Yee blocks traffic camera at Octavia


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.


This isn't just about bikes. Walk SF supports this, as well, for helping improve pedestrian safety. And there are many car-on-car collisions that occur due to this illegal right hand turn, too. This helps everyone's safety.

I've been through this intersection as a driver (car share)-- it's not easy to make this left unless you mean to. And that's really the key-- to catch the scofflaw repeat offenders.

Posted by marcSFBC on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Sounds like more political games ... " you owe me " bullshit. It would be nice if the electorate would elect folks who want to do the most good for the most people. sigh ...

Posted by Jamie Whitaker on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

It would be nice if the electorate would elect folks, period, but we don't. The choice is made by endorsers way before the votes hit the ballot box.

Posted by cynical times two on Aug. 29, 2010 @ 8:56 am

Traffic cameras are an invasion of privacy, and this is one constituent who is very happy with his decision.

"Just this once" doesn't justify police state tactics, even if it may have some beneficial effects.

I just called his office to express my *support* for Yee's decision, and shame on the Guardian for compromising basic civil liberties in exchange for what? Better traffic flow? Yikes! Are civil liberties that cheap?

Yee for Mayor is looking better every day...

Posted by Greg Kamin on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

He's absolutely right - traffic cameras don't make a difference in improving safety. There is actually anecdotal evidence indicating they make intersections LESS safe because drivers are known to suddenly slam on their brakes or speed recklessly through an intersection with cameras rather than risk a ticket.

So good for Yee for opposing this draconian expansion of governmental power. And once again The Guardian shows how willing it is to sell out its core principles when it involves an issue of personal interest to its staff.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

Privacy issue is ridiculous. A camera at the intersection will make people think twice before breaking the law and will probably save a life. I wonder how many ATM and building security cameras are in the area.

Posted by Safe Streets on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

When necessary, I am all for the added surveillance as cameras have proven to help curb these dangerous situations as they bring heightened awareness to drivers.

Posted by phan2001 on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

I have to say, as someone who is always suspicious of police surveillance and not a big fan of cameras, I have to agree with Safe Streets above -- in this intersection, in the middle of this busy area, I'm not sure I see the privacy concern.

Posted by tim on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

Privacy issue is a non-starter. You have none on a public street.

Posted by There ARE no privacy issues on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

But BIG problems with cameras in high crime areas.

Yeah - I see why The Guardian would be for one and against the other. The main reason being none of The Guardian's writers are black or live in high crime areas so they really could care less about the crime epidemic which has plagued the Bayview for so long.

However many of The SFBG staff ride bikes - so once again we see how their personal preferences so clearly define their political endorsements.

Too bad Steven isn't here to add a thundering defense of the rights of cyclists and the tyranny of the automobile to this thread. He's too busy trying to recapture his lost youth out in the desert at Black Rock.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

Isn't this the same Leland Yee who was caught "giving a ride" to a Capp Street prostitute on South Van Ness back in the 90's? Traffic cameras are notorious for photographing these little indiscretions and I can see why the Senator takes issue with them.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

Allows SF progressives to dig through your trash looking for recyclable newspaper.

It also allows for putting cameras most anyplace where someone is not looking over a fence into your yard or into your windows.

Progressive long ago joined the busy body contingent, too late to bitch about it now.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

I work two blocks from this intersection. The problem is not cameras; the problem is the stupidity of trying to block a simple right turn from Market St onto the freeway. Blocking this turn forces cars to go through FIVE red lights to get on the freeway instead of a simple turn.

Sorry, but bikes are not driven by blind people and they fucking LOOK for cars turning right as they do in many other intersections in the city.

The city has spent a fortune, and installed what are now laughable barriers to a common-sense right turn from SF's biggest street onto its biggest freeway.

This stupid attempt to force everyone else to be inconvenienced for a few bikes a day is fucked. And yes, it is a few bikes a day compared to the scores of cars that would make this turn.

No, I don't support your bike agenda and I will ignore and confound it everywhere I can.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

...these would be the cars that don't have a directional indicating their intent that we, the pedestrians and bikers (and motorists) are looking out for...

It's more than "a few" bikes and pedestrians. Maybe it's only a few in the moment you pass through, but there are many moments in the day.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 7:02 am

1. Traffic continuing straight through the intersection, especially here people on bikes, have the right of way. Turning drivers are the ones that have to "fucking look" for passing traffic.

2. The No-Right-Turn has been in place since the entrance's opening not just for bikes, but to keep upper Market from becoming a freeway feeder. There would be tons more traffic on it were it a legal turn. It's not that hard to go to Gough, I've been told (I don't drive) and people do it just fine every day, preserving the safe passage of pedestrians and cyclists.

3. There are probably hundreds of people using this route on bikes every day.

4. A legal right turn would do just a little more than "inconvenience" people on bikes going this way, it would make it an extreme safety hazard and essentially keep people from using the route or biking at all if they don't have a good alternative.

