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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 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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Driver Kills Cyclist Charles Vinson, 66, at 14th and Folsom

14th and Folsom Streets. Photo: Google Maps

Update: SFPD issued a response below.

Charles Vinson, 66, was struck by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets in the Mission yesterday and died from his injuries today. A witness saw the driver of a Honda Civic “blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green,” according to the Examiner. Vinson suffered traumatic head injuries, and was wearing a helmet.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick called for a moment of silence for Vinson today at an SFMTA Board hearing on the redesign for a safer Polk Street.

“Mr. Vinson’s passing is sadly the latest example of the growing public demand for safe cycling that’s outpacing the city’s work to provide that space for them,” said Budnick.

When asked for confirmation of the witness report and information on any charges filed against the driver, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan issued this statement:

I don’t have any information yet on any citations or charges, but with any investigation, should the facts lead to an arrest/citation of one party, the officers will do just that. As far as the witness reports, the investigating officers are still working on determining who was at fault and I cannot confirm if the driver ran the red light.

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Mom and Toddler on Bike Injured By SUV Driver at Geary and 7th

Image: KPIX

An SUV driver reportedly ran a red light and crashed into a mother and her toddler on a bike at Geary Boulevard and 7th Avenue in the Inner Richmond at about 4 p.m. on Friday. The driver was reportedy headed westbound on Geary as the mother cycled southbound on 7th.

“People tried to honk at the driver to warn them what they were about to hit, but it was apparently too late,” KPIX’s Andrea Borba reported on Friday.

According to KPIX and the Richmond SF blog, the mother suffered a broken leg and the toddler appeared not to have sustained serious injuries. KPIX said a pediatrician happened to be on site and put the woman’s ankle in a splint.

We haven’t heard back yet from SFPD for updates on the victims’ conditions, confirmation that the driver ran a red, and information on any citations issued to the driver.

“We are relieved that mother and child are on the mend,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “I hope Mayor Lee and Police Chief Suhr take this crash to heart and send a strong message to San Franciscans to pay attention and think twice when operating thousand-pound machines in our dense, people-rich urban environment.”

Geary, a six-lane motorway, is one of the city’s high-injury corridors, and speeding is common there. The Geary Bus Rapid Transit project will improve safety on the street, but that isn’t expected to start construction until 2017. In addition to a center-running busway, the project calls for trimming Geary’s six general traffic lanes would down to four and adding sidewalk bulb-outs at many intersections.

There were at least two bicycle crashes on Geary at 7th and 8th Avenues between 2012 and 2013, according to a map of SFPD data.

The latest crash “is another example of the culture of speeding and how we can’t wait any longer for street improvements to come to Geary,” said D1 Supervisor Eric Mar. “We’re behind other cities that have implement slow zones and other physical changes to areas near schools, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. I wish the victims a speedy recovery and will continue to push for safer streets in the Richmond District and throughout the city.”

Budnick said the crash also highlights the importance of the SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” program, which targets the five most common violations that cause severe and fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes, including red-light running. Richmond Station is the only one to have met the campaign’s goals so far.

“Red light-running is epidemic in our city,” said Budnick. “This is exactly why it’s so important that the SF Police Department focus citations on the five most dangerous traffic behaviors. We can achieve Vision Zero — ending all traffic fatalities and severe injuries — but it will take action.”

“It could be your wife or your child crossing the road,” he added. “It is your neighbor.”

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Eyes on the Street: Another Driver Jumps the Curb in the Tenderloin

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Photo: Cheryl Brinkman

No sidewalk is safe.

Another driver jumped the curb and crashed into a building at Post and Taylor Streets near Union Square on Sunday. Cheryl Brinkman, who sits on the SFMTA Board of Directors, captured this photo of the aftermath and remarked: “I’ve been keeping a mental list of ‘Things we can’t trust car drivers not to do.’ Add ‘drive into buildings’ to that list.”

Drivers careen on to sidewalks more regularly than you might think — often on high-speed streets in dense neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, which is criss-crossed by one-way “arterials.” Two blocks away from the scene of yesterday’s crash, a driver destroyed a Muni shelter at Sutter and Taylor Streets in June 2013.

Miraculously, it appears no one was injured in either of those crashes, but people are not always so fortunate.

In November, a driver crashed onto the sidewalk and struck someone on a bike at McAllister and Leavenworth Streets, where a heavy flow of cars heading north from Seventh Street makes a zig-zag movement to get on to Leavenworth.

It’s not just a problem in the Tenderloin. Just two weeks ago, a driver smashed into Olea restaurant while making an illegal left turn at California and Larkin Streets. In September, another driver barreled into Comstock Saloon on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. According to ABC 7, that driver wasn’t arrested for the crash, but was arrested for an outstanding warrant for drug possession.

It’s typical for drivers to face no legal penalties for jumping curbs and destroying property, despite the threat to public safety and the costs they impose. They may be arrested or cited for driving under the influence, or for another violation that led to the crash, but driving into a restaurant or coffee shop in San Francisco is apparently not a crime.

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Second Sleeping Man Killed by a Driver at the Same Driveway

For the second time in two years, a homeless man was run over and killed by a driver exiting the same garage exit on Third near Bryant Street in SoMa.

