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Demonstrators demand fix
for Market/Octavia deathtrap

Protestors held a rally at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, Friday, at the location where bicyclist Margaret Timbrell was struck by a motorist who made an illegal right turn onto the southbound entrance of the 101 Central Freeway. Timbrell suffered 24 broken bones and a collapsed lung as a result of the collision.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Catherine Rauschuber

January 27, 2007

A gathering of approximately 100 demonstrators convened at the intersection of Market Street and Octavia Blvd Friday morning to demand city officials address the dangers motorists pose to pedestrians and bicyclists when motorists make illegal right turns off of Market Street onto the southbound entrance of the 101 Central Freeway.

The demonstration was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco, Livable City, Senior Action Network, North Mission Neighborhood Alliance, and Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association.

Timbrell, 28, is in intensive care at San Francisco General Hospital suffering from 24 broken bones, a collapsed lung, and fluid in her chest cavity.

The collision infuriated many in the area of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street, where a U.S. Highway 101 connector meets with a residential Hayes Valley neighborhood. It also garnered the attention of Supervisors Bevan Dufty, Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly, who appeared at the site of the incident for a news conference.

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly

District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and daughter Sidney (left)
and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (center left)

Timbrell was on her way to work in the bike lane on Market Street when the pickup truck, carrying bags of concrete, made the illegal turn to get on the freeway. The driver of the truck ran over the woman and continued on the freeway, according to police.

Witnesses alerted the police immediately and a motorcycle officer managed to track down the truck more than a mile down the freeway, according to police. The driver was cited and released after telling the officer that he had no idea he struck the woman.

Many in the area said collisions similar to Monday's are common at the intersection, which opened in 2005. The owner of a nearby coffee shop blamed the collisions on people rushing through the intersection on their way to work.

Dufty called on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to do something about the danger. Among the proposals is a plan to place cameras at the intersection that would function much like red-light cameras.

He also suggested raising fines for infractions at the intersection and providing more signage.

"We need to ensure the safety of our pedestrians and must make this change before a fatality occurs,'' Dufty said in a statement.

Installing cameras may take a series of hearings and votes, and the item is placed on a county transportation authority committee agenda for Tuesday, but in the meantime, the Municipal Transportation Agency has pledged to offer some short- and long-term solutions.

The agency plans to install plastic posts protecting the bike lane at the turn, post an electronic sign that says "NO RIGHT TURN,'' and provide additional signage to inform drivers that a legal freeway entrance is only a few blocks away.

In addition to the changes, MTA Director Nathaniel Ford pledged to work with supervisors and other groups to improve the safety of the intersection.

Andy Thornley, program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said city leaders need to make safety for bicyclists and pedestrians a priority. He added that drivers continued to break the law on their way to work.

"Even with all those people there, cars were pushing and forcing their way through the bike lane,'' Thornley said. "I guess it proves that people have no sense of shame.''

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Program Director Andy Thonley

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said, "Monday’s collision was unfortunately predictable given the significant number of vehicles that make illegal right turns onto the Central Freeway from Market Street."

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum

"The City could fix the dangerous conditions of this intersection but so far has failed to do so," Shahum added.

Senior Action Network Pedestrian Safety Coordinator Pi Ra said the dangerous conditions at the intersection are, "a classic example of poor design decisions and a lack of enforcement."

Senior Action Network Pedestrian Safety Coordinator Pi Ra

Attendees also expressed wishes for Timbrell's speedy recovery and called on city officials to act quickly to prevent further life threatening injuries at this and other dangerous intersections in San Francisco.

Brent Begin, Bay City News, contributed to this report.




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