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Motorist Attacks Mother and Child Biking in San Francisco

11:36 AM PDT on September 11, 2020

Lilia Scott was biking home with her daughter from a pandemic pod play-date in the Mission Friday when she noticed a car (pictured above) blocking the bike lane. Normally, she would just go around. But on San Jose Avenue, in the 'Bernal Cut,' traffic is moving past at freeway speeds.

"Hoping others would not have to merge into expressway traffic to get around him, I said as we biked past 'You're blocking the bike lane,'" Scott explained in a post on Facebook about the incident.

The motorist stayed put.

"I stopped and thought we can’t have a car there," she told Streetsblog. She took the above photo to file an SF311 complaint.

"He started driving at me, I thought he was just going to yell," she said. But when it was clear he meant to drive into them they dropped their bikes and scrambled up the embankment.

And he turned to follow.

From Scott's Facebook post:

He drove right up it so that about 3 of his 4 car wheels were on the sloped dirt. The bumper of his car made contact with my shoulder, but I was otherwise out of reach. So he drove away. I called 911... a gentleman approached from the direction the car left and told us that the driver had also hit him while he was crossing the street at the intersection of Wilder and Arlington. We know from the time stamp on the photos I took that about 8 minutes later (about the time it would take to drive back around to Randall to get back on San Jose), the car returned. This time he charged my 9 year old. She scrambled up the embankment. He hit her in the thigh.

Fortunately, he stopped his attack, drove off again, and didn't come back a third time. Scott told Streetsblog that the San Francisco police responded quickly and tracked him down from the license plate to a location in Daly City. The motorist was identified and arrested. Scott said the police told her the man did not have a valid driver's license.

The man who was driving the car is a sociopath. But one has to ask: why was this incident even possible, considering San Jose Avenue in the Bernal Cut got a new protected bike lane, including big concrete crash barriers, three years ago? The problem is the SFMTA, even when it installs robust protection for cyclists, falls down at intersections, ramps, and other points where conflicts are most likely. Streetsblog brought this up about the very spot on San Jose where this incident went down (see image from a 2017 story below):

A photo of the place where Scott was attacked, taken in 2017. Concrete protection for the bike lane simply stops at this point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A photo of the place where Scott was attacked, taken in 2017, shortly after the completion of a protected bike lane project by SFMTA. Concrete protection for the bike lane simply stops at this point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

"We definitely need a vertical separation, we need that concrete barrier continued throughout, that might be tricky in spots, but we need to get creative," said Scott, who is herself a transportation planner and consultant. "Maybe the bike lane needs to be elevated, maybe we need to dig a trench, I don’t know, but what we have now is inadequate."

Indeed it is inadequate. On a freeway-like road such as San Jose Avenue, a concrete barrier is a basic safety requirement to protect cyclists from the more humdrum daily danger of motorist speeding, drinking, texting, and otherwise driving irresponsibly--all of which can take a cyclist's life in a split second. It simply makes no sense to spend the money on installing concrete barriers while leaving enormous gaps where deadly conflicts can, and do, still happen. Streetsblog has a request in to SFMTA to explain this installation.

Scott and her daughter and the pedestrian, meanwhile, were incredibly fortunate to escape any injuries beyond some bruises and abrasions. Unfortunately, the psychological effects can cut deeper. Unsurprisingly, Scott's daughter doesn't want to ride her bike anymore. "That's a super big bummer," she said. "But I’m hoping if we give it a breather, we can get past it."

Maybe by then SFMTA will finish what it started and make San Jose Avenue safe.

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