SFPD targets bikes before hearing on its anti-cyclist bias

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Officer Scott writes me up for failing to come to a complete stop on Saturday night.
Steven T. Jones

As it prepares for this Thursday’s Board of Supervisors hearing examining allegations that its officers are biased against bicyclists, the San Francisco Police Department has quietly started enforcement stings focused on cyclists riding the Wiggle, one of the city’s most popular and heavily traveled bike routes.

I was among a series of cyclists stopped by one of two motorcycle cops on Saturday night as they stood on Waller Street waiting for cyclists to make that left turn off of Steiner, the first in a series of five turns known as the Wiggle, a key bike route connecting the east and west sides of town.

The sting operation — a term that Officer R. Scott, who stopped me, denied, although that’s clearly what it was — was like shooting fish in a barrel for these guys, given that thousands of cyclists a day roll through the stop signs on the Wiggle on their way to work, school, or errands.

Since being pulled over, I’ve heard this was part of several recent enforcement actions targeting cyclists on the Wiggle, supposedly driven by neighborhood complaints. Although Scott took down my driver’s license information, entered my information into the system, and issued me a citation — lecturing me along the way, and getting an earful from me in response — he waited to the end to tell me it was only a warning (actually, it was his partner who said that he should give me a ticket rather than a warning because of how I was expressing myself, but Scott said it was too late).

I’ve asked the SFPD a series of questions about the reasons for and goals of this stepped-up enforcement against cyclists, as well as about the timing, stats, and other information. I’ll update this post if and when I get a response.

For conservative law-and-order types, it probably doesn’t seem like there’s much to discuss here. Cyclists run stop signs, that’s against the law, end of story. But if San Francisco is going to continue to encourage people to ride bikes — with all the societal benefits that brings — it needs to take a more realistic and progressive approach to this issue.   

The California Vehicle Code Section 22450(a), which I was accused of violating, doesn’t distinguish between cars and bikes when it states, “The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop at a limit line, if marked, otherwise before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.”

Unlike the traffic laws in Idaho, which do have different standards for bikes and cars and where my approach of yielding but not stopping would have been legal, California has traffic laws that are hopelessly mired in another age, before global warming, air pollution, traffic gridlock, skyrocketing automobile fatalities, and other factors caused society to rediscover and embrace bikes as a beneficial mode of everyday transportation.

And when state or federal laws have lagged behind public opinion and behaviors, San Francisco has often been at the forefront of radical reform, as we have done on immigration, marijuana, civil liberties, rent control, marriage equality, and other issues where we have refused to go along with an unjust or unrealistic status quo.

How we get around, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect for the reasonable choices that we make, belongs on that list. The number of cyclists on the streets of San Francisco has surged in recent years, and it’s the official policy of the city to favor that mode over the automobile and to work toward the goal of having 20 percent of all trips be by bicycle by the year 2020.

That probably won’t happen without many more bike lanes -- and it definitely won’t happen if bicyclists are expected to stop at every stop sign. Momentum matters on bikes and they become a far less appealing mode of transportation if we’re forced to come to a complete stop at every intersection, an unrealistic approach that impedes the smooth flow of not just cyclists, but motorists, Muni, and pedestrians as well.

Sup. Jane Kim called the hearing on how the SFPD handles cyclists -- which is scheduled for this Thurday at 10am before the board’s Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee -- after the Guardian helped expose some truly appalling anti-cyclist bias by the SFPD.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said that cyclists will call for better training and investigations of traffic collisions involving bikes, as well as a shift in how the SFPD polices the streets. She said her message will be, “Focus limited traffic enforcement resources on known dangerous intersections and known dangerous behaviors.”

And she said the bicyclists on the Wiggle just don’t meet those criteria. “When you look at the data on the Wiggle, it’s not a high collision area,” Shahum said, confirming reports that the SFPD has done bicycle stings on the Wiggle on at least two days in the last week.

Shahum acknowledges that there are sometimes conflicts and that bicyclists aren’t angels, noting that the SFBC has recently done events on the Wiggle encouraging bicyclists to ride carefully and yield to pedestrians and motorists when they have the right-of-way.

But she that Police Chief Greg Suhr has repeatedly called for each police district to “focus on five,” using traffic data to target the five most dangerous intersections in each district. As she said, “We’re asking the police to live up to have they’ve said, over and over.”

As for changing state law to adopt Idaho’s bike standards, Shahum said that the difficult, multi-year effort just to get a weak bike buffer law recently signed into law shows that’s probably not realistic. But here in San Francisco, there’s much more we can do to encourage safer cycling and road sharing.

Comments

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Could you please stop trolling the thread with your spam? You are amusing your own little hipster self but no one else.

Posted by Oliver on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

Racer/Barrier has OCD issues but he is working on them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

By definition a cyclist can't obstruct traffic by bicycling slower than the speed limit taking up the entire right most lane.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:41 pm

The issue is more that WITNIN a lane, you should keep right to allow faster traffic to pass.

If you can ride at 25-35 mph, maybe that;s not such a big deal

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 10:48 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 11:02 am

No bike lane, cyclist allowed full use of lane.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

law clearly mandates that you keep right.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

Cyclists are allowed full use of the lane because cyclists are vehicles.

Cyclists are required to come to a full stop before the limit line at all stop signs.

That is the law.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

obstructing traffic by doing so - CA vehicle code says that slower traffic must keep right.

I do not regard myself as being subject to the 3 foot law unless a slower bike keeps right. Nor would I regard myself as responsible for any accident resulting froma cyclist impeding traffics.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

bicycles are supposed to fully occupy the lane that they are in (unless there is a bile path) because this is far safer for both cyclists and drivers

Posted by racer x on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

effluent and detritus of your commentary.