5. Why don't you (apparently) ride a bike?

Posted by Aaron on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

Aaron doesn't drive. That makes him morally superior to people who do.
But since I don't drive or ride a bike, I'm morally superior to Aaron. And I think it's lunacy not to allow right turns onto the freeway. This is nothing less than political correctness run amuck, with the message being that cars are bad and must be punished. The fact is that intersections where right hand turns are legal are safer than Octavia, so isn't the solution obvious? Furthermore, how many extra tons of green house gasses are generated by making cars drive an extra six blocks?

Posted by MikeModern on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

Uhh... I never said anything about moral superiority, or greenhouse gases? Nice job knocking down some straw men.

Isn't not allowing people the right of safe passage down Market St. on a bike sending the message that bikes "are bad and must be punished"?

People, travel a little - particularly, say, somewhere like Denmark (where I've lived) where standards such as those ours, like having elevated freeways in our cities (let alone allowing this right-turn) would be considered "lunacy".

Posted by Aaron on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

This is the same guy who equated native plant restoration with racism. He's probably concerned that some Kudzu will be unfairly persecuted.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

Right before our eyes. We've grown so accustomed to being tracked, tagged, fingerprinted, photographed, recorded, everywhere we go, that we no longer recognize our own rights.

We have people saying that there are no privacy rights because you're on a public street. Perfect. That's exactly the kind of attitude that "just this once" logic leads to. Tim, you may want the camera just this once for your own purposes -and by the way, I think it's a shitty cause. That should be a legal right hand turn -but it's really beside the point. I'm more concerned that this facile "just this once" logic will lead exactly to the attitude expressed by "TheAreNoPrivacyIssues." Take a good look at the responses -that's where your logic leads to.

Yee is right, and I hope he stands his ground.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 24, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

"Leland Yee is a "law and order type of guy." Give me a break. Yee calls 17 and 18 year old gang murderers "kids" and just lost his third attempt to give them a shot at early release from prison (SB 399 Yee). His approach to law enforcement is hostile unless it has to do with supporting the wishes of a police union. He probably believes that the folks running over bicyclists at the Market-Octavia intersection sufferer from "immature brain syndrome" and should not be held responsible for their bad decisions. You want to crack down on law breakers, don't look for help from this joker.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 9:24 am

Of course if this was China or even Las Vegas there would be a pedestrian/bike bridge or tunnel over Octavia freeway entrance. In that case a traffic reducing right turn could be allowed. Note that there will be some bike/car accidents as cars are forced to go thru the 5 red lights on their way to the freeway.

A light sequence that includes an all-ways ped/bike crossing would be great! One could also trivially put a "railroad crossing" style gate up to make sure cars don't enter the freeway when its Ped/Bike's turn for the light.

Unfortunately civil engineers and SF political hacks lack basic problem solving skills.

Posted by Sue on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 9:36 am

"The city's built barriers and traffic signs, but the illegal turns continue." The city has taken steps to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians and people are STILL finding ways to circumvent those measures. We need something that will show how egregiously people are breaking the law and impose strong consequences for doing so. I hope something changes and this camera is installed before someone gets seriously injured or killed.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 10:22 am

I'm a law and order gal, so i'm disappointed with yee's stance

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 11:12 am

At that intersection? As someone else pointed out it is a right turn from the city's busiest street onto its busiest freeway. What genius made the decision to disallow these turns and instead force drivers to go through 5 additional red lights before they could get on the freeway? Shouldn't we consider building a pedestrian bridge or tunnel and accept that people are going to want to make a right onto the freeway at this spot?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

If the SPPD won't periodically station officers at that intersection to catch drivers making illegal right turns, then a camera is needed. We're all human and frequently our worst, lead-footed side comes out when we get behind the wheel. More enforcement is needed on San Francisco's scary streets where the car is king and "automobiles first" is still the name of the game.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

Why on earth did they not allow people to turn right of off Market to get on to the freeway in the first place? This is THE STUPIDIST thing ever! Why make it easy for people coming down Market to get on the freeway? Instead, make them zig zag through neighborhoods and one way streets to do it! And then let all the idiots on bikes who think they do not need to obey traffic laws and pedestrians boo hoo about everything. When bike riders have to licence and register like car owners do then I will give 2 sh!ts about what they have to say, but until then, it is my tax money that funds roads. KISS MY BUTT WHINER PEDESTRIANS AND BIKE RIDERS!

Posted by Guest HELLO ... on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

That the freeway ends at Market street is the problem. This is among the worst traffic decisions in years and it was done to placate some loud folks who live in the avenues and want to race home and save a few minutes.

The freeway should have come down at Mission or Folsom.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 7:33 pm

That the freeway ends at Market street is the problem. This is among the worst traffic decisions in years and it was done to placate some loud folks who live in the avenues and want to race home and save a few minutes.

