Paint and Enforcement Come to Fell and Baker

One month after 90-year-old David Grinberg was killed at Fell and Baker streets, the city makes (some) moves to create a safer intersection.

It’s been one month since 90-year-old David Grinberg was killed on Fell and Baker streets, as he walked from his senior home to the Panhandle. The collision, which Twitter user Skip Pile witnessed, was tragic for all parties involved. “He had made it across two lanes into the third when the light changed to green,” he wrote. “The driver accelerated across the intersection and hit him.The younger woman who was driving got out and started crying. She was totally distraught.”

The incident — which took place during rush hour — has raised concern from safe streets advocates about the high speeds along Fell Street, and the four wide lanes, which are obviously difficult for seniors and people with disabilities to cross within the pedestrian countdown’s limitations. 

Immediately after Grinberg’s death, guerrilla safety group SFMTrA installed safety infrastructure at the intersection. Soft-hit posts created bulbouts on the northwest and southwest sides of the intersection, forcing cars to make a wider, slower turn off Baker onto Fell.  The three posts also offered pedestrians an added four feet or so of protection from oncoming vehicles.

SFMTrA posts create a bulbout on the northwest edge of Fell and Baker, Oct. 6 2017. (Nuala Sawyer)

The posts were up for several days before the SFMTA removed them. But the installation spurred some action from the city’s transportation agency. Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA, tells SF Weekly that staff reviewed the intersection and studied the history of collisions that took place there. 

“We are installing painted safety zones on the northwest and southwest corners to improve the crossing between Mercy Terrace and the Panhandle,” Rose says. “We have found that these painted safety zones create more distance between turning vehicles and pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk, encourage vehicles to turn more slowly, and maintain good visibility between drivers and people stepping into the crosswalk.

“Additionally, we installed an advance stop bar on Fell Street for drivers approaching the intersection and the crosswalk,” he says. “This will help prevent drivers from encroaching into the crosswalk at a red light.”

As of Monday afternoon, soft-hit posts had also been installed at the edges of the new khaki paint. 

Paint and soft-hit poles are now in place at Fell and Baker streets, Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo: Matt Brezina)

The relatively fast response of these improvements (four weeks is light speed for the SFMTA) is to be appreciated, but it remains to be seen how much paint and soft-hit poles — as opposed to actual bulbouts — can really achieve. And as some put it on Twitter, the paint and soft-hit posts were 32 days too late for Grinberg.

In the meantime, the San Francisco Police Department has also stepped up enforcement at the intersection. Despite issuing thousands fewer traffic tickets citywide, officers have been spotted ticketing drivers around dusk several times at the busy intersection. 

“Park Station conducted three separate traffic operations on Nov. 1,” Officer Robert Rueca tells SF Weekly. The operations resulted in 16 citations for numerous violations, including speeding, running red lights, phone violations and “a number of fix it tickets.”

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