Pedestrian death spotlights 19th Avenue hazards

Alice Wallace, 86, had just moved to a 19th Avenue retirement home after helping her son celebrate his wedding last fall. On Sunday, she was killed in a nearby crosswalk.

An avid walker, swimmer and painter, Wallace moved into the Sunrise Senior Living residence about three weeks ago, her son Gordon Wallace said Monday.

She was crossing 19th Avenue at Noriega Street when a driver, who police say may have been speeding, hit and killed her at about 4:30 p.m.

Alice Wallace had the green light when she entered the crosswalk heading east on the north side of Noriega Street, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. It is unclear whether she had the green when she was hit in the easternmost northbound lane.

Mannina said traffic in the two westernmost northbound lanes was stopped, and that Rigoberto Antonio Rodas Perez, 48, of Hollister, entered the intersection in the eastern lane, hitting Wallace.

Police arrested Perez at the scene and booked him on one count of vehicular manslaughter, one count of driving too fast for conditions and one count of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. He remains in jail pending his arraignment this week. On Monday, Gordon Wallace and his sister, Norma Wallace, mourned the loss of their mother. “She was the best mom anybody could ever want,” Gordon Wallace said.

Alice Wallace moved to San Francisco in the late 1950s with her husband, Vernon Wallace, whom she met while hiking in New York. The two raised their children in the Ingleside Heights neighborhood, where Alice Wallace still lived until she moved to Sunrise Senior Living, Gordon Wallace said.

Police have identified 19th Avenue south of Golden Gate Park as a danger zone for pedestrians, said Sgt. Bob Guinan, of the police department’s traffic detail. The six-lane, crosstown throughway is a hot spot for speeders, Guinan said, and the crosswalks do not have pedestrian signals.

The seven miles of city blocks that make up 19th Avenue and Park Presidio — the crosstown route of State Highway 1 — have been the site of some 1,205 injuries and deaths from collisions between 2000 and 2005, according to San Francisco police. Of those 786 collisions, 80 involved pedestrians. Six of the 12 deaths during the five-year period were pedestrians. A state highway, 19th Avenue is under the jurisdiction of the state.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo has twice introduced legislation making the area a double-fine zone for speeders, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, citing a 2002 Department of Transportation report that said double-fine zones without additional safety measures “do not have any statistically significant effect on traffic safety.”

On Monday, Pi Ra, of the Senior Action Network, called for longer signals across 19th Avenue, pedestrian lights, curb extensions and narrowed lanes.

“We want to make the crossing time longer. The state says no, they don’t want to do it. Since they have control over that street, they’re not willing to extend the crossing time,” Ra said.

Dangerous intersections

High-frequency intersections for pedestrian injuries/deaths from 2000-05:

1. Taraval Street and 19th Avenue: Nine injuries, including one fatality

2. Irving Street and 19th Avenue: Nine injuries, including one fatality

3. Noriega Street and 19th Avenue: Seven injuries

4. Holloway/Crespi Avenue and 19th Avenue: Four injuries, including one fatality

5. Eucalyptus Drive and 19th Avenue: Four injuries

6. Quintara Street and 19th Avenue: Four injuries, including one fatality

7. Clement Street and Park Presidio: Four injuries, including one fatality

8. Lake Street and Park Presidio: Four injuries

9. California Street and Park Presidio: One fatality

10. Lincoln and 19th avenues: One fatality

What can be done to make 19th Avenue safer?

Share your comments below.

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