Care not crash

The Bike Plan is finally free. Can it help soothe tensions between cyclists and motorists?

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rebeccab@sfbg.com

Fresh coats of paint are hitting the pavement in San Francisco, creating new zones of supposed safety for bicyclists. But that long-awaited change comes at a time when local cyclists are as fearful as ever of automobiles, particularly following a horrifying incident in which a motorist intentionally ran down four cyclists.

On Aug. 6, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch announced that a four-year injunction against projects in the city's Bicycle Plan would be fully lifted, freeing an ambitious package of bike-related infrastructure from legal limbo and effectively kick-starting 35 new bike lanes throughout the city, bringing San Francisco's bike network up to 79 miles.

"A world-class city is a city that tries to democratize its streets," Mayor Gavin Newsom noted at an Aug. 9 press conference held to celebrate the newly liberated Bike Plan. "This is not the old days when it was about bikes versus cars."

New lanes will soon materialize on Townsend, North Point, and 17th streets, as well as Portola Drive and Ocean Ave., with many more projects soon to come.

"This is a great day for bicycling," San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Acting Executive Director Renee Rivera said at the event. "We are beginning a new era. The city is going to become the most bike-friendly city in our country."

Bicycle ridership in San Francisco has increased 53 percent since 2006, according to city traffic surveys, and the 11,000-member SFBC has become the city's largest grassroots advocacy organization. SFBC officials say the trend is likely to continue, citing survey results showing that more than a third of city residents say they would occasionally swap their steering wheel for a set of handlebars if streets were more inviting to cyclists.

Does all of this mean it will get easier for cyclists and motorists to "share the road," to borrow an oft-repeated mantra of the bike community? While San Francisco is hailed by some as way ahead of the curve on bikeability, others argue that there's a steep uphill climb ahead before a real sense of equilibrium can be realized. In a dense urban environment like San Francisco, where even the paved streets are highly sought-after real estate, tensions routinely flare between drivers and bicyclists as they wheel through the same arteries.

All modes of transportation are not created equal. It's inherently riskier to ride bikes than drive cars that are built to keep their occupants safe in crashes. Yet bikes are a key component in the city's and state's long-range goals of reducing carbon emissions, limiting traffic congestion, and reducing dependency on oil.

Still, it's all too common for motorists to become irate at cyclists, and vice-versa, giving rise to aggressive exchanges, unfriendly gestures, bitter resentments, and worse. Sometimes, much worse.

 

THE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO

Rolando Casajeros, known to his friends and coworkers as "Allan," shuffled into a law office conference room and gingerly lowered himself into a seat before a set of news station microphones on June 24.

A scar zigzagged across the top of his shaved head, and another crossed vertically down his forehead — marks from surgery he'd undergone to alleviate bleeding in his brain a couple weeks earlier. His front teeth were missing. His lips were swollen and purple. He'd suffered 12 facial fractures, plus mouth and jaw injuries, followed by 19 hours of intensive surgery.

Casajeros was the first and most seriously injured victim of a hit-and-run rampage that occurred June 2 when a motorist behind the wheel of a blue Nissan Rogue SUV struck four cyclists in San Francisco's Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, allegedly on purpose. At a press conference in the downtown San Francisco law office of his attorney Claude Wyle, Casajeros recounted what happened.

Comments

If I were a betting man, I would say that Clark suffers from bi-polar disorder.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

As stated in this story, bikes are "really a vehicle", it is time for a law requiring registration and a license plate for bikes using the streets, as well as requiring liability insurance for bike riders. Bikes cause accidents at times, and riding a bike is no excuse for having no insurance. The bike rider can still be sued and held liable for thousands of dollars in damages.

You can't have it both ways. If a bike is not "really a vehicle", then they don't belong on roads. If they are "really a vehicle" and entitled to the road, then a license and insurance must be required.

Posted by guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 9:40 am

Saying that bicyclists don't obey traffic laws, "often because they see most road users regularly violating traffic laws with impunity." is the most childish thing I have heard. Did your mother ever tell you that just because you see other people doing wrong, doesn't make it right?

As a pedestrian living in San Francisco for 19 years, 18 of which without a car, I can tell you I have been clipped a few times by law breaking cyclists who were riding in or through a crosswalks while I was in it. On of these clipping left a bruise on my arm as the planet saving cyclist sped away.

After recently getting a car, I now find myself dealing with cyclists who don't stop at red lights and stop signs, pass on the right, and generally drive their vehicles in way that doesn't make me believe they care about sharing the road.

