Injured S.F. hit-and-run Samaritan sues city 

A man whose pelvis was fractured when he allegedly tried to stop a hit-and-run driver from fleeing a crash scene at Octavia and Market streets has filed a claim against The City alleging negligent design at the intersection.

Pete Junker, 45, filed a claim on June 20, stating that a badly designed freeway onramp caused a driver to make an illegal right turn, hitting a bicyclist. Junker stated in his claim that he was injured when he tried to stop the driver from fleeing the scene.

The intersection of Market and Octavia streets has been a magnet for criticism since it opened in late 2005, replacing the Central Freeway.

Drivers entering southbound U.S. Highway 101 are only supposed to enter the freeway by driving straight across the intersection from Octavia street. Many, however, make an illegal right turn onto the on-ramp from eastbound Market Street, crossing a bicycle lane to get to the freeway.

Bicycle Coalition Program Director Andy Thornley said the intersection has been the site of "pretty much constant" reports of cyclists getting hit or cut off by drivers making illegal right turns.

After 28-year-old cyclist Margaret Timbrell was seriously injured by a pickup truck making the illegal right turn earlier this year, The City installed a row of flexible plastic barriers along the bike lane as it enters the intersection.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, in whose district the intersection is located, has introduced legislation that would speed the construction of a concrete curb between the traffic lane and the bicycle lane.

Bicycle activists and advocacy groups have been pushing for the creation of a permanant barrier or other physicalredesign that would prevent the illegal right turns, but City Attorney Dennis Hererra’s spokesman Matt Dorsey said Junker’s claim is one of at least two known legal actions taken against The City regarding the intersection.

Dorsey declined to comment on the claim, saying, "It would be premature for us to comment. We’re evaluating the claim."

Junker’s claim against The City alleges that the design of the intersection caused the initial hit-and-run collision, which led to Junker’s injuries. Giorgos Vassiliades, 36, was arrested in Emeryville after the alleged hit-and-run.

"It’s an intersection where it’s known there’s been numerous bicycles hit because people are making that illegal right turn. That’s something that could be easily fixed," Junker’s lawyer, Jason Lundberg, said Thursday.

Junker plans to sue Vassiliades, as well as The City.

Vassiliades is being charged with two counts of misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident, according the District Attorney’s Office.

Driver says he fled scene for fear of mob

The man accused of fleeing the scene of a collision with a bicyclist at Market and Octavia streets said Thursday that he feared for his safety when he drove off.

Giorgos Vassiliades, 36, said he had intended to stop for a bicyclist he hit while making an illegal right turn from Market Street onto southbound U.S. Highway 101 but got back into his car when he saw another driver, Pete Junker, run toward him.

Junker, 45, claims he reached into the driver’s side window of Vassiliades’ car in order to stop him from leaving the crash scene. He said he got out of the car he was in and ran over to Vassiliades’ car after he witnessed the collision.

Junker claims Vassiliades stopped the car, opened his car door and put his leg out, then closed his car door again as if to leave.

But Vassiliades said hepulled his foot back in because he saw Junker com ing toward him. "I was coming out of the car and this guy rushed me," he said.

When Junker grabbed Vassiliades through the window, Vassiliades hit the accelerator and threw the wheel over to the right, Vassiliades said Thursday. Vassiliades said another car hit him from behind, causing his car to flip onto its left side, pinning Junker and breaking his hip.

Junker and police officers who responded said several passers-by pulled the car off Junker and back onto its wheels. Vassiliades said he drove off after the car was righted because he was afraid that the crowd would turn violent.

"He shouldn’t have been there, he shouldn’t have been involved. He shouldn’t have attacked me," Vassiliades said of Junker.

Vassiliades said he surrendered himself to Emeryville police after crossing the bridge. San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina contradicted that account, stating that an Emeryville sergeant stopped Vassiliades after hearing a description of his car on the radio.

Octavia Boulevard by the numbers

» Cars moved per day: 90,000

» Years from approval vote to reopening: 7

» Year Octavia Boulevard reopened: 2005

» City blocks formerly in the shadow of the Central Freeway: 6

» Bicyclists hit at the new intersection: N/A

» Blocks required by drivers to reorient car through three left turns, to face south on Octavia Boulevard after realizing there is no right turn onto U.S. Highway 101 from Market Street: 15

amartin@examiner.com

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