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While Police Arrested Skateboarders, Traffic Violence Claimed Another Life

Wouldn't it be nice if the police enforced the speed limit, red lights, and just focused on stopping traffic violence, instead of using their energies to bully skateboarders?

Photo: Aaron Bialick

A hit-and-run driver killed a pedestrian on South Van Ness on Sunday sometime before 2:40 a.m. It reflects a national trend: pedestrian deaths are at a 40-year high.

But the death on South Van Ness was covered only in local media.

National media and San Francisco's major news outlets instead covered the San Francisco Police Department arresting and charging young people for "rioting" and other crimes, or for participating in a skateboarding event, depending on one's point of view. From National Public Radio:

The event, known as the Dolores Hill Bomb, is an annual, albeit illegal, skate exhibition that draws large crowds to cheer on skaters brave enough to "bomb" down the steep streets adjacent to Mission Dolores Park at unforgiving speeds. In a press release issued Sunday, the SFPD described the incident as a riot in which 32 adults were arrested and 81 minors were cited for a slew of charges, including inciting a riot, unlawful assembly, violence against an officer and resisting arrest.

Was some police action necessary? Yes, in the case of arresting people that night who covered Muni vehicles with spray paint. And given that someone was killed two years ago in a Hill Bomb, it would be nice if police came with an eye on keeping things safe, by guiding traffic around it and encouraging participants to keep speeds down. But showing up en mass in riot gear and forcibly "dispersing" kids for having the temerity to use Dolores for skateboarding is obvious overkill and misapplication of resources. It's also just wrong. That seems doubly so in a city where the same police force routinely lets motorists get away with speeding, illegal turns, driving and parking in bike lanes, and injuring and killing people on our streets. When it comes to dangerous driving, the SFPD looks the other way or does the most superficial of investigations before victim-blaming vulnerable road users. Often enough, the SFPD rank-and-file are themselves the perpetrators.

Just another police car parked in a bike lane.

Meanwhile, Walk San Francisco put out a statement about last weekend's victim of the truly dangerous behaviors on our streets: “We are devastated by this loss of life on our streets, and hold the victim’s loved ones in our thoughts,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco.

In addition, according to Walk San Francisco's statement, Nancy McNally, an 84-year-old pedestrian who was hit crossing the street, succumbed to her injuries on June 5. Nancy McNally was severely injured when a driver hit her at Laguna and Francisco in the Marina neighborhood on May 24. 

The death of Nancy McNally and Sunday’s tragedy mark the seventh and eighth pedestrians killed in San Francisco so far in 2023. About 30 people are lost to traffic violence each year in San Francisco, about half of them pedestrians.

Nearly all of them are killed by dangerous motorists. Imagine the lives that could be saved if the police enforced speed limits, red lights, crosswalk violations, and other dangerous driving with the zeal they apparently reserve for breaking up skateboarding events.

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