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June 20, 2021

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Crash at Polk and Hayes Kills One Pedestrian, Severely Injures Another – Streetsblog San Francisco

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

One pedestrian was killed and another seriously injured Tuesday evening near San Francisco City Hall after a hit-and-run motorist ran a red. From the San Francisco police department:

…at approximately 7:00 p.m., San Francisco Police officers from Northern Station responded to the intersection of Polk and Hayes Streets for a report of a vehicle collision involving two vehicles and pedestrians. Officers arrived on scene and located two victims, both pedestrians. The male victim was transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries where he remains. The female victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. The preliminary investigation indicates that a Chevy Avalanche collided with an Audi A6. The Avalanche then collided with the two pedestrians. The driver of the Avalanche was seen fleeing on foot following the collision. There were four victims in the Audi at the time of the collision. Two of the victims were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police told Streetsblog the suspect is at large. They ask that “Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD 24-hour Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.”

This, of course, was no accident. The tragedy was caused by a reckless driver, driving an oversized, overpowered, and inherently dangerous vehicle through city streets. It’s also more evidence of a broken system and streets designed to permit unsafe speeds.

“The threat of dangerous streets is rising,” said Jodie Medeiros of Walk San Francisco. “Aggressive, high-speed driving is all-too-commonplace and it leaves all of us vulnerable. The streets are not designed and enforced to keep all of us safe, and too many people are paying the ultimate price.”

Indeed, as reported by KTVU, a witness estimated the Avalanche was going 50 mph, twice the speed limit. As Streetsblog has reported previously, it defies belief that any driver who causes a crash such as this had an otherwise clean record and normally went the speed limit. That’s why Walk S.F. and others are pushing A.B. 550, legislation to legalize automated speed enforcement cameras to help stop drivers who routinely break the law before they kill.

Enforcement is part of the solution. But streets also need designs that use physics to stop reckless drivers before they kill.

Imagine someone trying to drive 50 miles per hour past the types of intersections and bike lanes designed by Vignesh Swaminathan in Emeryville, reinforced with concrete garbage cans; they’d surely wreck against concrete long before they had a chance to kill a person. What if instead of constantly delaying and watering down safety features, as was done on Polk when it was last rebuilt, San Francisco added Dutch-style protected intersections with significantly narrowed crossing distances and forced cars to slow or risk hitting solid concrete objects at key conflict locations, something akin to what’s pictured below protecting a New York crosswalk?

New York shows how concrete can save lives. Imagine if this refuge island were protected with San Francisco style plastic posts instead? Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag
New York shows how carefully installed concrete can save lives, by physically stopping motorists who ignore speed limits and drive recklessly. Photo: Julie Margolies via West Side Rag

Yes, someone’s car got badly damaged in the photo above. But lives were surely saved. And many more lives can be saved if all streets and intersections were designed to force safe speeds.

Meanwhile, Walk San Francisco asks for your support for A.B. 550.