The intersection where a 12-year-old boy was struck and killed by a Muni train Tuesday morning was long ago identified as a high-injury corridor, and city officials know it’s among San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.
Andrew Wu, an Aptos Middle School student, was declared dead at the scene in Ingleside. The crash was reported at 8:28 a.m. near the intersection of San Jose and Lakeview avenues.
That intersection, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, was earmarked for traffic safety improvements last year as part of the program Walk First, but those improvements are not set for completion until the end of 2016.
The agency defended the safety of the intersection, saying that striped crosswalks were added as well as yield signs. But advocates say those measures are not enough.
The M-Ocean View light-rail train was traveling slowly through the intersection, which has no stop sign or light on San Jose Avenue. Police said two vehicles abruptly stopped as Wu ran across the intersection. He “pivoted” off one, police said, though it is unclear if it actually hit Wu.
Wu was then struck by the train, which dragged him about 20 feet, said Jay Hayter, who witnessed the collision.
“His whole body was under the train,” Hayter said, adding that a woman authorities identified as Wu’s mother then came running “out of nowhere.”
“She was hysterical, trying to pull her child out of the train, trying to push the train off her child,” Hayter said.
Muni said it was investigating the incident and would not confirm the witness's report.
“This a tragic incident,” said Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesman.
However, Wu’s death might have been preventable.
Dan Weaver, a member of the SFMTA’s Balboa Park Citizens Advisory Committee, said he and other advocates have for years argued that San Jose Avenue in general needed traffic safety upgrades.
Those warnings fell on deaf ears until The City finally backed Supervisor Jane Kim’s Vision Zero priorities in 2014, which set a goal for San Francisco to eliminate all pedestrian, bike and car collision deaths by 2024.
There are no stop signs for cars moving on San Jose Avenue, which would have stopped the same cars Wu crossed, and police confirmed that two cars made abrupt stops as Wu ran across the street.
“It’s not a safe place for pedestrians,” Weaver said. “It looks deceptively safer than Geneva by the freeway ramps, but it can have the same kind of problems.”
Nicole Ferrara, executive director of pedestrian advocacy group Walk SF, said the intersection is a classic example of one in need of minor but vital upgrades: flashing lights to slow cars for pedestrians, larger concrete islands for safer light-rail boarding, and stop signs.
“One hundred and 25 miles in The City have been identified as dangerous,” Ferrara said. “We’d like to see [The City] hit every one of those miles in the next five years. The current plans will address these miles in 10 years.”
Rose said the SFMTA has plans to put flashing lights at that intersection, but it is “still in the design phase” and will finish construction in late 2016.
As The San Francisco Examiner previously reported, Vision Zero safety advocates say Mayor Ed Lee needs to accelerate these safety improvements to prevent deaths like that of Wu.
The mayor has defended his record on safety, saying a $500 million transit bond passed in November has some money earmarked for safety measures. The measure was pitched to voters as mainly funding transit infrastructure.
Still, Police Officer Albie Esparza said “it's too soon” to definitively say whether the train had the right of way or Wu was at fault.