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Cyclist death refocuses spotlight on unsafe city streets

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Not 48 hours after San Francisco Mayor London Breed called for renewed coordinated efforts to improve safety on city streets, bicyclist Tess Rothstein died in a collision with a delivery truck on Howard Street Friday morning.

Rothstein, 30, became the third traffic fatality in The City within the last two weeks. Her death, and the dangerous combination of circumstances which led to it, has refocused attention on a dangerous lack of bicycle infrastructure, particularly along crucial corridors.

Breed, other city leaders and advocates responded by calling for more protected bicycle lanes along Howard:

Breed had earlier addressed last week’s series of crashes on Wednesday at the Geary Rapid Project kick-off ceremony:

“One of the things that I am pushing for is to make sure our Police Department, they’re issuing more citations for those drivers who are basically creating a bit of a nuisance on our streets. The people who are driving too fast.”

Other than speeding, she is asking the police to also increase enforcement of other factors that could lead a severe or fatal collision, including vehicles turning not yielding to pedestrians, running red lights, and running stop signs.

Breed is pushing for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to create a policy that will allow for SFMTA staff to quickly make near-term improvements on high-injury corridors.

The City’s top transit official Ed Reiskin shared information on two earlier fatal crashes last week at the SFMTA board meeting.

On Feb. 26 at around 8:06 p.m., 64-year old Zhao Guan was fatally killed by a hit-and-run driver at California Street and 18th Avenue in The City’s Richmond District.

Reiskin said police are still investigating with the help of the transit agency’s Muni video unit.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who represents the Richmond District, said in a statement:

“There have been two vehicular fatalities in my district in the last month and both of them involved seniors in the crosswalk. This is heartbreaking. We need more enforcement to change the driving habits of people to slow down, yield to pedestrians and eliminate distractions while driving. Lives are at stake.”

The first day of March saw a string of crashes that began at 1:50 a.m. when a driver was driving the wrong way on a one-way street and struck a tree near Leavenworth and McAllister streets.

Around 12:30 p.m., a driver struck a 38-year old male while leaving the Laguna Honda Hospital driveway and walking towards Woodside Avenue. Reiskin said he was on life support.

At about 7 p.m., a driver crossing the divided traffic line on the western portion of John McLaren Park, hit another vehicle head on at Mansell Street, Reiskin said. As a result, 44-year-old Gerard Graybosch, one of the drivers involved in the crash, was killed in the collision.

Close to around the same time, a driver struck a pedestrian at Jackson and Divisadero streets.

On Monday, a 96-year-old was hit by a Muni bus at West Portal Avenue. Fortunately, the person was not seriously injured and the transit agency put the operator on non-driving status while transit officials investigate, Reiskin said.

Coincidently, The City just released its third Vision Zero strategy guide on the San Francisco will achieve zero traffic fatalities by 2024. Reiskin said:

“The Vision Zero is premised on that the idea that even one traffic facility on our streets is unacceptable. We believe that every one of these preventable and we don’t consider these crashes to be accidents.”

Reiskin added that the SFMTA’s Sustainable Streets Division engineering rapid response team went to each incident to see what necessary changes can be made to make the intersection safer.

Additionally, Breed is ordering the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to devote staff resources in achieving The City’s Vision Zero goal by making sure corridors are well-lit with street lights as many of crashes occurred at night.

Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco, said in statement thanking the mayor for taking immediate steps to make the streets safer after a week of multiple crashes:

“Installing quick, inexpensive safety improvements on all of our deadliest streets by 2020 will have an impact on dangerous driving behavior. Traffic deaths are preventable, and of all places, San Francisco can lead the way in ending traffic violence.”

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