I do agree with the other post suggestion that bicycles should be registered and drivers be licensed. I also think EVERYONE on the road should obey the laws even if they see other people who chose, for whatever childish reason, not too.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 11:13 am

I really should have proofread through my post before posting. Now all the "your opinion is invalid because you can't even spell or type" a-holes will be descending upon me.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 11:35 am

We all agree road users should respect each other's right of way, be predictable, and be courteous. Let's focus enforcement on those incidents which violate these principles.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

At seven I learned to ride a bike in the Ingleside. Thirty years ago I worked here as a bike messenger. Now, I bike nearly every day in the City -- mostly for errands, work, etc.So I feel pretty comfortable saying that drivers here have gotten a lot better about making room for bikes and treating us pretty well.

In the three years since I moved back here from parts elsewhere, I have been impressed by how well painted bike lanes work -- either colored portions or just the solid white line that delineates where cars are supposed NOT to go. I feel a lot safer. As a driver, too, I adore that solid white line, because it means that as a driver I can count on the bikers to take a dedicated part of the road and not the lane I'm driving in. I can't wait for most of the city to have these lanes.

My only gripe is with the greatly increased numbers of fellow bikers -- I feel endangered by many of them whizzing by me on left or right sides, not stopping or slowing at intersections I'm riding through with the right-of-way, and pushing ahead of me when I'm stopped at a light on Valencia, etc. No car driver would maneuver to get in front of you at a stop, just because they assumed they would ride faster than you down the line. I suspect it will take some years for bike etiquette to catch up with the mass of new riders.

Posted by Guest icarus12 on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

All the paint and other expensive Infrastructure will not turn the City into the bicycle heaven proponents claim. What will you do on those streets left unchanged when the funding runs out? And it will run out.

What will you do when, contrary to your utopian dreams the majority of residents-- tax payers, voters, citizens with rights equal to cyclists'-- just don't climb on a bike as you wish them to, and continue to drive their 2 ton, recyclable, eco-friendly hybrid 6 passenger SUVs down to the corner for a ciggy-poo?

Some of you will wake up and begin to bicycle as lawful road users, actually sharing the road yourselves. You'll release your self-righteousness and realize that choosing to bicycle-- to save personal wealth, reduce pollution, reduce demand for fossil fuels, cop some daily exercise, dodge parking fees-- is actually a pretty "conservative" approach to life.

Some of you.

Others will behave like that childish messenger quoted in the story who puts his needs ahead of everyone else. To shoot the gaps, pop the reds, steal right of way (despite his "code") and generally treat everyone else on the road like crap.
I cheer electronic media transmission that daily reduces the excuse for his "profession's" existence. We'll all be better off when he works full time twisting wrenches in some very hip bike shop.

Good luck painting the town green! I will be most amused to ride there. Hopefully I won't be ticketed for riding as a legal road user "outside the lines."

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

Oh Mr/Ms.Gloom and Doom,

What will happen when funds for the "paint and other expensive infrastructure" runs out? Ridiculous. Would you say crosswalks will stop getting painted because of a shortage of funds? Road paint and flexible posts are cheap, probably the cheapest things anyone can do to help drivers and bikers and buses and pedestrians share the road in the most economical use of space. The sky is not going to fall, chaos will not reign, and cars will continue to be a part of the mix.

Posted by Guest icarus12 on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

There's a tendency to act like the only vehicles on the road are cars and bikes. But there's also Muni, which is the real workhorse of non-automotive transportation in San Francisco. I'd like to see some serious, non-ideological analysis of what happens to Muni under the Bike Plan. To the extent that road space is reallocated from motor vehicles to bikes, that means buses will be on slower, more congested roadways. That's bad for Muni, it's bad for Muni passengers, and ultimately it's bad for bicyclists. If buses slow down to the point where their passengers get frustrated and get in their cars, it will generate exactly the auto traffic that the Bike Plan seeks to reduce.

Posted by Guest Wanderer on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

I practice all forms of transportation in SF, MUNI, driving, bycling and walking, with the last being my most frequent.

I walk to work almost everyday and am constanly amazaed by byclists hyporcrisy. They want cars to treat them as equals and obey the laws (as cars should) but almost everyday I am nearly run over by CYCLISTS who run stop signs or redlights while I am in the crosswalk, twice I have been hit. The last time, led to the cyclists catching a kick to face (broken nose) as he was picking up his bike. Some may say this was extreme but this little no brake hipster dufus caused me 8 six stiches to my leg.

The problem for pedestrians are not cars, drivers have been trained for decades to always yield to pedestrians. These days the imtimidating aggressors are cyclists who are very dangerous to pedestrians. Cyclists insist cars follow all laws and yield to them while simultaneously running a stop sign and not yielding to pedestrians. This is hypocrisy at it's worst. Or even worse, they will buzz right by me with in inches on the sidewalk or the panhandle pathway going super fast. These same assholes would have a fit if a car buzzed by them that close on the road.

