Monday, December 17, 2007

Death Race 2007

Off the Polk Street entrance to City Hall, just below the Mayor's Office...

...there is a huge crosswalk with yellow flashing lights and occasionally a few motorcycle cops out to issue easy moving violation citations to people who don't stop for pedestrians.

However, there are no actual signal lights, which can confuse people who don't know the area and expecting people to stop for you as a pedestrian is always a risk.

Late this morning, Susan Leal, the head of San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission was hit by a vehicle while in this crosswalk, and supposedly thrown thirty feet through the air. She's currently at San Francisco General Hospital and is reportedly doing well. I asked about 40 people inside City Hall, from deputies to Supervisors' aides, if they knew any details of the accident, such as whether the car was going north or heading south of Market.

I couldn't find anyone in the building who professed to know anything, which seemed rather odd, even though Leal's PUC offices are on Market Street. Mayor Newsom recently announced he wants to kick Leal out of her job this coming year for unstated reasons, although a reasonable guess is that she somehow offended local crime syndicate Pacific Gas & Electric. Perhaps the poor woman was just upset after a particularly nasty meeting at City Hall and wasn't paying attention to the traffic.

Or it could be a case of yet another suburban commuter tearing through the Civic Center neighborhood with a cell phone glued to their ears, paying no attention to those annoying pedestrians. These same drivers try to run me down just about every day at the corner of Franklin & McAllister, oblivious to crosswalks and traffic signals.

Car culture really is toxic.


Your driver said...

If I happen to be wearing sturdy boots, I like to kick cars and shriek as they tear by me. I'm much too old for that sort of thing, but it satisfies the old punk rocker in me. It's fun to watch a cab driver (for example) screech to a halt. I like cars, but I won't miss them if they go away.

Civic Center said...

Dear jon: I'm a kicker and a pounder too, and I'm also much too old for that sort of thing. Still, it sometimes seems the only way to get these drivers' attention as they blithely go about their lives encased in their metal cocoons is to actually bang on their cars. At least a half dozen of my neighbors have been run over in the neighborhood since I've lived here, by the way.

And yeah, most people love cars, which is part of the problem. Growing up in Southern California, I grew to hate them and the way they literally destroyed paradise, as Joni Mitchell once put it, to put up another parking lot.

Matthew Hubbard said...

I ride my bike when doing errands, and in my neighborhood many busy streets (though not all) have nice wide bike lanes. I usually ride with the flow of traffic, as a good citizen should, but sometimes if my destination is on the wrong side of the street, I'll ride a few blocks against the flow of traffic, being extra mindful that merging traffic won't be looking for me.

Riding against the flow of traffic is a terrifying reminder of now many people are on cell phones while driving, and that when I drive with the traffic, I'm expecting these people driving behind me to be paying attention.

I send Ms. Leal my best wishes in her recovery, with an even fonder hope that she doesn't have to return the favor any time soon.

Nancy Ewart said...

I fantasize about carrying a baseball bat and bashing the hell out of the jerks that ignore stop signs, whiz through intersections, lay on their horns when any driver stops for a pedestrian (what a concept) and yapyapyap endlessly on their cell phones. Many years ago, my ex-husband got a bit of revenge on a sports car that almost ran us over as we were trying to get off the N Judah. The jerk didn't stop in back of the bus as he was supposed to do and pulled up right under the doors, just as they were opening. My ex - 6'3" and very young and strong, jumped on the hood of the guy's car when he got off the bus. The driver saw that the rest of us were looking to lynch him so he didn't stick around but zoomed off, with a big and expensive dent in the hood of his sports car. Too bad more of us can't do the same; if careless drivers knew that pedestrians would hit back, they might be more careful.

momo said...

My sister, who walks with a cane, was almost killed at that spot--by a guy on a bike (I'm sure it wasn't you, mattyboy!) who seemed to think that she should leap out of his way, although she clearly has limited mobility. Not all of us are agile enough to dodge the hurtling vehicles, two or four wheeled.

Matthew Hubbard said...

Thanks for the proclamation of my innocence, momo. I do almost all my bike riding in the East Bay, so I have a very strong alibi.