Neighbors pushing to slow traffic on Masonic Avenue in San Francisco 

Neighborhood residents and pedestrian activists reeling from the latest Masonic Avenue traffic fatality are asking city officials to take immediate action to slow traffic on the busy corridor.

At 2 a.m. on Friday, motorist Jose Jimenez fatally struck 61-year-old James Hudson in the crosswalk at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street. Jimenez, a cadet with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, was arrested for driving under the influence after trying to flee the scene.

Hudson’s death came one month after a pedestrian suffered numerous broken bones upon being struck by a motorist running a red light on Masonic, and less than a year after a German tourist was killed by a drunken driver on the street.

On Friday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will hold a public hearing to discuss a proposal that would dramatically revamp Masonic Avenue. The $20 million project, called the boulevard proposal, would add a median, replace on-street parking with bike lanes and reduce peak-time lanes from six to four.

But if approved, that project is still years away, and residents are asking the Police Department and the SFMTA to devise traffic-calming measures in the interim.

“We are very frustrated with the progress on Masonic Avenue,” said Jarie Bolander, president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association. “There just doesn’t seem to be the focus from The City on making things safe for pedestrians on Masonic.”

Masonic Avenue has long been a source of concern for neighbors and pedestrian activists, who say the street’s design is unsafe and conducive to fast-moving vehicles.

In recent years, the SFMTA has lowered speed limits to 25 mph, installed radar speed signs, and added a bike traffic signal at the intersection with Fell Street. Still, residents feel more can be done.

“I bike and I walk and I drive my car, and I can say that Masonic Avenue doesn’t work well for any mode of transit,” said resident Rick Boardman.

Boardman said the street would be improved by double-fine zones and red-light cameras at intersections, which have been enforced on 19th Avenue and Van Ness Avenue.

Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy organization Walk SF, said more police enforcement is needed.

Denis O’Leary, captain of the Park Police Station Police, said his department hopes to install red-light cameras along Masonic Avenue soon. Officers have increased enforcement on the artery, he said, but staffing issues prevent them from patrolling Masonic Avenue as much as he would like.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes Masonic Avenue, said more police enforcement is necessary. He supports the SFMTA’s boulevard plan for Masonic Avenue, as does Supervisor Eric Mar, whose district neighbors the street.

But project funding still hasn’t been approved, and it could be 2015 before the revamp is finished. That rankles Masonic  area residents.

“This is very shocking, frustrating and distressing,” said Michael Helquist, a local resident and active advocate for changes on the street.

A dangerous road

2 Pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 months on Masonic Avenue
30,000 Vehicles on the corridor daily
$20 million Cost of boulevard redesign of Masonic Avenue

Public hearing

When: 10 a.m. Friday
What: Engineering public hearing for proposed Masonic Avenue boulevard redesign
Where: Room 466 City Hall

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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