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Advocates Roiled by City Staffers’ Dangerous Driving

A photo from 2016 of a San Francisco City employee blocking the bike lane on Market Street. Recently released data shows city officials in city cars routinely drive recklessly and otherwise put the public in danger. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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.

It's galling to see city employees, often the very people tasked with keeping vulnerable road users safe, flouting the rules and putting people in danger. Walk San Francisco called out the hypocrisy late last week after a report surfaced showing that San Francisco employees speed regularly and with impunity around the city.

From the Walk S.F. statement on the study:

Safety on our streets should start first and foremost with city employees. A powerful tool to support this is telematics. Telematics, also called ‘black boxes’, track a wide range of data from a vehicle: everything from time spent idling to mechanical diagnostics, as well as dangerous behaviors like speeding and aggressive driving.

Such systems were installed in 2016 in city vehicles in San Francisco. The results:

During the 13 months of data analyzed, 18.4% of vehicles with telematics installed reported 50 or more incidents each of speeding (defined as 10+ miles over the speed limit). If you look at all speeding incidents in vehicles with telematics from the 13-month period, drivers went between 20 to 28.9 miles over the speed limit in 16.3% of incidents. Yes, you read that correctly. 20 to 28.9 miles over the speed limit.

Walk San Francisco included this map recording of speeding by city employees:


The principle of the whole thing is maddening enough, but it also has real-world consequences. Walk San Francisco cited the example of Thu Phan, a woman killed in 2016 crossing Market Street by a city employee in a city car on city business making an illegal turn.

Oh, and Oakland too.

Of course, city employees flouting traffic safety is hardly unique to San Francisco. Streetsblog tweeted last month about this all-too-common occurrence in Oakland: a city employee parking a city car in the protected bike lane on Telegraph.

The city of Oakland was tagged in the twitter exchange but never responded. Streetsblog has also reached out to a city spokesperson and will update.

UPDATE: 5:15 p.m. "...this vehicle was parked at the specified location on 2015 Telegraph Avenue on August 27th from 1:21pm – 1:51pm. At 1:51pm, the operator moved the vehicle just a few feet away from where it was parked, and remained in the vehicle with the engine running for 12 minutes, then returned to the Parking Garage on Jefferson Street where the vehicle remained for the evening. We’ve notified the management responsible for the vehicle for follow up with staff," wrote Sean Maher, a spokesperson for the city of Oakland. He added that Oakland also has a speed monitoring system for its cars.

Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz wrote to Streetsblog to say this is a common occurrence. His organization is trying to get more officials to do their work by e-bike, which renders the issue moot. "A quick trip around Oakland City Hall will provide plenty of examples of illegal parking behavior from both staff and delivery vehicles," he added. "I've tried recommending that OakDOT starts with an initiative right there, since if they can't address parking issues that are right under their nose then there's not much hope for locations elsewhere around the city."

As to the official in the tweet, ""My guess is that the driver of the car in your photos was performing a site inspection for the development across the street at Telegraph/20th and didn't feel like walking a block."

From Streetsblog's view, there has to be a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior. If a city employee is caught speeding "20 to 28.9 miles over the speed limit" without a life-or-death justification, they should be fired. This should be negotiated into employment contracts. The same should go for employees who park cars in bike lanes or otherwise flout their responsibilities to keep people safe.

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