Bikers, if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk you MUST yield that means stop your bike and wait for them to exit the cross walk. And the whole argument that bikes shouldn't have to stop because then they have to pedal to start the momentum is a comnplete BS argument. Your on a bike, if you don't want to have to pedal to start your momentum then walk or run.

As with everything else, everyone hates a hypocrit; if cyclist want cars and pedestrians to start respecting them, maybe they should try showing respect to pedestrians.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

word

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

Anything that gets bicyclists off the sidewalk is fine by me.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

I haven't owned a car since 1987, and ride a bicycle on average six days a week. I'm also hugely disappointed in the SFBG's counterproductive attempt to create controversy where little or none actually exists.

As a regular rider and pedestrian, every day I see, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians performing an intricate, and more or less frictionless, dance. Countless small nods and non-verbal signals are given, slight adjustments in speed and direction are made, all with nary a second thought by any of the participants.

Are there "bad" motorists? Sure, just as there are socially maladroit bicyclists and clueless pedestrians. But confrontations and anger between motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are in fact RARE.

Alas, human nature is such that there will always be a small number of folks who, regardless of their chosen form of transport, will try to spice up their lives with harrowing tales of a maniacal driver, rude bicyclist, or willfully inept pedestrian. And demand that "Action Against Those Renegade [fill-in-the-blank] Be Taken NOW!"

I understand that sensationalism sells newspapers. Nevertheless, the SFBG could have, should have, done better.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

As a 62 year old lifetime bicycle commuter I read your article "Care not Crash."
with great interest. I believe the column gives an incomplete understanding about the
laws covering bicycles. The general law is that bicycles must ride as far to the
right as is "practicable." Then there are several exceptions to that rule, such
as avoiding road hazards or preparing to turn left.

The key exception which gives bicyclists full use of a lane is called a
"substandard lane," defined as a lane which is too narrow to be safely shared by
a car and a bicycle. That covers many streets in San Francisco, and is the
situation where the "Bicyclists Allowed Use of Full Lane" signs are posted. I
this case, bicyclists are free to ride in the center of the lane and don't have
to ride to the right.

It is important that bicyclists riding in traffic understand this law and assert
their right to ride out in the lane. If they ride to the far right of such a
lane, then cars try to pass them in the lane and come dangerously close to them.
It is also important that motorists are educated about the law. As much as
motorists complain about scofflaw bicyclists, they often get mad at cyclists who
are legally riding in the center of a lane.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

In response to the Guest comment regarding SFBG's "attempt to create controversy where little or none actually exists," you are entitled to your opinion and I am happy to have a dialogue with you -- but I have a few questions. If no tension exists between cyclists and motorists, why did the SF Civil Grand Jury invest time, energy, and resources into researching ways to address that very issue? Why did hundreds of cyclists bother to attend meetings on the Bike Plan and go on record stating that they want safer conditions for cycling? Why are demonstrators outside of Arco going so far as to risk arrest to improve the safety of that intersection? Why does Wyle receive a call a day from a cyclist who's had a run-in with a motorist? I'd argue that all of this is evidence that tensions do exist out there on the roadways, and there's nothing sensational about exploring these issues.

Posted by rebecca on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

I've been using my bike as my primary mode of transportation since 2003, have been a five-days per week bike-CalTrain-bike commuter since January 2008, and I simply haven't seen, let alone experienced, that many incidents. When I have, they've been no greater in frequency or severity than when I've been driving or walking. That is to say that bicycling has not in my experience neither created nor eliminated conflicts with the occasional hothead.

For that reason, I simply can't buy into the notion that there's this huge conflict between motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. As one who sees plenty of things going on in the streets, I'm pretty sure I'd have more harrowing tales of Bad Drivers if they were as abundant as some assert they are.

That's not to say that breaking free from our current automobile-centric way of life in pursuit of happier, healthier alternatives is not a step forward, or that issues from the changes arising from these changes shouldn't be explored.

It is to say that I firmly believe there are some people who would like to dramatize things and create conflicts for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with the issues at hand. That in turn inaccurately creates an ambiance of conflict rather than mutual adaptation to emerging new ways of transporting ourselves.

People don't become saints or sinners simply because they've chosen one form of transportation over another. There are jerks in all three transport modalities, but just as in life in general, they're the exception rather than the rule.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

I agree. (I have been biking in this and other cities for many years.)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2010 @ 9:44 pm

"If no tension exists between cyclists and motorists, why did the SF Civil Grand Jury invest time, energy, and resources into researching ways to address that very issue?"

This is the same Civil Grand Jury upon which Adachi is basing his attack on dependent health care for City workers, right?