Drivers have struck and killed two people lying on the sidewalk in front of this garage in the last two years. Photo: Google Maps

The SF Chronicle reports:

Randy Jacobs, 53, fell asleep Friday night in the driveway of a private apartment garage at Third and South Park streets, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, before a vehicle leaving the complex ran him over about 6:40 p.m. Jacobs was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the driver of the SUV was not negligent, so charges are not likely to be filed in the case.

“When the vehicle was exiting the garage, he was unable to see the guy sleeping there,” said San Francisco police Officer Grace Gatpandan. “The car was exiting and just ran over the victim.”

The driver, a 55-year-old man, failed to see the victim in front of his car and killed him “accidentally” as far as the SPFD is concerned. Not “carelessly” or “negligently.”

A similar scenario played out in November 2012, when a 28-year-old woman was absolved of any responsibility when she drove forward and ran over 55-year-old Elvis Presley. The report on Friday’s incident didn’t say whether the driver was also pulling forward.

Let’s remember that this driveway is also a sidewalk. Falling asleep there isn’t a smart move, but that’s beside the point. It’s the person driving across the sidewalk who needs to exercise caution and make sure that the path is clear. But it seems clear that running over a person lying on a sidewalk is “not negligent” in San Francisco, where the rule is cars over people.

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Safe Streets Advocates: “Enough is Enough” — Time to End Traffic Violence

Miles Epstein stands in the crosswalk where Pricila Moreto was killed outside City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The recent spate of drivers killing or maiming pedestrians has both City Hall leaders and SF agencies running out of excuses for their snail’s-pace implementation of measures that would make city streets safer.

At a rally on Friday, a coalition of safe streets advocates chanted, “Enough is enough.” The 28 people killed in crashes on city streets this year, 18 of them pedestrians, puts SF on pace to surpass last year’s number of fatalities.

At the event, 28 pairs of white shoes were placed on City Hall’s steps to represent this year’s deaths.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum pointed out that, with about three people hit by cars in SF every day, the shoes represent only a tiny fraction of injury victims whose lives are often ruined. “There are more than 100 times this many people injured,” she said. “People with broken limbs, with irreversible trauma and damage to their bodies.”

“For every person involved in gun violence in San Francisco, there are five people who are hit by cars,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We don’t call this violence for some reason, but cars are also weapons. They take people’s lives, they take people’s limbs.”

Those killed or seriously injured by drivers on SF’s streets are disproportionately likely to be minorities, seniors, and people with disabilities. Over half of those killed this year were seniors — including 68-year-old Priscila “Precy” Moreto, who was killed on October 23 in the crosswalk right in front of the City Hall steps where the rally was held. One man at the event, Miles Epstein, held a sign reading, “Hey City Hall, there is blood in your crosswalk.”

Friday’s rally was not just a call to action, but also a memorial for victims like Moreto, a Filipino-American woman who was run over by a tour trolley driver who was apparently distracted while narrating to passengers. Rudy Asercion, executive director of the National Federation of Filipino American Association of SF, called on the Board of Supervisors to push for legal changes to ban tour drivers from narrating at the same time.

The event was far from the first pedestrian safety rally in SF. Pi Ra of the Senior and Disability Action Network, who has been active in pedestrian safety advocacy since 2000, said pedestrian safety advocates “get a sugar high” every few years when calling for action. Each time, city leaders provide lip service, but lasting change never seems to result.

The typical excuse, Ra said, is that there’s no funding for safer streets, despite the vast economic toll of traffic injuries — $15 million per year just for medical treatment, according to a 2011 report from the SF Department of Public Health. Traffic injuries account for one-fourth of all traumatic injuries in the city.

“We need action. We don’t need more town hall meetings. We don’t need any more plans,” said Ra. “What about the cost of our lives? What about the costs around our injuries? That’s costing far more than the little bit of money we’re asking for to make it safe for everybody.”

“We have the funding, and we have the political will,” said Shahum. “What’s missing? It’s the action.”

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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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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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Man Killed by Muni Bus Driver at Closed Crosswalk Outside Geary Tunnel

Image: CBS 5

A man was hit and killed by a Muni bus driver on Geary Boulevard at Lyon Street on Monday at 1:15 a.m., according to media reports. Both crosswalks across Geary are closed at that intersection, just east of the Masonic tunnel, leaving a roughly 1,000-foot gap between crosswalks at Presidio Avenue and at Baker Street.

The man, who hasn’t been identified, is the 12th pedestrian to be killed on San Francisco streets this year.

“His death is all the more tragic, given the crash occurred on Geary — long identified as one of the six percent of streets which make up the city’s high-injury corridors and account for over 60 percent of crashes involving pedestrians,” said Natalie Burdick of Walk SF.

As we wrote last week, closed crosswalks remain even in SF’s most walkable neighborhoods, vestiges of 20th-century planning efforts to whisk cars down traffic sewers like the Geary expressway.

At intersections like Geary and Lyon, people are entirely banned from crossing Geary and instead are expected to spend five minutes (at standard walking speeds) walking to a different intersection and back. The extra 1,000 feet pose an impractical proposition for many people, particularly when traffic volumes are low — too often resulting in fatal outcomes for those who instead attempt the most direct path.

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