Friday News Roundup
News Roundup for Friday, July 1, 2016
URGENT ACTION DEMANDED TO PROTECT CYCLISTS IN THE BAY AREA
Bicyclist and pedestrian advocates called for action Thursday in
the wake of the deaths of two cyclists on city streets last week. A midday meeting of the city’s Vision Zero committee, tasked with implementing a Vision Zero policy seeking to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024, drew a number of cyclists and residents responding to the June 22 collisions, which killed San Francisco residents Katherine Slattery, 26, and Heather Miller, 41.
Both women were riding legally when they were struck by hit and
run drivers, hours apart, in the city’s South of Market neighborhood and in Golden Gate Park. One man, Farrukh Mushtak, 32, was arrested in connection
with Slattery’s death a short distance from the scene, while the driver in
Miller’s death, who was driving a stolen car, remains at large.
Sunset District resident Elisabeth Snider told the committee she
regularly rides with her three children by the place where Miller was killed
and worries about her own safety. “My kids know what a ghost bike is now,” Snider said, referring to the white bicycles placed as memorials at the scene of cyclist deaths.
Nicole Ferrara, executive director of Walk San Francisco, said the city was several years closer to its Vision Zero goal and had yet to reduce any deaths or injuries.
“There were 19 people killed on city streets this year, and each
of those crashes were preventable and never should have happened,” Ferrara
said. “It’s depressing but it has to be a call for action.”
Shortly before the start of Thursday’s meeting, the San Francisco
Municipal Transportation Agency and Mayor Ed Lee released a list of 57
high-priority Vision Zero projects and programs set to start this year.
The list includes 43 capital construction projects expected to be
completed or reach major milestones by the end of 2017, including projects on
Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street, Second Street and Masonic Avenue. It also
includes 13 non-construction initiatives including a policy push to legalize
automated speed enforcement cameras and an anti-speeding and enforcement
“Any traffic death or injury is not acceptable, they are
preventable,” Lee said in a statement. “This is a real public health issue.
We are working quickly to build safer, better streets, educate the public
about traffic safety and increase enforcement to make our streets safe for
everyone – whether they are walking, biking, driving or taking transit.”
Last November, city officials announced they had completed 30
previous projects identified as high priority ahead of schedule.
Tom Maguire, director of sustainable streets for the SFMTA,
Thursday said the city had completed 13 miles of protected bike lanes since
2010, and has 20 funded bike safety projects totaling $90 million planned for
the next five years.
However, the new list was greeted with skepticism by the San
Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with interim executive director Margaret
McCarthy noting that while the projects on it were all excellent, none of
them were new.
“This is not the urgent action the city of San Francisco needs,”
McCarthy said. “We demand real action from the mayor’s office and we demand
PG&E UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR PIPELINE SAFETY
A senior PG&E engineer testified at the utility’s criminal trial
in federal court in San Francisco Thursday that he always used his “best
judgment” in supervising pipeline tests and never knowingly violated
Natural gas supervising engineer Todd Arnett, a 25-year employee
of the company, was asked by PG&E attorney Kate Dyer, “Have you ever
knowingly and willfully violated a pipeline safety regulation?”
“No,” Arnett told the jury in the court of U.S. District Judge
PG&E is accused of 12 counts of violating the federal Natural Gas
Pipeline Safety Act and one count of obstructing a National Transportation
Safety Board probe into a 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed
The board concluded that the cause of the blast was a defectively
welded pipe that was incorrectly listed as seamless in PG&E records.
The federal charges include failing to gather and integrate data
on pipelines, failing to keep records of repairs, failing to assess and
prioritize risks such as defects in the lines, and failing to maintain
pressure-test records on pipelines.
The alleged violations concerns several Peninsula and East Bay
high-pressure natural gas transmission lines, including Line 132, the
pipeline that exploded in San Bruno.
Arnett began his testimony as a witness called by the prosecution
on Wednesday and was cross-examined by Dyer Thursday on behalf of PG&E.
The attorney asked him to validate eight thick binders containing
about 4,600 pages of reports on high-pressure water tests, known as
hydrotests, on the lines.
Arnett said he had recently reviewed them in the offices of PG&E
lawyers and agreed that they were PG&E business records. The reports were
then entered into evidence.
PG&E attorneys gave prosecutors about 1,600 pages of the reports
in February and another 3,000 last week.
Outside the presence of the jury on Tuesday, Assistant U.S.
Attorney Hallie Hoffman opposed allowing use of the new batch of 3,000 pages,
saying that prosecutors had subpoenaed such records two years ago and that it
was too late for PG&E to produce them. PG&E attorneys said they hadn’t known
the additional records were wanted.
Henderson ruled on Wednesday morning that the records could be
admitted as evidence.
During redirect examination Thursday, Hoffman gave jurors their
first hint of the controversy by asking Arnett whether he knew the records
were subpoenaed two years ago. He said he did not know.
The prosecutor then asked whether Arnett knew why PG&E provided
the additional pages “only last week” and Arnett responded he did not know.
Hoffman then showed Arnett and the jury several examples of
reports that appeared to be duplicates of one another or to be missing
required information such as dates and exact locations. Arnett said he hadn’t
noticed the discrepancies during his review.
One report seemed to go back and forth between two separate tests
done on Line 132 in March and June 2011, and Arnett said he didn’t know why
the document was prepared that way.
The trial continues tomorrow with testimony from PG&E pipeline
corrosion control supervisor David Aguiar.
Henderson has ruled that because causing the San Bruno explosion
is not an element of any of the 13 federal charges, prosecutors may not seek
to link the alleged safety violations directly to the explosion.
If convicted of all the criminal charges, PG&E could face a fine
of up to $562 million.
In a separate civil proceeding, the California Public Utilities
Commission fined PG&E $1.6 billion in 2015 for the San Bruno explosion and
pipeline record-keeping and operation deficiencies.