San Francisco’s most dangerous intersection for people walking and biking is one step closer to safety. As 2012 came to a close, the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, gave permission for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to install a camera at the intersection of Market and Octavia to prevent drivers from making the dangerous and illegal right turns onto the highway.
This decision has been in the works for years, and we are very excited to share this latest development, which should improve the safety of the thousands of people who walk and bike through this intersection every day.
Since the Central Freeway reopened in September 2005, the intersection of Market and Octavia has been one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. While infrastructure improvements have been made, dangerous illegal right turns still occur. The most recent SFMTA Collision Report (2009-2011), shows that with 30 injury collisions, Market and Octavia is the most dangerous intersection in the city.
In response to several life-threatening crashes in 2007, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition called for stronger enforcement at this intersection; we requested the SFMTA install a camera to enforce the illegal and dangerous right turn, which is the most common cause of injuries at the intersection. The City Attorney’s Office claimed it was unable to install a camera without legislative action, so we focused our efforts in Sacramento to pass a bill to allow it.
In 2007, we proposed a bill along with then-Assemblymember Fiona Ma to get a camera at this intersection. The bill failed. In 2010, a similar bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano passed. But then-Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it, stating “This bill is unnecessary. Current law already allows for violations of Section 22101 of the Vehicle Code to be enforced through an automated enforcement system.” Unfortunately, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office disagreed – and Assemblymember Ammiano elevated the leal question to the Attorney General in January of 2011.
Then, on December 17, 2012, the Attorney General finally responded – and affirmed what the SF Bicycle Coalition has believed all along: that the SFMTA is legally allowed to use Automated Enforcement to ticket people who violate the right turn prohibition, and can use this to deter drivers from endangering people walking and biking on Market Street.
“We are excited about this long-awaited decision that will make San Francisco’s most dangerous intersection safer,” said Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the 12,000-member San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “Over the past ten years, more than 50 people walking and biking have been injured at Market and Octavia. We urge the City to install the crucial safety improvement quickly and help ensure the safety of people walking and biking through this intersection.”
Elizabeth Stampe, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco, echoed support for this safety improvement. “This is great news for safer walking on Market Street. This sets a good precedent for smart, targeted enforcement of traffic laws in the city’s most dangerous locations, to prevent more people from getting hit by cars and seriously hurt or even killed.”
The SF Bicycle Coalition has been working to improve the safety of Market and Octavia for years, and we will continue to advocate that the SFMTA moves swiftly to install the Automated Enforcement System that San Franciscans have asked for. Want to learn more about the history of Market and Octavia, and the SF Bicycle Coalition’s work to fix this dangerous location, visit sfbike.org/octavia