Yee blocks traffic camera at Octavia

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The Market-Octavia intersection is one of the most dangerous places in the city for bicyclists. Cars making an illegal right turn onto the freeway ramp hit riders; there were nine collisions in 2008 alone, and there have been 20 injury accidents since the freeway ramp opened. The city's built barriers and traffic signs, but the illegal turns continue.

So with the backing of the SF Bicycle Coalition, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano introduced a bill that would allow the city to install a trafic camera to monitor illegal turns at that intersection. It's a modest pilot project, a test run until 2014. It cleared the Assembly easily, with bipartisan support, and right now it's just one state Senate vote away from the governor's desk. That is, Ammiano is one state Senate vote short.

And Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco is refusing to vote for it.

That kind of mystified me; why would Yee be against a fairly common-sense safety measure? I called Yee's aide, Adam Keigwin, who said it was a matter of principle: "He's never voted for traffic cameras," Keigwin said. "He sees it as a police state issue. Once they take pictures of you driving, what else are they going to take pictures of?"

Again: That's a bit odd. Yee's usually a law-and-order type of guy. And I'm not for cameras everywhere; I have problems with the cops wanting to put "crime cameras" in neighborhoods. But this one seems fairly harmless -- it's a busy intersection where someone's going to die one of these days, and I don't think a traffic camera is going to take us down a slippery slope to a police state.

In fact, the bike coalition's acting director, Renee Rivera, told me that she understands Yee's concern, but "in this case, the safety concern takes precedence. This camera enforcement is going to make it safer for people walking and biking."

Anyway, if you want to express an opinion on this, Yee's office is (916) 651-4008.