cover-crosswalk.jpgSan Francisco District Attorney George Gascon joined pedestrian and bicycle advocates today to call for people to stay safe on the city’s streets during the holiday season.

Citing four fatal accidents in San Francisco in the past six months, Gascon said he was encouraging drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to be more attentive when traveling around the city.

“All of this is related to people not following the rules, people being distracted, and the outcome is very tragic,” he said.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of the nonprofit Walk San Francisco, said more than 800 people get hit by cars in San Francisco each year, and numbers typically increase during the holiday season when days are shorter and many pedestrians are out shopping.

“The holiday season is a time of sharing and we should be sharing our streets,” Stampe said. “We all have the right to move around safely on the streets.”

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the number of bicyclists in the city has also increased by 58 percent in the past four years, leading to more accidents between vehicles and bicyclists.

Shahum said the Bicycle Coalition is “helping to make sure those people know their rights and responsibilities” by offering free adult and youth bicycle safety courses, as well as free bike lights as part of a “Light up the Night” partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Gascon said the problem of inattentive driving is a regional one since more than a third of the collisions in San Francisco involve people residing in other cities.

The district attorney’s office has already filed charges in one of four recent fatal crashes.
Randolph Ang, 23, was charged on Nov. 10 with involuntary vehicular manslaughter for fatally striking a 68-year-old pedestrian when he allegedly ran a red light on his bicycle at the intersection of The Embarcadero and Mission Street on July 15.

Ang, a San Francisco resident, pleaded not guilty to the charges last week.

Gascon said today prosecutors are still deciding whether to file charges in connection with the three other deaths.

The first of the three cases involves the driver of a University of California at San Francisco shuttle bus that allegedly ran a red light at Octavia Boulevard and Oak Street on July 14, causing a crash that killed a 52-year-old doctor on board.

The other two cases involve a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus that fatally struck a 23-year-old woman crossing the street at 18th and Hartford streets on Aug. 19 and a man driving with a cast on his leg who fatally struck a 59-year-old man crossing at 14th and Noe streets on Sept. 6.

Gascon said decisions on those cases would be coming soon, but said that “all were preventable” deaths.

He said he organized today’s news conference to prevent further tragedies by educating the public about street safety.

“While my office is looking at these cases, and where appropriate we will prosecute these cases aggressively, I’d much rather not have to prosecute these cases because they did not occur in the first place,” he said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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