Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Citation for Taxi Driver in Fell/Masonic Collision that Injured Bicyclist

Crosswalk linking the Panhandle Path at Fell and Masonic Streets

Captain Teresa Barrett of SFPD Park Station confirmed this afternoon that there will be no citation for the taxi driver involved in a collision with a bicyclist in the crosswalk at Fell and Masonic Streets February 13th. Barrett told BIKE NOPA that officers often do not issue or recommend citations unless they witness the incident directly or unless there are no conflicting statements from witnesses at the scene.

In this case at least two independent witnesses stated that the bicyclist was in the crosswalk with the right-of-way. One other witness was a passenger in the taxi; that person expressed some uncertainty about whether the driver had a green light to turn onto Masonic from Fell, as reported in this earlier post. The officer who interviewed these individuals told BIKE NOPA that there were conflicting stories among the witnesses, leaving the responsibility uncertain. The officer also suggested the bicyclist might also have been crossing the street during the crosswalk warning period, but that appears to not be the case as reported here.

Captain Barrett advised that often the greatest consequences for motorists in cases like these are the increased charges from their insurance company. "A taxi company is going to have insurance," Barrett said, "and the company is going to look at collisions on the record." She also mentioned that even if motorists are given citations, the traffic court might toss them out.

Although the officer who completed the Incident Report said that the SFPD Traffic Unit would investigate whether a citation will be given, in reality the process appears to work differently. If the officer who completes the report does not indicate on the document that a citation is merited, the form will reach the Traffic Unit and only get filed for insurance purposes and for reference in any subsequent civil case. In effect, officers at the scene do determine the outcome of the case if they don't suggest a citation since further investigation is unlikely without that notation.

Capt. Barrett suggested that while no citation has been recommended to the taxi driver, the bicyclist injured in the collision "has a huge chance for obtaining damages in a civil case."

Note: Individuals can generally receive copies of the police/incident report once they follow the directions provided on a recorded message at SFPD Report Management Section (415) 553 1286. The case # for this collision is 100148285; Officer W. Wong filed the report. The date of incident: Feb. 13, 11:30 pm. You will need to provide your reason for requesting the report.


  1. This is ridiculous, and happens a week after Gascon says he wants to crack down on Critical Mass.

    How does it make sense that the cyclist has a huge chance for damages, but no citation is issued. If the driver was at fault, they should be ticketed. The injured party should not be forced to pursue a lawsuit in order for a modicum of justice to be served. Not everybody wants to be involved in a lawsuit.

  2. Humph. So if a car injures someone all it takes is a bit of uncertainty from a passenger to prevent the police from issuing a citation. I've heard of this "we may issue a citation later" tall tale from officers at the scene of accident several times. Try not to leave without one, even if it means getting a citation yourself. Let the court sort it out.

  3. Of course the passenger is uncertain, they were in the backseat of the car... I'd go with the witnesses outside the vehicle with a clear line of sight. SFPD is a joke. How would they get a settlement in a civil case if there is no citation issued?