Hit-and-run victim celebrates birthday with City Hall rally 

In the early evening of Oct. 3, 2005, Francesca Simone barely escaped joining the 13 pedestrians killed by vehicles in San Francisco in the last year.

The 32-year-old was walking home from her job as a baker and, as she was crossing Taraval Street at 33rd Avenue, a red Honda Prelude, racing at about 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, hit her and sped off.

Simone nearly died and spent months undergoing a series of life-saving operations. She now has permanent brain damage, which prevents her from working and has robbed her of her independence.

To the driver, Simone, who speaks with difficulty and must wear a protective helmet, said Tuesday: "Take a good look. I had a life. I was working. Would you want this to happen to anybody in your family?"

Simone celebrated her 33rd birthday last week, which pedestrian-safety activists used as a centerpiece for a rally on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday.

Emily Drennen, executive director of Walk San Francisco, said the group has called for $35 million in city money to be dedicated to pedestrian safety in the upcoming budget year. That includes the estimated $22 million necessary to install countdown signals and wheelchair curb cuts at all signaled intersections that currently do not have them.

At a news conference prior to the rally, Supervisors Fiona Ma, Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano called for new pedestrian-safety measures, saying The City needs to address the issue before, not after, another person is run over in the streets.

In conjunction with the rally, the San Francisco Police Department Traffic Unit conducted a "decoy" operation at the intersection where Simone was run over, as well as others in the area. Plainclothes officer cross the street while other officers watch for pedestrian right-of-way violators.

San Francisco Police Sgt. Bob Guinan, of the department's traffic division, said they usually issue 100 to 130 tickets during one of these three- to four-hour operations. "They're very effective," Guinan said.

amartin@examiner.com

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