Monday, January 10, 2011

Make San Francisco Bike Safe!

I am very good friends with the man this happened to:

A serious hit-and-run accident on Christmas Day that left a 24 year-old man fighting for his life has neighbors again talking about safety at the corner of 25th and Bartlett where the incident occurred.

At 12:20 a.m. on December 25th, a car going east on 25th street, made a left turn onto Bartlett and hit the cyclist, who was going west on 25th Street, police said.

There is a stop sign on Bartlett but no stop sign on 25th Street. The cyclist had the right of way because the car was turning, police said.

Several neighbors wrote to Mission Loc@l saying that they have seen car crashes and several close calls in the area.

"I can't help but wonder if there was a stop sign, like there is on Bartlett at 24th, 23rd, 22nd, ...etc. Maybe this accident wouldn't have happened?" a neighbor said in an email. "I live at the corner and I've seen close calls with cars, bicycles, and most common is with walkers."

There are four way stops on Bartlett at the 22nd, 23rd and 24th Streets intersections.

Miriam Jacobson, another neighbor said she thinks that people use the smaller streets as shortcuts to avoid traffic.

Actually, to say that we're good friends would not be doing anybody justice. I have been friends with the individual since 1999, an eternity considering both of our lifetimes. He's seen me at my best and my worst and checked me at each of them. He designed the banner for this blog. I've tried to do the same checking for him but I'm not sure I've done the best job.

There were bicycling accidents, people getting hit by cars and similar events all during our growing up. People were killed jogging and bicycling in my neighborhood. He grew up in a much more car-heavy region so neither of us should be unaware, however, you never think this sort of thing is going to happen to you. San Francisco, it should be added, is even more dangerous in this regard than in the areas where I grew up.

I've seen him since the accident and the damage is visible. He's in a neckbrace and has stitches but he is walking, talking and laughing. He posted a picture of us together on Facebook and I commented by saying "I love you."

The lifestyle that is rife in San Francisco can be disorderly, strange and directionless. Combined with people driving in for work or nightclubbing from the East Bay, a huge homeless population, tourists, the massive urbanization within this tiny little area creates alot of friction. I'm glad to see that my best friend's injury hasn't become a simple bump in the road for either of us and that some sort of reform is being done in the "City of Love:"

During routine business at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board meeting Tuesday, Director Cheryl Brinkman recounted how enjoyable it was to ride her bicycle on the new physically separated bike lane on Division Street between 9th and 11th Streets. Brinkman said she hoped the SFMTA would consider how it could improve the connection for cyclists between the Wiggle and the Panhandle, including the possibility of adding physical separation to the bike lanes on Fell and Oak Streets between Scott and Baker Streets.

"I think it's such an important connection and I've been riding that stretch more and more recently," Brinkman told Streetsblog. "I don't know if it's the quality of the traffic changing, or if I'm getting older, but riding with the moving traffic so close to my handlebars is very unpleasant. I choose not to ride that section anymore."

Brinkman added that she had heard from several people living in the Sunset and the Richmond districts that they would ride downtown to work if it weren't for those three blocks along Oak and Fell. "It seems such a shame to have that great corridor but to have those three blocks that way," said Brinkman. "It shouldn't be designed so that only the brave cyclists use it. No one should be dissuaded because they are frightened."

As it turns out, Mayor Gavin Newsom is open to a study to improve that section of the bicycle network. According to Johanna Partin, a policy adviser to the Mayor, he would be "supportive of anything that would increase bike safety in the city."

I moved to the Bay Area years ago and probably would have lived in San Francisco and gone to SF State if it had not been for the chaos of the city. California State University - East Bay, where I've finished my degree, was closer to the South Bay and San Jose area. San Francisco is an old, old city and needs to revise its infrastructure drastically if it's going to be a city of importance in the future.

When I posted the story on Twitter, professional voice actress Hélène Janover retweeted the post and was kind enough to tell me, "I live in the neighborhood for years and know the dangers of being on foot or on bicycle there." Urban areas are like that and measures are necessary to make sure tragedy doesn't occur.

I'm currently thinking through ideas about this. A makeshift public service announcement aimed at everyone - pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists, lawmakers - in urban areas about the dangers of bicycling and the need to lessen the dangerous presence of cars in heavily packed urban areas might be a good place to start. This could go in any direction and I'm just excited to be active and not angry. If you'd like to get involved, let me know!

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