Three Recent Assaults By Drivers Show Traffic Sewers’ Danger to Bikes, Peds

A driver recently assaulted a man bicycling on car-dominated Geneva Avenue near London Street. Photo: Google Maps

There have been three disturbing cases in SF within the last month in which drivers assaulted people walking and biking. Such cases are usually rare, but all of the attacks occurred on streets designed for fast driving.

The most recent attack was in the Excelsior on November 11. According to the SFPD Ingleside Station newsletter, a driver was arrested after assaulting a man bicycling on Geneva Avenue. The driver apparently didn’t like the fact that victim was occupying a traffic lane, which the CA Vehicle Code allows in any lane that can’t be safely shared between a bike and a car. But instead of simply changing lanes, this driver took to violence:

The bicyclist told Ingleside officers Trail and Carrasco that he was riding eastbound on Geneva from Alemany, in the slow lane, when the driver of a car started honking at him to “get out of the way”. The bicyclist ignored him and kept riding. However, after he crossed Mission Street, near London, the motorist passed him on his left and then swerved right into the bicyclist’s front wheel. The bicyclist took out his cell phone and took a picture of the motorist’s license plate and then started to dial 911. But, before he could complete dialing, the motorist ran up to him and slammed his body, forcing the cell phone onto the street. The officers detained and questioned the motorist and, after interviewing witnesses, placed him under arrest for robbery and aggravated assault.

Of two recent attacks on pedestrians, the driver in one case ran the victim over and killed him on November 3. Joseph Jeffrey, 54, told a driver to slow down near Eddy and Larkin Streets in the Tenderloin. Police told the SF Chronicle that the driver intentionally ran over Jeffrey, who was homeless and had just left the hospital after recovering from a gunshot wound:

After Jeffrey and the driver exchanged words, the driver struck him with a white four-door Nissan sedan, police said. While witness accounts have varied, family members said they were told by police that the driver either backed up or made a U-turn in order to run Jeffrey down.

The driver fled the scene, and no arrest has been made.

In another case on October 30, a man used his fists to attack two pedestrians, after first nearly driving into them in a crosswalk at Third Street and Palou Avenue in Bayview. One of the victims “tapped the suspect’s hood with his hands and told him to calm down,” according to SF Weekly.

That enraged the driver, who then hopped out of his car and punched the guy who had touched his hood. The victim fell to the ground. The driver then turned his anger on the second pedestrian and started beating him. Then he went back to the first victim and continued to punch and kick him until the cops arrived and broke it up.

The driver was arrested and booked on battery charges.

There’s a clear pattern in the type of urban environment in which cases like these occur. When drivers become violently enraged at people outside of cars who impinge on their ability to drive as fast as they want, it tends to be on car-centric streets whose design invites aggressive driving. Streets like Geneva, Third, and Eddy have multiple, wide traffic lanes, and little space for people walking and biking. While other factors may be involved, we can’t ignore the fact that such conflicts often happen on the car-dominated traffic sewers that often tear through SF’s low-income communities, rather than on streets where sharing space is the norm.

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