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Two Lost to Reckless Driving in SF: Zachary Watson and Two-Year-Old Girl

Zachary Watson and Mi’yana Gregory. Left photo via Marc Caswell. Right photo via KTVU

Two lives were lost to reckless drivers in SF this weekend: Two-year-old Mi’yana Gregory and 29-year-old Zachary Watson, whose family and friends removed life support after three weeks in the hospital.

Gregory was reportedly run over after she and her family saw a movie on Friday night. The crash occurred on Mission Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, in a signalized mid-block crosswalk that connects the movie theatre and parking garage. The driver apparently ran a red light and fled the scene, and police have released an image of the 1990s white sedan they are searching for. Family and friends held a vigil on Sunday.

The SF Chronicle reports:

The crosswalk Gregory was killed in. Image: Google Maps

Mi’yana was struck at 10:37 p.m. Friday in the crosswalk midway between Fourth and Fifth streets in the South of Market neighborhood. The crosswalk has its own traffic light to stop cars on the busy stretch of Mission, and family members said Mi’yana, her brother and aunt had the light as they crossed the street, heading toward a parking garage opposite the mall.

On Sunday afternoon, the base of that traffic light became a small shrine of clustered candles and teddy bears. Pictures held by the family showed a beaming girl with braided hair, known to relatives as “My My.”

“She was the sweetest little thing,” said her father, Michael Gregory, 20. “She liked to dance. She liked ‘Sesame Street.’ She had a smile that could light up a room.”

As he spoke, he held Mi’yana’s twin brother, Michael Gregory Jr. “He woke up this morning and asked, ‘Where’s My My?’ ” the father said.

A surveillance video image released by SFPD of the vehicle used by the driver who killed Gregory. Image via SF Chronicle

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Reckless Driver Leaves Urban Data Maven Zachary Watson Fighting for Life

Zachary Watson seen in a panel discussion about Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network, which he helped map in 2012. Image: ZERO1 via Youtube

Zachary Watson, a noted 29-year-old city data visualizer, remains hospitalized in critical condition after a driver fleeing police in a stolen minivan caused a two-car wreck Monday night. Watson was apparently walking with his bike or locking it up when the vehicles hurtled toward him. He is known for creating works like a map of private shuttles that connect San Francisco to Silicon Valley.

Watson's bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

Watson’s bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

The crash occurred at Post and Jones Streets at about 10:15 p.m. Police had attempted to pull over Anthony Wisner, 25, at Post and Hyde Streets, according to reports. The officers did not pursue Wisner, but he sped through red lights and crashed into a taxi at Post and Jones, sending the two vehicles flying into Watson and one other pedestrian. All six people involved were injured, but Watson was the only one to suffer life-threatening injuries.

Although Watson was found with his bicycle and wearing a helmet, there is reason to believe he was not on the bike when he was hit, according to social media posts by Marc Caswell, a former staff at the SF Bicycle Coalition who is a friend and former roommate of Watson’s. Watson may have been walking with or unlocking the bike.

Wisner was reportedly caught by police attempting to flee on a 38-Geary Muni bus, and faces ten felony charges.

Watson, who is currently employed by the Exploratorium, previously worked for Stamen Design, where he helped create a map of Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network that gained attention in the transportation planning world in 2012. He was one of three members on a panel about the role of private shuttles in December 2012, along with Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck and SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan.

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Court Applies Reckless Driving to Bikes. When Will Gascón Apply it to Cars?

A California state appeals court ruled last week that “reckless driving” can be applied to people on bicycles who kill or injure others, just as it’s applied to people driving, as the SF Chronicle reported. No one, including bicycle advocates, seems to dispute that full accountability should be brought to anyone who commit acts of traffic violence — but the reality is, drivers who maim and kill rarely ever face penalties.

DA George Gascón in a Streetfilm in 2010, when he went on a bike ride with advocates. He was the SFPD chief at the time.

There are countless such examples. One of the most egregious is the case of 29-year-old Kieran Brewer, who killed 17-year-old Hanren Chang in a crosswalk on Slot Boulevard while he drove drunk, and was sentenced to just six months in prison. Or consider Gilberto Alcantar, who will face no charges for illegally turning his truck across a bike lane and killing 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac at Sixth and Folsom Streets. SF District Attorney George Gascón claims that despite video of the crash, prosecutors can’t make an adequate case to file charges.

“Prosecution of deadly traffic crashes needs to be investigated, and prosecuted, to the fullest extent in order to reflect the severity of traffic crimes,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider. “We also need to ensure fair and equal enforcement across modes, which historically had not happened.”

As the Center for Investigative Reporting reported last year, 60 percent of the 238 motorists “found to be at fault or suspected of a crime faced no criminal charges” between 2006 and 2011 in five Bay Area counties:

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Eyes on the Street: No, Philz Coffee Is Not a Drive-Thru

A driver crashed into Philz Coffee at Fourth and Berry Streets near the Caltrain Station on Saturday night at about 9:10 p.m., as Bay City News reported. No one was injured, but the highly-popular cafe was reportedly closed until Monday, and an assistant manager told BCN “the area where the glass shattered is boarded off” until it’s repaired.

