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City Removes Safety Measures Where Senior Was Killed

A photo of the guerrilla safety improvements put in over the weekend by SFMTrA where a senior citizen was killed. The safety posts were promptly removed by the city. Photo: Matt Brezina

Over the weekend, the guerrilla safety group, SFMTrA, installed safe-hit posts and painted bulb-outs at the intersection of Fell and Baker, on a crosswalk where David Grinberg, a 90-year-old man, was killed on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The city, which apparently has no immediate plans to improve the crosswalk that connects the Mercy Terrace senior-living apartments with the Panhandle Park, removed the unauthorized safe-hit posts earlier this week.

Matt Brezina, who helped organize the "people protected bike lane" protests on Valencia and elsewhere, tipped off Streetsblog that the improvements were gone. Here's his tweet about it:

Streetsblog has written about this kind of thing before: SFMTA will fail to install safety upgrades at obvious danger spots, even after someone is killed, prompting citizen advocates/guerrilla traffic engineers to intervene. The safety guerrillas glue down plastic bollards. And then SFMTA promptly rips them out. A source at SFMTA repeated the agency's usual excuse that it has to remove the posts for 'liability' reasons, because the unauthorized posts might cause hazards. The argument goes that SFMTrA is actually harming safety, because city crews are diverted from official projects.

However, SFMTA crews often drive right past authorized and official plastic safety posts that are damaged or destroyed and leave them in disrepair after they remove the unofficial posts. In reality, the only organization that is diverting SFMTA from real safety work is SFMTA itself. Furthermore, cities get sued for lots of things, every day--prioritizing ripping out unofficial posts makes no sense.

Or as a member of SFMTrA put it in an email exchange with Streetsblog, "Seems sad that the liability of a few posts is so much more of a priority than liability of hundreds of miles of dangerous streets."

Another shot of the safety measures, installed by SFMTrA, before they were removed by the city. Photo: SFMTrA
Another shot of the safety measures at Baker and Fell, installed by SFMTrA, before they were removed by the city. Photo: SFMTrA

In the case of Baker and Fell, what if SFMTA towed away the illegally parked black pickup truck blocking the sight lines at the crosswalk (see above pics) and put some posts up to stop people from continually parking there? Wouldn't that reduce the city's liability more than tearing out the unofficial posts? More importantly, wouldn't that be the ethical thing to do at a popular and dangerous crosswalk between a senior home and a park?

Furthermore, SFMTA needs to take a cue from the Dutch, and declare any spot where someone is killed or seriously injured a "black spot." That means close the intersection, investigate it, and fix it as fast as possible with whatever materials are on hand, instead of doing nothing during a years-long planning process--Oakland, thankfully, seems to be heading in this direction. We shall see if that continues. In the end though, the ability of a city to make its streets safe comes down to leadership from the mayors and the management at DOTs.

Meanwhile, Hoodline is reporting that a cyclist was injured in a collision with a motorist this morning on the opposite side of the Panhandle, on Oak Street, where similarly dangerous conditions exist.

From the SFMTrA web page about the death of Grinberg at the intersection:

The response from city leaders is thoughts and prayers. We at SFMTrA were not satisfied with this response and the absence of any action to make this and other crosswalks safer immediately. We believe that urgent and pro-active action is necessary to protect vulnerable street users across San Francisco. So we got out our prototype materials and created a safety pilot. 10 posts and some spray paint = about $300. We dedicate this installation to the residents at Mercy Plaza at this intersection and we hope that it slows traffic on Fell street and makes pedestrians in the crosswalk feel safer. We urge you to speak out to SFPD, Parks and Rec, SFMTA, Supervisor London Breed, and Mayor Ed Lee until the city addresses the known dangers of Oak and Fell streets.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition tweeted this stark statement:

Safe streets advocates are organizing a protest at Baker and Fell--the plan is to help seniors cross the street there safely, since city officials deem this such a low priority. More on that in a future post.

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