Bay Area/ San Francisco
Published on February 11, 2015
Eye On Traffic Safety At Last Night's Park District Police Meeting

Hoodline/Walter Thompson

At last night’s monthly Park Station community meeting, SFPD Capt. Raj Vaswani gave the floor to Sgt. William Murphy, a 25-year department veteran who works with the Traffic Division. Murphy provided attendees with a detailed overview of traffic issues around the district and discussed ongoing education and enforcement plans to promote safety. (As a reminder, Park Station currently spans the Upper Haight, Cole Valley, parts of the Inner Sunset and Lower Haight, a portion of the Western Addition, and the eastern end of Golden Gate Park).

“Pedestrian fatalities have been out of control in San Francisco historically,” said Murphy, who’s been managing outreach programs targeting children and the elderly, two groups he said are “most at risk” with regards to pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle accidents. In 2014, there were 14 fatal pedestrian-vehicle incidents in the city, compared to 21 in 2013.

Flickr/Jorge Dalmau

Murphy said the department acquired grant money from the state Office of Traffic Safety to pay for personnel and data analysis. As part of this work, the Department of Public Works identified the five most dangerous intersections in Park District:

  1. Geary & Divisadero (red light running)
  2. Grove & Divisadero (pedestrian right of way)
  3. Fulton & Masonic (speeding)
  4. Fulton & Scott (failure to obey stop sign)
  5. Fell & Masonic (bicycle collision)

Murphy and other traffic officers at the meeting said that though writing more citations helps, it’s not a scalable solution because police have limited time and resources. In one case, Murphy said, “a parked police car that was visible had the greatest impact on lowering injury accidents,” because “if they can’t make out whether there’s a cop in there or not, they’re going to slow down.”

Whether on foot or operating a vehicle or bicycle, Murphy said more education is required to make the streets safer. Many cyclists who are stopped by police say that they didn’t know they needed to stop for red lights and stop signs, according to several officers in attendance. “I thought that was just for cars,” is a common misconception, said Murphy.

With regard to pedestrian safety, Murphy said the rules are quite clear: “if you have your big toe in the crosswalk, you have the right of way.” At the same time, he advised pedestrians to make eye contact with a driver before crossing, otherwise, “stay right where you’re at.”

“Use your judgement. Don’t get confrontational,” said Murphy. “If they’re going to go, let them go.” He also urged cyclists and pedestrians to be extra alert for hybrid vehicles, since “a lot of the cars aren’t as loud as they used to be.” 

In other news, Capt. Vaswani said plans to redraw the boundaries of police districts continue. Tonight at 6pm, the Northern District will hold a meeting at their station’s conference room. The next meetings will take place at Southern District on February 25th and at Bayview Station on March 4th, the last public input date. Read our summary of the Tenderloin District meeting held last month for more on the community feedback process.

The Park District community meeting is held on the second Tuesday of each month at Park Station (1899 Waller St) at 6 pm. See notes on last month's meeting here