No word yet on whether the driver will face any penalties other than a higher insurance bill. But if the case of the driver who crashed into a Starbucks in Alameda on the same night is any indication, law enforcement doesn’t consider it to be a crime when someone steers a potentially deadly vehicle over a sidewalk and crashes it into a storefront.

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CA Assembly Bill Would Create Alert System For Hit-and-Run Crashes

Police in Orange in Southern California released this picture of a truck driven by a hit-and-run perpetrator two weeks ago. With AB 47, there would be a much higher chance drivers like this one are caught. Photo: NBC4

It is too common a story. A family is crossing the street or some friends are bicycling along when a negligent car driver changes their lives forever. While the victims lie wounded in the street, the driver flees and is never heard from again. Advocates for safe streets, victims of hit-and-run crashes, and their friends and family say that there are not enough resources or legal protections for victims.

Asm. Gatto

Assemblymember Mike Gatto

One California Assemblymember has vowed to change that.

Assembly Bill 47, a heavily amended version of legislation re-introduced this week by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-LA), would create a statewide “yellow alert system” modeled after the Medina Alert system, which was created in Denver but is now a statewide program in Colorado.

The system would require that Caltrans and other highway owners use electronic signage, radio, and other available media to broadcast information about vehicles suspected in hit-and-run crashes. Unlike alerts issued over TV news, the yellow alerts would enlist drivers and other road users to spot hit- and-run drivers right away.

Basically, the bill would create an “Amber Alert” system similar to what is used when a child is kidnapped to help catch hit-and-run drivers.

“These are crimes which, by their nature, occur at a high rate of speed and with clear means for fleeing the scene,” said Gatto.  “The public is almost always needed to catch those who leave fellow citizens dying on the side of the road, and AB 47 will allow us to do so promptly, before the perpetrator can get away and cover up the evidence.”

Last year, Gatto authored AB 184, which doubled the statute of limitations on prosecuting hit-and-run drivers.  This year, he also introduced AB 1532, which would require mandatory license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run involving another person.

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Man on Bike, 51, Seriously Injured in Crash on Laguna Near Broadway

Laguna, looking northbound from Broadway. Image: Google Street View

A 51-year-old man is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after he collided his bike into an SUV whose driver was pulling into a mid-block garage, on Laguna Street near Broadway. SFPD reported that the man was headed in the downhill, northbound direction on Laguna, “and failed to stop at a stop sign” before crashing into the right side of the SUV.

In an email, SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza didn’t say how close the driveway was to the Broadway intersection, but said the man’s treatment of the stop sign contributed to his “high rate of speed”:

The stop sign is a factor in the collision. There are independent witnesses who spoke with police at the scene who stated the bicyclist was traveling n/b on Laguna at a high rate of speed downhill and ran the stop sign. Bicyclists, motorists nor pedestrians are immune from laws enacted in this state. They are enacted for public safety reasons. The SUV did not crash into the bicyclist. It was pulling into the garage when the bicyclist collided into the right side of the SUV or passenger side.

While a driver pulling into a driveway bears responsibility for making sure that the coast is clear before turning across oncoming traffic, someone bicycling or driving straight through should also be prepared to stop in time to avoid such a crash. In this case, given Laguna’s steep downhill slope and the limited view over the hill crest, it’s easy to imagine that the man might not have been as prepared to stop as he should have been.

“Certainly, regardless of the circumstances, we do hope the bicyclist makes a quick recovery,” Esparza added. “It’s never good when someone is injured.”

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Fundraiser for Nikita May, 3-Year-Old Boy Hospitalized by Driver on Fulton

Nikita May on Muni. Image via YouCaring

Three-year-old Nikita May remains in recovery at SF General Hospital, after being hit on his bike by a pickup truck driver at Fulton Street and 43rd Avenue on April 10. Friends, family, and community members have set up a fundraiser to help the family see him return to health.

May was making his way through a crosswalk on a green light at about 11:45 a.m. when the left-turning driver ran him over. May suffered life-threatening injuries, including brain injuries and brain stem damage, “the full extent of which is not yet fully known,” according to the fundraiser page. He also suffered a number of broken bones — his jaw, chin, fractured clavicle, femur, and several ribs, in addition to a “bruised/collapsed lung” and a ruptured spleen.

Although police took the driver in for questioning, according to media reports, there was no word on whether he received a citation or could be charged.

As neighbors told reporters after the crash, Fulton, a four-lane thoroughfare, serves as a speedway for drivers along the border of Golden Gate Park in the Richmond. May was run over at a park entrance, close to a day care center.

May’s bike after the crash. Image: KTVU

Rob Weir, a neighbor of the intersection, told KTVU after the crash, “We have always said it’s going to take somebody getting seriously hurt, probably a pedestrian, for something to happen. And that, to me, is too late already.”

Exactly one month earlier, a five-year-old boy and his babysitter were hospitalized after being struck by a driver just six blocks away, at Fulton and 37th. SFPD reportedly issued that driver a citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The fundraiser, organized by Creative Arts Charter School, has raised $71,660 as of today.

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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?”