Motorists will face hefty fines for running red lights at the collision-plagued intersection of Fell Street and Masonic Avenue thanks to new traffic cameras.
A set of red-light cameras at the Panhandle intersection will be activated this month , according to Paul Rose, a spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is operating the system.
The intersection has long been a source of angst for neighborhood residents, cyclists and pedestrians. Motorists zoom westward on Fell Street, taking advantage of the timed lights. Masonic Avenue, an important north-south corridor, is equally busy with automobile traffic, creating a tense situation for pedestrians and cyclists.
In 2008, after years of lobbying from residents, a left-turn lane was added to Fell Street at the intersection and new traffic lights giving direction to cyclists were installed. Still, accidents continue to plague the thoroughfare, as evidenced by the Dec. 20 collision that left a bicyclist hospitalized.
Between 2007 and 2009, there were 17 injury collisions at the intersection — an accident total that trailed only four other city crossings during that period of time.
Fines for running the light, Rose said, will range from $480 to $522, depending on whether the offender takes traffic school.
The new red-light cameras, Rose said, will mainly be used to enforce illegal left turns from Fell Street onto Masonic Avenue.
“This addition takes our safety measures one step further,” Rose said.
Jarie Bolander, a local resident and president of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association, said the red-light cameras are a much-needed addition at the intersection.
“It’s a good step forward to make people aware that this is a dangerous intersection,” Bolander said. “Certainly there is an incentive to not get a ticket, but having those cameras clearly visible also brings awareness for people to change their driving behavior.”
Michael Helquist, a resident who writes the blog Bike NoPa, said the red-light cameras will help, but a proposed redesign of Masonic Avenue is the key to improving traffic conditions. That initiative, which is in its planning phases, will transform Masonic Avenue into a boulevard-type artery with slower traffic speeds.
Although red-light cameras can be a controversial addition to neighborhoods, Bolander said he has not heard any complaints.
“I think there is always a concern about the overreaching hand of the government,” Bolander said. “But at the same time, residents understand that you have to keep people safe.”
Traffic accidents at Fell Street and Masonic Avenue:
* Most recent year figures are available