12 Year Old Boy Hit by Motorist in Tenderloin
Driver at fault, reportedly failed a field-sobriety test--but badly designed streets are just as much to blame
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A 12-year-old boy was seriously injured by a motorist yesterday afternoon, sometime between 4:30 and 5 p.m., at the intersection of Levenworth and Golden Gate in the Tenderloin. Reports are that the driver of the SUV (seen in the lead image) made an illegal right turn when he struck the boy, who sustained life-threatening injuries.
“The SFMTA has been proposing improvements, promising us more quick builds, promising more capital projects that will take time,” said a frustrated Simon Bertrang, director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, in a phone interview with Streetsblog. “They’re doing things faster than in the past, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough.”
San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes the intersection, tweeted about the incident Tuesday evening.
We had another terrible, terrifying crash tonight in the TL. A boy was hit by a car that was turning fast, which put him initially in critical condition. He is now stable, and our healing thoughts are with him and his family. https://t.co/WbB4R2ms8O
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) September 11, 2019
“The boy is in stable condition, but the incident illustrates how unacceptably dangerous it is for people walking in the Tenderloin,” wrote Walk San Francisco, in a statement about the crash. “Janice Higashi was hit and killed at the very same intersection while walking to lunch during jury duty in March. Benjamin Dean was hit and killed in July nearby at Taylor and O’Farrell. Michael Evans and Mark Swink were also hit and killed in the Tenderloin earlier this year. Evans was hit at Eddy and Mason in July; Mark Swink was hit at Hyde and Golden Gate in May.”
“As a part of the fatality response for Janice Higashi, who was killed this year at the same intersection, SFMTA made the intersection a pedestrian scramble, to prevent precisely the kind of collision that occurred yesterday–a person driving a vehicle allegedly turned and hit a pedestrian who had a walk signal. SFMTA confirmed that all traffic control devices are in good condition, including no turn on red signs facing northbound Leavenworth,” wrote SFMTA spokeswoman Erica Kato, in an email to Streetsblog.
As often seems to be the case, the changes consist of markings, signs and upgraded signals, but there are no physical features to force a reckless motorists to slow down when entering the intersection.
They added safe-hit posts to daylight the intersection, seen above. But even these disappear at the corner itself, as seen below.
The stripe in the above image is supposed to guide motorists to take a turn at a safe radius and speed. But it’s not enough to ‘ask’ motorists to drive carefully with signals, signs, posts and paint. Intersections need real protection. As previously reported, in New York, after a child was killed in a crosswalk on the west side of Manhattan, they installed a big chunk of concrete. The layout of that intersection is a little different because it’s a two-way street, but the concept is the same; and the concrete bollard guaranteed that the next reckless motorist who attempted to speed through that intersection would get a powerful rebuke (seen below).
Nasty, and the car was damaged, but nobody was hurt. Vision Zero cities in Europe use similar treatments.
Now imagine if after Higashi was killed, instead of traffic signals, signs and plastic posts, SFMTA had put down blocks of concrete on the intersection stripes (seen two photos up). That would make it physically impossible to turn a car quickly between Golden Gate and Levenworth.
Going by the resting position of the motorist’s SUV in the lead photo, and the blood still visible on the pavement this morning, if SFMTA had used concrete in the manner described, it’s likely that today we’d have a drunk driver with a damaged SUV, not a child fighting for his life.
“We don’t need another severe or fatal crash to tell us that drastic changes are needed in the Tenderloin,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco, in the group’s release. “We’re pretty frustrated and angry,” added Bertrang. “The pedestrian in this case had every expectation of safety crossing in the crosswalk with the walk signal, and yet that was not enough to protect him from a reckless driver.”