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Transit policy questioned after Muni operator denies injured woman ride to hospital

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A bicyclist was injured after she hit this metal plate that was sticking up above the street level. (Courtesy photo)

Is it a Muni operator’s obligation to take an injured person to the nearest hospital?

That’s a question raised by one San Francisco woman, Katherine Roberts, after she fell from her bicycle on April 11 — suffering a visible injury and concussion — and was initially denied a ride to a nearby hospital by an N-Judah Muni operator.

The short answer, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is no. Instead, operators are obligated to call an ambulance, per SFMTA policy.

Roberts said she crashed in the rain about 11:30 p.m. when she hit a metal plate that jutted open by the Muni tracks at Church and Duboce streets. She slid out and hit her head on the pavement, and was not wearing a helmet.

Roberts feared that without health insurance, she faced an ambulance bill that can reportedly cost as much as $1,600 in San Francisco.

When an N-Judah pulled up after her fall, she and her partner Jym Dyer asked for a ride.

“I didn’t know if I was dying,” Roberts told the San Francisco Examiner.

She sported a black eye and a massive head bump, which she showed to the operator. She asked if he could give her and Dyer a ride to nearby UC San Francisco Parnassus.

“He said, ‘Not with your bikes, I can’t,’” Roberts recalled.

Roberts and Dyer argued with the operator and an inspector. The inspector denied them a ride to the hospital four stops away, but later allowed Roberts to board the next train.

Erica Kato, an SFMTA spokesperson, said the operator
and inspector followed policy, and another action may have invited legal liability.

“I agree that our staff on scene should have exercised more compassion to Ms. Roberts and engaged with her in a more courteous way,” Kato said. “However, our protocol when it comes to medical emergencies is to call Central Control, which will then dispatch emergency services.”

Chris Cassidy, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said they were grateful Roberts’ injuries weren’t more severe.

“It will be a top priority moving forward to make sure that the conditions responsible for Katherine’s collision are addressed immediately,” he said.

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