I-Team investigates dangerous bike intersections


A recent city count found more than 8,000 bikes crowded into a handful of San Francisco intersections in just one day. ABC7 News did its own count, crunching the numbers on thousands of Bay Area accidents and found there are some intersections where you may be taking your life in your hands -- and we saw for ourselves the tension on the streets.

On any given day, you'll see thousands of cyclists all edging for space and taking chances. It's rough, tough and can be downright dangerous.

"Here's my whole bit: Bikes versus cars," said bike rider Eric Otto. "Bikes always lose."

That's what the I-Team found when we poured through thousands of records from the California Highway Patrol: 11,000 bike accidents -- and counting -- at intersections across the Bay Area since 2007. ABC7 mapped the intersections out, and the worst of it is happening in San Francisco.

The top five places to get hit on a bike are:

-- 5: Polk and Geary Streets
-- 4: Market and Valencia Street
-- 3: Market and 5th near Union Square
-- 2: Masonic Avenue and Fell Street
-- 1: Market Street and Octavia

This comes as no surprise at the San Francisco Bike Coalition. These intersections have been in their cross hairs for years.

"We're really encouraging the city to focus on those troubled areas," said Leah Shahum. "Market and Octavia is still an intersection where you really need to be careful."

One video from the Bike Coalition showed the notoriously tempting illegal right turn from northbound Market through the bike lane and onto the freeway. The driver comes back to check the sign -- yes, it was illegal.

Fortunately, the cyclist wasn't injured.

"Safety has grown," said Shahum. "That's not been enough."

"What we did to address that situation is to put in this island to make that illegal right turn more difficult," said Rose. "You can see some of the signage that we put in since then -- the 'No right turn' sign."

Our analysis shows, at Market and Octavia, the accident numbers are still going up.

"We're also working with the police department to enforce the rules for people who ride bikes, because there are cases where people who ride bikes are not being safe," Rose said.

That's another thing we looked at: Just who is at fault?

In the Bay Area, it's about 50/50, but cyclists are getting hurt in nine out of 10 accidents. Time after time, we saw bikes running stop signs and lights, cruising along traffic, no helmets and weaving in and out of cars.

"The bikes tend to go through all the red lights, and they start banging on the cars," said one store owner who didn't want to be identified. "It's crazy."

Tempers are flaring. We watched one passenger and one rider argue. The biker said the motorist cut him off; she throws her cigarette at the biker. We see him take out his bike lock and then, further down the road, he smashes her side mirror.

Biker Eric Otto ran a sign in front of us on Harrison Street.

"No matter what, people are going to hate you so I ride aggressively," Otto said. "I take, I guess, the risk in my own hands."

Not all people have been so lucky: Last July, a 20-year-old woman was killed making an illegal turn onto Fremont Street in front of an oncoming truck. That same month, a woman walking in a crosswalk at Mission and the Embarcadero was struck by a man running the light on his bike.

Last week, the man was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

"We're losing life, we're getting people injured," said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. "That is completely unnecessary. My office will do whatever we can to educate the public to try to prevent this event from occurring in the first place, but certainly we're willing to prosecute when it's appropriate."

When we went back to that intersection, we saw a woman running the same light.

"I think our message is, to everyone, behave responsibly on the road," said Shahum. "Stop at that red light, stop at that stop sign. Give that pedestrian the right of way."

Tomorrow, ABC7 takes you across the Bay Area to the most-dangerous intersection outside San Francisco, and there are some surprises.

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