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Monday, April 11, 2011

Jogger Hit by Careless Driver as City Ponders Safety Fix

Posted By on Mon, Apr 11, 2011 at 2:10 PM

click to enlarge Not a great way to begin a Monday. - MATT SMITH
  • Matt Smith
  • Not a great way to begin a Monday.

A driver blew through a red light this morning and slammed into a jogger along Masonic Avenue, throwing her into the air before plowing into the side of an SUV that had been traveling just in front of your correspondent and his daughter.

The collision happened as city officials added finishing touches on a long-overdue proposal to calm traffic along the deadly thoroughfare.

"The speeding on Masonic is out of control," said Annika Ehrlich, a UCSF nurse who lives a couple of blocks from the intersection where emergency workers had just picked up the jogger. "This is a neighborhood with families and children, yet motorists treat it like a highway."

The red-light-runner would have broadsided me and my 8-year-old daughter, rather than the SUV, had we arrived at the intersection two seconds earlier. Given we were riding a tandem bicycle, and not a 3,000-pound motor vehicle, chances are we'd have been injured as bad as the jogger.

click to enlarge Annika Ehrlich says motorists speed on the residential street as if it were a highway. - MATT SMITH
  • Matt Smith
  • Annika Ehrlich says motorists speed on the residential street as if it were a highway.

Neighbors and city officials have been talking for years about the

possibility of making the four-lane stretch through the north side of the Panhandle safer. The 

Planning Department is crafting a proposal that was supposed to be finished in May, yet it appears that will be delayed another month.

Meanwhile, neighbors complain the street remains a death trap.

Masonic Avenue has been the site of several recent high-profile collisions, with drivers hitting pedestrians and cyclists.

In today's collision, the driver blew through the red light at 30 mph, seconds after the light had changed from yellow to red. The driver hit the jogger, who went flying. She was taken away by an ambulance shortly after the accident with what appeared to be a severely broken leg. I and several other bystanders attempted to keep the victim warm, stable and comfortable while awaiting help. At press time police hadn't yet responded to a request for further information about the incident.

Last August, 21-year-old cyclist Nils Linke was killed by a hit-and-run driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street; that occurred just three months after I watched a motorist turn left and ram into a cyclist who had the right of way, splitting his Cannondale bike in half.

click to enlarge I know: let's have a few more meetings before deciding to make the street safer. - MATT SMITH
  • Matt Smith
  • I know: let's have a few more meetings before deciding to make the street safer.

Mirabdal, Planning Department project manager for a Fix Masonic proposal, said plans to revamp the street would make it better accommodate pedestrians, transit, and cyclists. He told SF Weekly that the plan will be presented to the public within the next two months.

If the plan -- which includes more bike lanes and other amenities -- gets the green

light, so to speak, it will go to the SFMTA Board for final approval.

Michael Helquist, who has lived a block from Masonic Avenue for 18 years, writes the blog Bike NOPA and  is a member of the group, Fix Masonic. He described the proposed safety plan in a recent post:

A possible re-design of Masonic Avenue for safer use by everyone took a significant step forward last week when city planners completed the final report for the corridor. The account follows a six-month community planning process that included three public meetings attended by more than 200 Masonic area residents. Participants evaluated various options for a better Masonic and narrowed their preference to one, dubbed the Boulevard, as the best value for a complete set of traffic-calming improvements. Features of the proposal include a landscaped median, bus bulb-outs, 200 new street trees, a new plaza at Geary, and separated bike lanes. City planners previously described the Boulevard option as a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
As the Planning Department prepares the plan for public approval,

neighbors fret for their safety, Helquist said in an interview:

"Masonic is not the most dangerous street or corridor in the city. But what you saw this morning happens frequently enough that we should ask the question: 'If there are this many incidents, should we try to fix them? Is there a threshold of traffic deaths where we have to fix the problems that cause them?'

On Masonic, there is also a perception of danger. People don't want to cross it on foot, they don't want to ride it on bicycles, and they aren't even comfortable in their cars, because so many people are running red lights, and going far beyond the 25-mph limit."

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