San Francisco MTA to Consider Masonic Avenue Pedestrian AccidentsPosted on Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Late last week, 61 year-old James Hudson, a San Francisco resident, was fatally wounded by a drunk driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street. The suspect, San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department cadet Jose Jimenez, was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence, and attempting to flee the scene. The pedestrian accident marks a troubling trend showing that Masonic Avenue is dangerous and that the city must take steps to improve pedestrian safety. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will meet this Friday to discuss a popular $20 million plan to make Masonic Avenue safer.
The behavior of motorists on Masonic Avenue has contributed to two pedestrian deaths and many more injuries in the past year. Last August, 22 year-old tourist Nils Yannick Linke was killed in a bicycle accident on Masonic and Turk by a drunk driver. And even since last Friday’s fatal pedestrian accident, Masonic Avenue has hosted two traffic accidents. On Tuesday morning, a driver ran the red light at Masonic and Hayes, causing an accident that left both drivers with minor injuries. And on Saturday May 7, a driver ran a red light and caused a motorcycle accident at 60 miles per hour. As an eyewitness told BikeNopa, “the motorcyclist ran right into the side of the car, and flew over 15 feet into the air. His shoe actually flew off, and landed all the way across the intersection, right by me. The bike just exploded, totaled.”
One of the problems is Masonic Avenue’s width, which makes drivers feel comfortable exceeding the 25 miles per hour speed limit and treating the city street like a highway. This Friday, the San Francisco MTA will discuss the $20 million Boulevard plan, developed with help from safety organizations and neighborhood residents, which is designed to reduce speeds and make Masonic Avenue narrower. Visit the SFMTA Masonic Avenue Street Redesign Study [pdf] for more on the Boulevard plan.
San Francisco has pledged to address rising pedestrian accidents for years, but progress has been slow. “We are very frustrated with the progress on Masonic Avenue,” said North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association President Jarie Bolander. “There just doesn’t seem to be the focus from The City on making things safe for pedestrians on Masonic.”That’s why neighborhood residents have been so supportive of the Boulevard plan. City officials including Police Captain Dennis O’Leary, City Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, have also endorsed the Boulevard plan for Masonic Avenue.
Calling Masonic “tragically unsafe,” Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of pedestrian safety organization WalkSF penned an impassioned letter to the SFMTA in support of the Boulevard proposal. “In our city, 100 people are seriously injured or killed every year,” she wrote. “One of the most powerful things we can do to change this is to reduce traffic speeds on our arterial streets like Masonic. These wide fast streets are where the worst crashes occur and where we have the most potential to save lives.”
Photo credit: crazbabe21