San Francisco News

Traffic fines pile up at confusing intersection

Monday, May 07, 2012

On a sunny day, San Francisco's Panhandle is filled with sunbathers, rollerbladers, bicyclists and the occasional skateboarder. It's also filled with cars.

The corner of Fell and Masonic, where traffic crosses the Panhandle, has been called one of the city's most dangerous intersections.

To fix it, city officials put up a special traffic light just for bicycles and a no-left-turn arrow for drivers. Then, in January, they installed a camera, and the flood of angry phone calls began.

The camera caught Keren Ramirez making a left turn, and on a Thursday afternoon she was one of at least six people who showed up to fight the $420 ticket issued by the camera at Fell and Masonic.

In fact, the MTA says this one camera cranks out 500 tickets per month. That's an average of one every hour from 7 in the morning until 11 at night.

"I don't think it's about safety, I think it's about a racket. I think it's about money," said driver Joey Clemente.

When Clemente asked a clerk to show him the video of his violation, even the clerk was confused and said it was hard to see the red light.

Drivers say that's the problem. With a green light for bikes and another for through traffic, they say the dim red arrow between them gets lost in the clutter.

"They don't have enough illumination in it so it's hard to see it," said Carlos Gonzales. He says he didn't see the light until he was halfway through the intersection.

"They need to put a sign like before getting there," he said.

It turns out the MTA is listening.

"We are putting in a new sign before the left turn to let people know this is -- there is a no-turn signal there and that should be in place within a month or so," MTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Rose says he wants to make one thing clear: This isn't about money.

"This is not a revenue measure. This is to make sure that the streets are as safe as possible," he said.

The MTA has already installed a grate over the bike signal to make it easier on drivers. The agency says it's already seeing the number of tickets drop at the intersection, and they suspect the sign will bring the number down even further.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
traffic, MTA, bikes, san francisco news, jonathan bloom
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