster, too.

The practice, which officers in Park District follow too, was legitimized by Idaho more than 30 years ago.

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SFPD Captain Justifies Bike Crackdown By Misconstruing “Focus on the Five”

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SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford is misconstruing the premise of his department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign to justify diverting precious traffic enforcement resources for his own campaign: getting people on bikes to always stop at stop signs, once and for all.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

Here’s a refresher on Focus on the Five, for those, like Sanford, who need it…

As many as 900 pedestrians are injured each year by drivers. The SFPD has used its data to identify the five most common causes of those injuries, as well as the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. By making the five most dangerous violations the top priority, the SFPD can use its limited traffic enforcement resources to have the greatest impact on reducing traffic violence.

Those five top crash factors are all driver violations: drivers violating of pedestrian right-of-way, drivers speeding, drivers running stop signs, drivers running red lights, and drivers making illegal turns.

But Captain Sanford doesn’t see it that way. “‘Focus on the Five’ depicts that Red lights and Stop signs are two of the most deadly behaviors that contribute to these tragic accidents,” he wrote in an email response to a constituent. “There is no exemption for cyclist [sic].”

Captain Sanford has his own rogue interpretation of statistics to justify his quest to control the “cyclist.” In this version of reality, data about driver behavior can simply be transposed to people who ride bikes. As such, people on bikes are assumed to be just as culpable for the vast majority of injuries on San Francisco streets as drivers are.

Rolling a stop sign on a bike, as the SFPD officers seen here are doing on Haight Street, is now one of the five most deadly violations, according to Captain Sanford. Screenshot from sugarfortea/Youtube

“Twisting the facts to divert resources away from enforcing the deadliest traffic violations is cynical and dangerous,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Chris Cassidy. “People who walk, bike and drive around the Panhandle, Inner Sunset and the Haight are scared of the effects this approach is going to have on the safety of their streets.”

Other SFPD officials seem to get it. Just last week, Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix explained at a Park Station meeting that “the injury that a car inflicts, of course, is far greater than what a pedestrian could do to a car, or what a bicyclist could do.” She noted, however, that “we get the most complaints about bicyclists.”

This is the real problem: Complaints — not data — still dominate traffic enforcement priorities at stations like Park.

Park Station residents and commuters would be safer if Sanford took a cue from his neighbor to the north, Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman. Richmond Station is the only one to meet the SFPD’s goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations towards “the five.”

“You always have competing demands on officer time,” Silverman told Streetsblog in December. “The collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

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SFPD Charges Trucker Who Killed Rose Kelly, 61, in Richmond Crosswalk

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

Updated 6/22 with the name of the driver.

The SFPD has filed misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the truck driver who killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a crosswalk in the Outer Richmond yesterday afternoon. It’s now up to District Attorney George Gascón to follow through with the prosecution.

Kelly was walking east in a crosswalk on Cabrillo Street at 33rd Avenue when she was hit by a GMC truck driver at 1:21 p.m, SFPD told the SF Chronicle and Bay City NewsKelly died from chest and head injuries at SF General Hospital.

Kelly was killed at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way in a crosswalk. [Update] SFPD officials confirmed that the charges were filed against the driver, Bing Zuo Wu, a 62-year-old SF resident.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said the organization “sends our regards to the family and friends who are mourning the loss of Rose Kelly, who was killed by a large vehicle driver who failed to yield.”

“It’s a stark reminder that large vehicles result in more severe crashes than smaller vehicles,” Ferrara noted, pointing out that the SFMTA is in “the final stages of developing a large vehicle training curriculum” announced in February. “It’s in the best interest of companies that use large vehicles to require that all employees take this training.”

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New SFPD Park Station Captain’s Bike Crackdown Won’t Make Streets Safer

In the name of “protecting life,” SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has promised a crackdown on people on bikes rolling through stop signs.

