Aaron Thornton was walking north on Valencia Street when a white van turned left onto Duboce Avenue, nearly striking the 41-year-old as he crossed the street. Thornton threw his hands up as he shouted to the driver, then took off running, hoping to catch the vehicle.

“I almost got him after he almost got me,” said Thornton, who works two blocks away from the intersection where the close call took place. “I usually don’t chase after cars, but this was close,” he said, still out of breath after the incident.

Thornton’s near-collision isn’t unique. Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street ranks fifth on the list of the city’s most dangerous intersections, according to the 2010-2011 San Francisco Collisions Report from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Five of the city’s seven worst injury-collision intersections lie on the northern edge of the Mission District, where U.S. Highway 101 North funnels cars onto the streets of San Francisco. The report, covering incidents from 2009 to 2011, was released last month.

Overall, a total of 3,111 injury collisions, including 28 fatalities, occurred in San Francisco in 2011. After falling during the 1990s,both injury crashes and fatal crashes have remained stable since 2004.

But car-bike crashes rose to a 10-year high last year, as soaring bicycle ridership alters the dynamics of San Francisco’s traffic, challenging the city to find safer ways for cyclists and motorists to coexist on city streets.

The city is trying to lessen the danger at high-collision sites citywide, particularly in the northern end of the Mission District where Mission Street, Otis Street and 13th Street all converge, according to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

“This intersection was reviewed in 2011 by SFMTA and signal timing was changed in November of 2011, which could reduce the number of collisions at that location,” said Rose in an email to Mission Local.

SFMTA also changed pedestrian crossing times, coordinated signal timings with adjacent intersections and modified the all-red signal clearance phase — the time period when all signal lights at an intersection are red to allow for the intersections to clear — Rose said.

Citywide, Rose said, SFMTA is installing new pedestrian safety signs and pedestrian countdown signals, improving crosswalk markings and signal timing changes to aid pedestrian crossings.

The riskiest intersections around the Mission are: Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, with 30 incidents reported; 13th Street and Mission/Otis Street, with 19; and Duboce Street and Valencia, with 18.

The intersection of 13th Street and South Van Ness Avenue had 18 reported injury collisions, while 16th Street and Potrero Avenue had 16.

“If I don’t hear honking or yelling it’s an odd day,” said John Carr, 19, at the northwest corner of Duboce Avenue and Valencia Street, where he works as a mechanic. “People don’t know how to merge, they get nervous,” he said of the intersection.

Injury collisions involving bicycles have been rising, according to the SFMTA report, with 630 incidents in 2011, 5 percent more than the prior year and the highest recorded number in the last decade. Automobile-bicycle crashes accounted for a fifth of all injury collisions in San Francisco.

The rise is due mainly to the increasing popularity of cycling, which has surged 71 percent in the last five years, according to SFMTA.

In addition to increased bicycle ridership, the rise may reflect improved recording of bike crashes by the police department, said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“For the past few years,” Hodge said, “the SF Bicycle Coalition has worked to educate officers about the importance of taking reports for bicycle-related crashes, and educated both officers and the public about official SFPD policy, which requires they take a report at the request of the bicycle rider, whether or not they get into an ambulance.”

Responsibility for collisions “seems to be evenly split among bicycle riders and motorists,” the SFMTA report stated. The most common fault of cyclists was unsafe speed, accounting for 16 percent of crashes. For motorists, the problem was failure to signal a turn, which caused 8 percent of collisions.

Of the 28 fatal collisions reported in 2011, three involved bicycle riders. The most perilous intersections for car-bike crashes were Market and Valencia and Duboce and Valencia, the report added.

SFMTA made bicycle lane striping changes on Market Street at Valencia in 2011 “to reduce the likelihood of Market Street right-turn hook collisions,” according to the report.

Cycling advocate Hodge said, “The city will be redoing the Market and Valencia intersection later this year to make it safer to turn left from Market to Valencia on your bike.”

Camera installations might create safer streets leading to Hwy. 101, according to the cycling coalition. “We have been working for a long time to get the state and city to install camera enforcement at Market and Octavia to deter people from making illegal right turns onto the freeway,” said Hodge.

Despite challenges posed by increasing ridership, Hodge says it’s an exciting time for him and for the bicycle coalition.

City streets are “getting safer with new improvements like separated bike lanes,” he said. “We are especially excited to see so many families and seniors now using a bike, especially in the Mission.”

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  1. How about the entire South Van Ness corridor?

    A woman was hit by a MUNI bus yesterday and there has been zero reporting of hit.

    Of course Valencia gets mentioned.

    South Van Ness is being ignored by SFMTA and traffic is flying down the street.

    There have been car wrecks including one where an ambulance flipped over in South Van Ness.

    It is time ti calm South Van Ness before anything is done to the other streets which have already has measures taken to slow them down.

    1. It’s time for all streets in SF to be calmed. We like to think of this city as the leader in progressive everything, but we are so far behind even other American cities when it comes to transportation planning, it’s laughable.

      For example SoMa streets might as well be highways. Mission south of Cezar Chavez, San Jose, South Van Ness, Chezar Chavez, Guererro, etc are all defacto highways as well. This city is NOT pedestrian or bike friendly in the least.

      Traffic circle on all side streets and putting all streets above on road diets would be a start, but education is always a must. Plenty of SF drivers need to go back to traffic school.

      1. Plenty of SF cyclists need to get over themselves too. 😉 No single group should be blamed. This is really a citywide failure.

  2. He almost got hit?

    So most of the accidents are near or around Valencia street? They wont be happy until the street is closed to cars.

    Work on slowing Guerrero, Dolores and South Van Ness where the real danger is.

    Since we are counting people who almost got hit based upon the intro South Van Ness should be at the top of the list.

  3. Would it not make more sense to normalize the number of collisions by the approximate number of collision opportunities? Otherwise this graphic might only be telling us which intersections are most traveled by bicycles?

  4. How about the bicycle lanes under the Mariposa off-ramp? That intersection is a nightmare for cars. why would bicycles want to go there?

    Conflicting mixed signals are a real problem. My favorite is the new double set of red lights and green right turn signal on Sixteenth at 7th Street facing West. Cars that used to stop behind the first set of red lights in back of the railroad crossing. Now stop on the tracks between the two reds instead. Just make it red or green, not both.

  5. The SFMTA always speaks with forked intersection. It was their horrific planning in the 1st place that has elevated the danger level at most of these intersections. Then they put out a “study” to try to deflect the blame from themselves. Let’s just take one: Valencia and Duboce. The intersection has jammed up worse than ever because up on Market the SFMTA added a cross walk that was not in place for a reason: that too many streets converged at once and cycling too many crossing signals would create a back up on Market. Well they did and it has. So way back down on Valencia, where SFMTA has forced a ton of traffic to spill from 101 onto Duboce, and where that traffic has no where to go, its bedlam. And SFMTA has no one to blame but their own poor traffic planning.

  6. I had to drive to the East Bay today and looked at Google maps to get directions from the upper Haight. From Market Street going east, the direction I was given was to make a right onto the Central freeway … I doubt that all the drivers making a right turn there got their directions from Google maps but some of them probably did. It is going to be quite scary when the driverless Google cars will be going around following Google maps directions.

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