Driver Kills Pedestrian at Gough and Geary

With the return of traffic and compromises on safety plans, Vision Zero is proving as elusive as ever

A look Wednesday at the multi-lane, dangerous intersection where a man was killed Tuesday morning. Photo credit withheld on request
A look Wednesday at the multi-lane, dangerous intersection where a man was killed Tuesday morning. Photo credit withheld on request

A pedestrian was hit and killed by a motorist at Geary Boulevard and Gough Street Tuesday morning. The driver was arrested.

From Walk San Francisco’s statement on the crash:

“A life was senselessly cut short today,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco. “We hold the loved ones of the victim close in our hearts, and demand an end to traffic violence on our streets.” Walk San Francisco and members of the San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets stand ready to support the victim’s family and friends however possible… the SFPD stated the driver was arrested for vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving, and failing to stop at a red light.

Streetsblog did not receive an immediate reply from SFMTA about whether there will be an investigation to determine if the intersection’s design contributed to the crash. However, a source close to the city said there was a Rapid Response team sent to the location and that some safety upgrade work “…is anticipated to begin in late summer/early fall.”

The motorists car, shortly after the crash. Photo credit withheld on request
The motorist’s car immediately after the crash. Photo credit withheld on request.

The work will include “…traffic signal upgrades, street lighting and curb ramp improvements, including pedestrian bulbs.” That work seems to correspond to already planned improvements under SFMTA’s long-planned and partially implemented Geary Rapid project (see diagrams below)

 

Planned intersection improvements at Gough and Geary. Image: SFMTA
Planned intersection improvements at Gough and Geary. Image: SFMTA

“We are in extensive conversations with the SFMTA, SFCTA, and SFPD to explore some immediate solutions… I will hope to have more info soon,” wrote Preston Kilgore with Supervisor Dean Preston’s office, in an email to Streetsblog.

Meanwhile, a worker at a nearby apartment building told Streetsblog he saw security video of the crash (since turned over to the police). The worker, who asked Streetsblog to withhold his name, said the victim was walking in the crosswalk, going South across Geary, when he was struck by a car traveling east. “I just saw a flash–and saw him flying through the air. The cops said he was doing at least 80 mph.”

In Streetsblog’s view, the reckless behavior of the motorist should not distract from the fact that this intersection is deadly by design. Both streets are part of the city’s “high injury network.” A source at the city told Streetsblog they plan to add “visually” narrowed intersection lanes–visually, meaning with paint–to encourage motorists to slow to a safe speed. But what they really need are concrete obstacles that will literally stop a reckless motorist, such as this one in New York:

Refuge islands, such as this one seen in New York, can save the life of someone in a crosswalk. Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag
Refuge islands with a concrete block, such as this one seen in New York, sacrifice the car to save the life of someone in a crosswalk. Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

As Walk S.F. underscores in their release, this is the eighth pedestrian death in San Francisco this year. “We have lost five pedestrians in traffic crashes in just the past two months. The City must act now to put a stop to this horrific trend… solutions exist to prevent these devastating traffic crashes,” wrote Medeiros. “Street design has to make sure cars can’t drive fast and enforcement has to be there when people make that choice to drive recklessly.”

Medeiros is calling for more red-light cameras. “San Francisco currently has red light cameras at only 13 intersections. These red-light cameras are the main enforcement mechanism for red-light running in the city. For example, in June 2020 cameras at the 13 intersections captured 856 red light violations versus under 100 citations citywide by SFPD. Crashes that result from red-light running are likely to be severe or fatal because they are ‘right-angle’ crashes (i.e. the victim is broadsided).”

Walk San Francisco is again asking people to sign its letter to SFMTA asking for these and other known safety improvements to get the city on track towards reducing serious traffic crashes. “Cities around the world are showing that Vision Zero is possible,” said Medeiros. “But San Francisco isn’t acting as aggressively as it must to really move the needle.”

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