The freeway should have come down at Mission or Folsom.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

That the freeway ends at Market street is the problem. This is among the worst traffic decisions in years and it was done to placate some loud folks who live in the avenues and want to race home and save a few minutes.

The freeway should have come down at Mission or Folsom.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

It's not going to be torn down nor should it be. The simplest answer to this problem is allowing people to make a right-hand turn and building a pedestrian/bike overpass or underpass. Of course bicyclists will bitch and moan about this because they want to ride up and down Market without stopping - like they do currently, red lights or not.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

Sorry to tell you honey, there used to be a great big honking freeway right in front of your precious Ferry Building were you probably bring your out-of-town in-laws, cos you certainly ain't from around these parts. Either that or your memory's shorter than a goldfish; and by the by, did you pay me for that bridge yet?

Hows about laying off the Joni Mitchell "Big Yellow Taxi" honey, and get some more Talking Heads "(Nothing but) Flowers" in your system.

Posted by Lucrezia Borgia on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

Wow, not sure if I am dreaming....there are actually some real people in these comments DEFENDING us in cars! How absolutely politically incorrect!!! What shall we do, what shall we do???? Folks on bikes, I have no problem with you riding your two wheels, I just do not want to ride on two wheels, ok? I am so incredibly fed up with parsimonious bike riders acting all holier than thou, that you are better than me, because you ride a bike. Share the road indeed! I am a polite and careful car driver, I do not speed, I do not yack on my phone, headset, or listen to my IPOD while driving (don't own one!), I watch in my rear view mirror as well as my side mirrors, for bike riders, and I also watch while HERDS of bike riders RUN RED LIGHTS and STOP SIGNS every day of the week. They also wear dark clothing at night, have no tail-lights OR headlights, and expect us in cars to have X-ray vision. I do not want to do damage to anyone, on 2 or 4 wheels. I just ask that bikes take some responsibility for this red light running gig, and for wearing black at night with no way to see your little wagging butts. Ok? Fair?

Posted by Fed up past the gills on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 12:50 am

As I wrote earlier, I work 2 block from this intersection. The oh-so-precious bike riders insist that NO ONE BE ALLOWED to make a right turn throught their holy bike lane onto the freeway.

Guess what? All those cars that can't turn right now go one block further on Market and......make a right turn onto Gough....and there is NO bike land. It's here that cars and bikes share a lane. This is a better option? Lunacy.

Posted by guest on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 9:11 am

IS that making right turns onto a backed up freeway would back up Market street at rush hour, making things worse.

Putting a tunnel there for bikes under it would just create a haven for the cities hobo's to defecate.

As you all may recall, this project went on for 15 years before it was settled after the quake. The NIMBY circus and Utopian dreamers helped create this intersection so they could have a nice street to show to out of town friends how progressive SF is, and how they "put people first." The unintended consequence is that all that traffic is in one place instead of it landing a block later.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 11:37 am

I hope Leland is taking note, that even here in Bay Guardian land, there is a lot of disagreement. I imagine that in the city at large, there's a pretty wide consensus against more strict enforcement of this intersection, either because of opposition to traffic cameras, or because the right turn shouldn't be illegal in the first place, or both.

I myself both ride a bike and drive, and I'm generally friendly to bike issues (unlike some of the haters out there), but this is really excessive (and stupid). Trashing civil liberties and making cars run an obstacle course of traffic, pedestrians, and bicyclists on other streets, just so some other bicyclists don't have to look for cars at one intersection -it's not justifiable from any angle.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

where are the fools who designed this fiasco-including the Octavia Boulevard to no-where.An example of politicians and urban designers exceling at incomptetence .
They got paid and we get stuck holding the bag and fighting amongst ourselves.

Posted by Guestmongo on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

In 2003 Dufty carried a measure that urged caltrans to bring the freeway down further south and east when it came time to rebuild the upper road deck in (from then) ten years time because Daly was conflicted due to home ownership within 150' of the project.

It is now seven years later which means that caltrans is probably planning on rebuilding the raised structure within the next few years.

Instead of throwing money into the freeway, the City and caltrans should reprogram those dollars to a tear down, preferably with a spaghetti intersection around Potrero and Division. Complicated yes, that siting would allow for a 270 degree dispersal of freeway traffic towards Townsend to the east, up 9th to the north, Division to the west and Potrero to the south.

This remediation is critical because the Octavia Boulevard project pushed all impacts into the lower income and browner Mission and SOMA while lauding all benefits north of Market into the instantly gentrified and bleached Hayes Valley. Sometimes it makes sense to concentrate complications over parking lots in order to simplify conditions everywhere else, including Market and Octavia.

The time for the City and caltrans to be studying this was yesterday.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 9:50 am