Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee meets with members of the Westside Waves youth soccer team to discuss pedestrian safety measures around Lake Merced at City Hall on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Youth soccer team claims ‘slow’ victory: SF to redesign street where teammate died

A deadly section of John Muir Drive where a 14-year-old girl was killed in a traffic collision will be redesigned to be safer.

A deadly section of John Muir Drive where a 14-year-old girl was killed in a traffic collision will be redesigned to be safer.

That’s according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which in addition to running Muni also is tasked with street safety.

John Muir Drive will be repaved by the end of June. As part of that project, SFMTA will install three raised crosswalks at the three crossings outside of the Lakewood Apartments, on the southwest side of Lake Merced. New more visible crosswalk striping will also be painted, and parking will be replaced with red-painted curbs at either end of the crossings to increase visibility for motorists and pedestrians, according to SFMTA.

The announcement is also a victory for the members of the Westside Waves, a San Francisco girl’s soccer team, who demanded transportation officials add safety features to the street after their teammate, Madlen Koteva, was struck and killed there by a driver in mid-March.

The teenage soccer players demanded change from SFMTA and Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, who represents the neighborhood where Koteva was killed.

Yee and former Police Commissioner Suzy Loftus, whose daughter is on the soccer team, met with the young would-be activists at City Hall in April, flanked by advocacy groups Walk SF and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Yee pledged he would tackle street safety so their teammate would not die in vain.

But the teenagers believe San Francisco leaders were too slow to take action and said there is still much to do.

“Four months ago, our friend and teammate Madlen Koteva died. Three and a half months ago, we went to City Hall to ask for change. Almost two months ago, we missed school to go to an (SF)MTA hearing. We were told to expect results in weeks,” the team told the San Francisco Examiner, in a written statement.

Instead, they wrote, “It took months.”

Koteva was an immigrant who arrived five years ago from Bulgaria with her family, according to Bulgarian press. Koteva and her mother were walking their dog near Lake Merced on the evening of March 15 when a driver struck both in the crosswalk with a Mercedes, the Examiner previously reported.

Some changes the Westside Waves Soccer Team asked for, including flashing lights at the crosswalk, will take more time, Yee said Tuesday. Other changes won’t come so easily.

The teenagers are adamant that the speed limit along John Muir Drive should be lowered. But that’s a matter of state law, not local law, they noted.

“It would take a lot of work, but we’re ready. We’ll carpool to Sacramento if that’s what is necessary,” they said, in their statement. “Our team is sick of being told how brave we are by adults who are not willing to fight for our rational demands. So we are going to keep doing this, because we seem to be some of the few people who care.”

Yee also lamented that “unfortunately it took the death of a young person” to bring these safety changes.

But he credited the teenagers with making San Francisco’s streets safer.

Instead of safety being an abstract concept, he said, “Muni had to look them in the face.”


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