The SF Bicycle Coalition and some neighborhood leaders are calling on Sanford not to divert precious enforcement resources away from the most deadly traffic violations in the district, none of which are bicycle violations.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

The SFPD has committed to Vision Zero, an end to traffic deaths. Its ostensible strategy is called “Focus on the Five” — the idea being that most citations should be for the five top causes of traffic injuries in the city, which are all driver violations. All stations but one have failed to meet that goal. The share of tickets issued to people walking and biking is actually growing faster than “the five.”

“This crackdown is a significant departure from the SFPD’s Vision Zero Commitment and risks lives by diverting resources away from the deadliest traffic violations,” the SFBC wrote in a blog post today announcing a petition. “This program at Park Station ignores the SFPD’s Vision Zero goal and their own data… which show that the behaviors most likely to result in someone being hit or killed in the Park Station area are failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and sudden left or right turns.”

Park Station has a history of targeting people on bikes on the Wiggle and streets in the North of Panhandle and Upper Haight neighborhoods, often at intersections that are nowhere close to being the district’s most dangerous.

But Sanford, who became captain of the station in April, seems less convinced by data than by his personal perceptions. He explained his reasons for the crackdown at a community meeting in June, reports Hoodline:

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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 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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Daly City Police’s Idea of Vision Zero: Ticketing “Jaywalkers” at BART

Daly City police officers recently targeted people crossing against the walk signal on John Daly Boulevard to reach the Daly City BART Station, just south of the San Francisco border, as seen in a KRON 4 “People Behaving Badly” segment last week.

Commuters crossing against the light when John Daly is clear of traffic are not known to be a major cause of pedestrian crashes. But DCPD’s traffic sergeant told Streetsblog these types of operations are common and driven by collision data, though the data wasn’t on hand.

Officer Rey Asuncion was seen in the segment apparently trying to scare violators into not running into a driver’s path by describing a recent hit-and-run crash that killed an elderly man.

There was no evidence the victim in that crash crossed against a signal, and Asuncion’s description contained several inaccurate details.

“About a month ago, we had a Chinese gentleman who got hit at an intersection in Daly City,” Asuncion said in the segment. “He got struck at that intersection. The vehicle got away, and we have not found the driver, but unfortunately for that gentleman, he died right there at the scene.”

Here are the known facts of the crash he was referring to, according to media reports and DCPD’s traffic sergeant. On Highway 35 near Westridge Avenue on December 14 (four months ago), a driver hit and killed 77-year-old Daly City resident Jose Rosel in a crosswalk. The driver, 40-year-old Joro Petrovmoray, was arrested in February and charged with felony hit-and-run causing death. His vehicle was found an auto body shop where he allegedly sold it after the crash. He has plead not guilty.

DCPD Traffic Division Sergeant Matthew Fox acknowledged that Asuncion “might not be apprised of what detectives have done with that case… maybe he misspoke, but the message was to be safe along these corridors.”

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Belmont Police Blame Cyclist for Getting in the Way of Driver’s Left Turn

An emergency crew treats an injured 29-year-old man who was hit on his bike by a driver who turned left into his path. Police blamed the victim for carrying bags and talking on a phone. Photo: Belmont Police Department

When a 90-year-old driver turned left into the path of a man bicycling on Ralston Avenue, the Belmont Police Department blamed the victim for talking on a cell phone and not wearing a helmet. The department also warned people on bikes against “carrying packages and bags” in its press release.

None of those behaviors are illegal, nor would they have stopped the driver from turning left into the victim’s path — which, by the way, she didn’t receive a citation for.

The crash on Saturday afternoon occurred on Ralston, where city officials refused to include bike lanes and a road diet in a plan for safety improvements last year.

“Cars come first,” Belmont City Council Member Coralin Feierbach declared in 2013. Feierbach acknowledged that “when you ride your bike on Ralston you take your life into your own hands,” but concluded that there is nothing to be done about it. She deemed it “impossible” to reduce speeding, ignoring the evidence that road diets do just that [PDF].

Victims of Belmont’s failure to implement proven safety measures won’t get any help from the local police department, which issued its statement on Monday to “remind cyclists to drive defensively.”

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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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