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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Aug 20 1997
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Speed 3
Tuesday, June 24, was a particularly bad traffic day for the San Francisco Fire Department, according to minutes from a recent Fire Commission meeting.

The score card:
Firetruck 13 hit a signal pole while turning left from Stockton onto Jefferson. The driver had caught his foot between the brake pedal and the accelerator.

As Engine 21 was returning to its quarters at 1443 Grove, the driver tried to avoid some street-work signs as he turned onto Grove -- and hit a curb instead.

Truck 3 had the misfortune of sideswiping a parked car while changing lanes on Pine.

And finally, bad traffic juju rained down on the official voice of the Fire Department himself, amiable SFFD flack Lt. Paul Furhman. As Furhman was driving a Fire Department car on Jones near the intersection of Market and McAllister, he ran into the rear bumper of a truck in front of him when it stopped suddenly.

That day's tally of collisions (plus two more that occurred before the end of June) brought the Fire Department's annual total of accidents to a record-setting 169. Department officials point out that 1996-97 was also the busiest of the last five years: The department responded to a record 60,000 calls.

But all four of those accidents that day in June -- plus 11 more of the 22 reported for June and July -- happened during non-emergencies.

So where was the fire?
-- T.S.

Hobbled by the Cobbles
The beautiful landscaped swath of the Embarcadero that arcs South of Market to Fourth Street or so is truly a work of urban planning grace. The car lovers swoosh by, speeded along their journeys by a generous allotment of pavement, including double left turn lanes at many intersections; joggers and in-line skaters whir along the wide, white, unstained sidewalks; even bicyclists have plenty of knee and elbow room. And running down the center of all these amenities aimed at personal surface transportation sits the still-unused Muni right-of-way, rails in place, platforms at the ready, pedestrian crossing lights signaling walk and wait to still-theoretical disembarking Muni riders.

When these imaginary Muni patrons do finally step onto the platform, they will find the going pretty rough. Literally. The sidewalks running directly alongside the Muni tracks are a veritable obstacle course, thanks to the installation of roughly quarried cobblestones; they cause pedestrians to slip and stumble and tend to immobilize most human-powered wheeled vehicles.

That's the idea, says a Muni spokeswoman. Because the rails sit directly in the street, Muni wanted to create a barrier between walkers and the trains. But the entire setup is so inviting -- landscaped with burgeoning sycamores, built without any signs to warn people off -- that you don't realize you're in no man's land until you start falling on your face. Which would suggest the paving plan could use reworking -- or warning signs, at any rate.

-- P.O.

Stickup Artists
First came the anonymous postcard. "Together we can defeat capitalism/ August 1997" it read, along with a full-frontal schematic drawing of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. When a sticker version of the message arrived last week, Dog Bites decided to give SFMOMA's PR department a call to get the skinny on the show. "We have no idea of the source of it," said Nina Fallon, a museum spokeswoman. She said someone at the museum thought he saw some stranger putting up the stickers around the neighborhood, but their knowledge goes no further.

The ads for the museum's recently closed exhibition "Icons: Magnets of Meaning" had a slick, commercial look, and the show celebrated "icons" such as the BMW 325i and bluejeans. Perhaps a "defeat capitalism" exhibit would be an amusing antidote.

--

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P. O

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