And bikes can take the whole lane but only if they are keeping up with the speed of the prevailing traffic. Otherwise, as slower traffic, they must keep right.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

That way you stay safe, don't obstruct others and are in compliance with the law.

The law applies to everyone, as much as you'd prefer otherwise.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

Never said I wasn't going to be in compliance with the law. I'm allowed full use of the lane. I go about the speed limit. But from now on I will be stopping and starting in front of cars. There is nothing illegal about that.

Posted by Roy McKenzie on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

And they usually keep right.

If you fail to do that it's probably not going to end well for you, one way or the other.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:20 am

You acknowledged the beat down by changing the topic of the discussion. As usual.

Do you generally rear end other vehicles travelling too slowly for your liking?
Or do you take out your frustrations at home on the wife, kids and dog?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:10 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:35 am

It is so delightful to have a giggle and snort while reading through the inevitable flame war incited by the Trolls. Thank you for alerting us!

Posted by LOVEthetrollbarrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 11:50 am

Talking to yourself again?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

And in fact my statement was 100% correct - people do get written tickets for impeding the flow of traffic.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:42 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

Dude,

As so recently illustrated by the video of the SUV vs Motorcycle gang stopping an starting in front of drivers is NOT legal. It's called "Reckless Endangerment"

Be civil, move to the right, WEAR some damn lights at night, signal, don't run red lights, don't run stop signs, make sure your kid has a helmet, etc.

You give cycling a bad name.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

Exactly, we are vehicles and we must follow the law to the letter of the law all of the time.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:17 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

Which means coming to a complete and total stop at every stop sign taking care to ensure that we would never impede on a pedestrian by taking the middle of the lane. Motorists are going to love having to come to a complete, total and legal stop behind cyclists at each stop sign.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

However, when people see cyclists ignoring the law then they feel vindicated in doing the same themselves.

If I were the most vulnerable user on the road, I probably would not cop an attitude.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

That will go along well with those drivers who try to block bike riders from illegally passing on the right or left - or bike riders who go the the front of the queue at a red light, then slow down traffic. Assholes all!

Posted by Richmondman on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

driving is always wrong. It's the attempt to claim that all the wrongdoing is drivers that I am concerned about. As long as cyclist agree to obey all traffic rules and not impede traffic, then there is no problem.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 10:29 am

You put it so well Steve.

I saw it happening the Saturday before last to the cyclist in front of me on that same intersection, the left turn onto Waller from Steiner.

A pedestrian was videoing it on his cell phone when the officer became very agitated and demanded the pedestrian's name and began approaching him. He said the pedestrian was "now my witness."

Ed Lee yay!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

because that is where the most bikes are? There are Market Street - the other place where I've seen SFPD giving cyclists tickets?

I know, it's shocking, the cops go where the greatest probability of law-breaking exists. I even heard a rumor they spend a lot of time in Bayview, the Mission, The Tenderloin and the Western Addition, almost as if that's where most of the crime is.

OMG, I think you're onto something.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles. 

If there was hope, it must lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within. Its enemies, if it had any enemies, had no way of coming together or even of identifying one another. Even if the legendary Brotherhood existed, as just possibly it might, it was inconceivable that its members could ever assemble in larger numbers than twos and threes. Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflexion of the voice, at the most, an occasional whispered word. But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet-!

Posted by prole barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

Pretty sure that is the same officer in the picture that was threatening the kid with the cell phone camera. I'm surprised he didn't throw you on the ground and cuff you for taking that picture.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

This may be a little paranoid but I think this all started after Supervisor Breed had that Twitter tiff with a bike rider, which you also wrote about.

Could of course also be coincidence.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

precisely because some cyclists like Steven think they are above the law.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

Steven is always banging on about the joy of parking tickets and how they need to be higher and higher!! What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

why isn't Steven pushing for higher fines on errant cyclists?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

Except this time it was handed to Steven and he's not happy about that. Not at all.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:08 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:15 am

The same argument that Steven makes about bicycles rolling through a stop sign can be used for cars also.

A driver will frequently slow down to a few MPH look right and left carefully and slowly roll through the stop sign. If anyone suddenly darted in front of them they are going slowly enough to stop on a dime.

And they are breaking the law. Yes, it is easier on the driver and passenger to roll through and it would save the fuel needed to get the car moving from a dead stop.

So I'm sure that there are drivers who feel, like Steven, that the law doesn't make sense and hence should be ignored.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

It's in the socialist manifesto somewhere.

It's like rich = bad; poor = good.

Life is so simple when you're Steven - he has a checklist for everything so he doesn't get confused.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

justify cars making rolling stops. After all Steven claims this global warming thing isn't a myth, and think how much fuel we would collectively save if every car went through stop signs and lights at 5mph instead of stopping.

We'd probably be able to mothball an oil tanker, not build the Keystone pipeline, and give up fracking all at the same time.

So I'm going to do my part for the environment and not slow down at intersections. Apparently it's the law in Belarus and that's got more people than Idaho.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

while at the same time absurdly claiming that his views are irrelevant

the bullshit meter is definitely all the way into the red zone on this entire blog thread

and there's enough foam coming off of your collective mouths to raise the global sea level another notch

Posted by racer x on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

We're just assuming the Steven is saving his money so he can move to Boise.

Or do you think Pocatello would be a better fit for him, culturally?

Posted by Idaho barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

to the fact i just pointed out, that you are all a bunch of utterly overwrought Steven Jones obsessed drama queens

really...?

Posted by racer x on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

Yeah, I just spend all day obsessing about Steven Jones.

It's all I do.

Posted by Idaho barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

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