Crash in Castro Highlights Yet Another Perilous Intersection
"This incident is still under investigation," say the police... yet they are already blaming the cyclist.
Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.
A 73-year-old cyclist came down the hill on 18th Street in the Castro on Thursday afternoon and collided with a motorist at the intersection with Hattie and Storrie (see map below).
Details on the crash are still sketchy, with the department saying it’s too early to release the crash report, since the investigation is ongoing. “The report indicates that the officers attempted to locate video surveillance equipment in the area of 18th and Hattie, but could not locate any,” said Officer Adam Lobsinger, a spokesman for the SFPD.
However, in the San Francisco Chronice‘s story about the incident, Lobsinger put the cyclist at fault. “…the basis for my response is based on the preliminary conclusions of the officers who were on scene investigating the collision” he told Streetsblog via email. “The officers’ conclusions were based on physical evidence, witness statements and the statements of those involved.”
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is waiting for details and declined to comment for now. Streetsblog has inquiries out to District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and another source familiar with crash investigations, and will update this post accordingly. Meanwhile, it should be noted that this intersection is on the Vision Zero map of the city’s most dangerous streets and intersections.
UPDATE 9/17 “I was disturbed to learn of the collision at the intersection of Hattie and Storrie, and yet another cyclist ending up injured on our streets. My office has reached out to the Police Department to get more details on how the collision happened, and I have also reached out to the SFMTA to see what near-term measures can be taken to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety at the intersection. It shouldn’t take another injury or fatality before we take action to improve safety for people on our streets,” wrote Supervisor Mandelman, in an email to Streetsblog.
Streetsblog did a survey of the area and, clearly, this is yet another example of a badly engineered intersection. There are no bulb-outs, no painted crosswalks, and no “daylighting” features to make sure people can see what’s coming. It just takes one big truck parked at the 45-degree corner of 18th and Storrie, such as the one pictured below, to make it all-but impossible to see what’s coming from the intersecting streets. In fact, to someone driving west on 18th, it’s hard to even tell there’s an intersection until you’re already in it.
There are speed bumps (actually, speed “lumps”) up the hill just west of the intersection, but they didn’t seem to have much effect slowing cars down.
Throw in a few scofflaw motorists and the intersection becomes positively deadly. While Streetsblog was observing, the driver of the white BMW seen below came up the hill on 18th. He started a right turn onto Storrie and then suddenly turned left, essentially driving straight at the stop sign, perpendicularly to Hattie Street (that’s towards the stop sign and through the space where the cyclist is pictured in the lead image). He then backed across Hattie (almost colliding with the turning Volvo in the picture below) and went backwards down Storrie to get a parking space.
“Accidents happen here a lot,” said a man who was sweeping outside his house. The man, who declined to give his name, motioned to the stop sign on Hattie and added that “People don’t stop behind the stop limit line.” Another man walking through the area shouted to Streetsblog that this is a “horrible intersection.” Lobsinger used to patrol the area and agreed it’s a dangerous spot. “Vehicles of all kinds can easily gain speed going down the hill causing many close calls,” he said.
Perhaps Thursday’s victim of traffic violence started to turn left on Storrie and had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a dangerous motorist like the guy in the white BMW–and ended up slamming into a car coming up the hill. Or perhaps a motorist quickly pulled out of a parking spot on 18th behind a large truck and headed up the hill just as the 73-year-old cyclist was turning left from 18th to Storrie, so their views of each other were blocked until it was too late.
The corners need bollards or extended curbs, to prevent people from parking where the black truck is parked in the images above. There should be a large traffic island/circle in the middle to force drivers and cyclists to slow down and change their angles so they have more time to spot each other. And there should be bulb-outs and well-engineered crosswalks to reduce crossing distances. Streetsblog has asked SFMTA if any such improvements are planned and if its “rapid response” teams will look at the area. “The SFMTA has a call pending with SFPD to find out more details about the crash investigation,” answered Ben Barnett, a spokesman for the agency. “We are looking at the intersection based on the crash and the concerns you have expressed.”
As to the department’s conclusion that the cyclist was at fault, if history is any indication, the preliminary, unreleased investigation may not stand up to scrutiny. As previously reported, early assignment of blame by the police on cyclists frequently turns out to be unjustified–or just plain wrong.