What are the demographics of the CGJ compared to those of SF at large? My bet is that the CGJ is 20 years older and 40% whiter than the City at large.

Is there any analysis that factors the CGJ's proposals according to the placement of that demographic within the larger SF context?

My read is that the CGJ is cranky, old and humming variants on "get off of my lawn."

-marc

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 8:25 am

As far as tensions on the roadway goes, they are slightly higher now than they'd been over the past few years. My bet is that people are freaked out over the lack of security and control over their lives by any measure and are using their vehicles to compensate.

I have also noticed over the past week that the annual influx of 20-30 something white people on their way to the Black Rock Desert are starting the party early and driving like maniacs.

I would probably feel the same if I drove, what, with the slim opening to experiment with the good life before preparing for a life sentence in the nirvana known as monogamous heterosexual wed lock.

Left out of this analysis and out of advocacy is how we are going to get the SFPD to enforce the law according to Transit First. Simply physics tells us that the consequences of motorist wrongdoing far outweigh the consequences of rogue cyclists.

Law enforcement should be deployed according to DPH death and injury statistics, and deployment should be regularly evaluated to ensure that the SFPD is keeping San Franciscans safe. There have to be consequences for motorists continuing to drive on city streets as if they were still on the freeway.

But the SFBC has been too chickenshit over the past decade to acknowledge that most of most bike trips will take place on city streets off of the bicycle network, and that we have to do the heavy lifting to make the vast majority of streets safe, because that would involve challenging culture in the SFPD, which is apparently beyond their political capacity.

-marc

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 8:58 am

world view.

"People not agreeing with progressive "values" are stupid." Marcos just comes out saying what all progressive believe deep down.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Didn't say they were stupid, rather that they approach this problem with a different set of values.

If we all had the same values, there would be no need for politics.

But since we do not all share values, distinguishing between different sets of values is politically legitimate.

Just like most San Franciscans would discern between SF values and Tea Party values, I think we can likewise discern between SF values and the values of those with enough time on their hands to participate in a CGJ, those who look nothing like my San Francisco and probably think a whole lot different as well.

-marc

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 9:35 am

Do you represent SF values of tolerance?

"I would probably feel the same if I drove, what, with the slim opening to experiment with the good life before preparing for a life sentence in the nirvana known as monogamous heterosexual wed lock."

Posted by matlock on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 10:12 am

No, that represents the SF value of snark.

-marc

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 10:54 am

Just as motorists endanger bicyclists with rude and illegal behavior, bicyclists endanger pedestrians on the sidewalk. Every day I see bicyclists illegally riding on crowded sidewalks indifferent to the safety of pedestrians. I have NEVER seen a bicycle cop giving a bicyclist a ticket for this offense in my 34 years in the city. Not once! I've even seen bicycle cops riding on the sidewalk. Great example guys! Six months ago I was hit by a bike while I was walking on the sidewalk. The bike was going fast and I was hit hard enough to be knocked off my feet. I was lucky. I wasn't seriously hurt - I only had painful bruises for two weeks.

I would like to see bicycle cops crack down on riding on the sidewalks and have the city post signs stating that riding on the sidewalk is illegal and subject to a fine. Enforce the law damn it!!!!

If another bicyclist his me on the sidewalk I will make sure he is hurt worse than me.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 9:26 am

How many pedestrians are killed or injured by cyclists riding on the sidewalk?

How many pedestrians are killed or injured by walking into stationary objects on the sidewalk, or by falling off of the sidewalk, over the curb and onto the street?

How many cyclists are killed or injured by collisions with motor vehicles?

How many motorists are killed or injured by collisions with cyclists?

Enforcement priorities must be informed by the data with the goal of increasing safety as measured by reductions in injuries and deaths. Anything else is just jingoism.

-marc

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 10:11 am

Regarding Chris Carlsson's comments that motorists are "in gridlock before we even start riding"- BULLSHIT! What a self-centered, self-righteous imbecile. Almost the only time I am ever in gridlock driving in the City is when he and all the other Critical Mass idiots hold their monthly ride right in the middle of Friday evening rush hour. Regarding Rebecca Bowe's characterization of the upset it causes as "unreasonable", I'd like to point out that whenever the ride crosses my route home from work (where I need to drive) I am stuck in traffic for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. I think that it is very, very reasonable for me to be angered by that. A delay that long hardly ever happens for any other cause and I do all of my City driving at peak traffic times.

When I drive, I give cyclists their space and the overwhelming majority are courteous in return. However, I am not alone in hating Critical Mass, the reviews of it on Yelp! are proof of how unpopular the ride is (the only people who rate it positively are the participants- surprise, surprise). I believe that one event, more than any other single cause, provokes the bulk of whatever tension exists between motorists and bicyclists.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2010 @ 10:08 am

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