Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taxi Driver Apparently Runs Red Light at Masonic and Fell, Crashes with and Injures Bicyclist

Crossing with the green bike signal at Masonic

Green bike/pedestrian signal at Masonic; countdown at 6

UPDATE, 9:30 pm, Feb. 14th

This evening I spoke with Officer Will Wong of SFPD Park Station about the collision involving a bicyclist and motorist last night. Officer Wong was at the scene, interviewed the parties involved as well as witnesses, and filed the incident report.

Wong stated that "maybe" there was an illegal left turn by the driver of a taxi van onto Masonic Avenue. He said there were two conflicting stories about the collision. "The taxi driver and his passenger said that there was a solid green light on Fell for them to proceed, but then they weren't absolutely sure it was a green for going forward or for turning left," Wong explained. He added that the bicyclist and other witnesses at the scene said there was clearly a green light for proceeding through the crosswalk.

As noted in the earlier post (below), one witness saw, or caught a quick glimpse of, the collision and another individual noted that the crosswalk countdown was underway and was at the number "6" when she saw it immediately after the incident. The bicycle/pedestrian signal for crossing the crosswalk begins with a solid green for about six seconds and the continues with a countdown starting at fifteen.

Wong said that the bicyclist might have had some responsibility if she entered the crosswalk once the countdown had begun.* "If the light starts flashing and the countdown begins, you're responsible. The countdown is meant for people already in the crosswalk." He added that he understood that many people don't interpret the countdown that way and that he usually doesn't cite for entering once the count begins. Wong said he also realized that whatever the countdown status of the crosswalk signal, the taxi driver had a solid red during that time period.

"Now the determination will be up to the investigators," Wong concluded. "My job is to collect the information." He did not expect the witnesses in the case to be contacted further, which, he said, was not unusual in non-fatal collisions. Officer Wong's incident report has been sent to the Traffic Investigation unit of SFPD Central Command.

* California Vehicle Code, 21456 (b). Flashing or steady "DONT WALK" or "WAIT" or approved "Upraised Hand" symbol. No. pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the "WAIT" or "DONT WALK" or approved "Upraised Hand" symbol is showing.

NOTE: Bicyclists have the right to bike, not walk, across Masonic Avenue using the crosswalk since it is an extension of the bike path, as noted in this previous post.

ALSO, the bicycle light at Fell and Masonic follows this progression: solid green, yellow for 3 seconds, and then red. The bike light stays green until the pedestrian countdown light reaches "0" in its countdown from 15. If this injured bicyclist was in the crosswalk during the countdown, as one witness stated, she was travelling with a solid green light.

A 25 year old female bicyclist was injured late Saturday night when she collided with a blue taxi van that was making an illegal left hand turn from Fell Street onto Masonic Avenue, according to witnesses. The bicyclist complained of shoulder pain and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The driver of the van stopped mid-way in the block between Fell and Oak and was questioned by the police. Several bicyclists travelling the busy mixed-use Panhandle Path and a motorist and passenger stopped to help the injured woman. Three SFPD squad cars, two SFFD fire engines, and an ambulance appeared at the scene as well.

This morning the front desk officer at SFPD Park Station confirmed that an accident report had been completed, but he was unable to provide details of the ten page account because he "was busy with several other matters." He suggested the officer who filed the report might be available to discuss the case later today. He confirmed, however, that the motorist had not been cited, as of yet. He added, "We can do it (cite at the scene) but we usually don't do it." In several other collisions, SFPD has not cited involved parties pending conclusion of an investigation. Last week BIKE NOPA reported the details of a just-released accident report about a pedestrian fatality that occurred September 15th of 2009.

NOPA resident Mariana Parreiras and a friend, who was driving, approached the intersection last night at the time of the crash. "We were travelling northbound on Masonic and stopped at Fell at the signal; we were at the front of the queue and right at the crosswalk," Parreiras recalled. "My friend suddenly yelled and jumped out of the car to help the cyclist." Although she did not witness the collision, Parreiras said she immediately got out of the car and looked at the pedestrian signal countdown because she was concerned that she and her friend might get hit in traffic. "The countdown was at "6," she stated. Parreiras is a member of the neighborhood advocacy group FIX MASONIC and is quite familiar with the intersection and the pedestrian/bicyclist signal. "The light turns green for several seconds and then it begins the countdown; clearly the bicyclist had the right-of-way in the intersection." (Note: the bike/pedestrian light is green for about six seconds and then begins a countdown from fifteen). Parreiras rushed to check on the cyclist who had walked from the middle of the crosswalk and sat down on the sidewalk on the east side.

Parreiras' friend,Tom, was driving the car and spoke to BIKE NOPA, but requested that his surname not be included with his account. Tom said he and Parreiras were in the far left lane travelling north and stopped at Masonic for the red light. "Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bicyclist coming (from the west) through the intersection. It happened very quickly... I'm not sure if I saw or heard the collision first. I heard some crunching and realized the cyclist had been hit," Tom stated. "I shifted into park and turned on the blinker. I saw that others were with the cyclist and I got out to get the bicycle out of the way before something further happened." A few minutes later Tom returned to his car and moved it around the corner. He told a police officer what he saw and provided his contact information. He concluded, "It seemed as though the facts were fairly straightforward about what happened." By 5 p.m. this afternoon, he had not been contacted further by SFPD.

The Fell and Masonic intersection is considered one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, with multiple collisions between motorists and bicyclists or pedestrians. The mixed-use path coursing through Panhandle Park crosses Masonic, and hundreds of bicyclists use the east-west route every day. The high risks at the intersection persuaded the Superior Court to allow an exception to the bike injunction, and the city installed a bicycle/pedestrian light. Motorists traveling westbound on Fell and wanting to turn left at Masonic get a red light when the cyclists and walkers are crossing. Although the number of motorists running the red left-turn signal has dropped as motorists become more accustomed to the added signal, users of the Panhandle Path observe illegal turns regularly. Motorists have remarked that the left turn signal on Fell at Masonic is confusing. Whether the collision last night resulted from one more case of reckless red-light running or confusion about the turn signal is not known

This post was updated with new information at 5 pm, February 14th.


  1. I took a ride down that way on Sunday. As I was approaching the intersection, a car ran the red light in front of me. Another car would have followed, but stopped to let me pass before also running the light (how polite!)

  2. The intersection is pretty bad. I see cars running the left turn light regularly, although I think much has to do with confusion. One thing they need to do is make the red light signal for turners much bigger and more prominent for drivers.

    The other issue is that cars driving on Masonic often block the sidewalk after the light has changed, therefore forcing pedestrians and cyclists into the road to get around the car.

  3. @ Alexei and lyqwyd: Every time I spend a few minutes at that intersection I see illegal red light turns -- and occasionally some bicyclists running their red light. Motorists do need to be advised by signage, street painting (i.e crosshatching) that they need to stay behind the crosswalk, not in it, not ahead of it.