SFPD targets bikes before hearing on its anti-cyclist bias

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.


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


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
Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:08 am

to counter the revelation that you are a Steve Jones obsessed nutball?

your response is to say

"I'M not obsessed YOU'RE obsessed!"

my grade school aged nephew could come up with a better response than that

if you people are going to be asshole trolls, you could at least try to be *good* at it

as paltry an aspiration as that might be...

Posted by racer x on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:15 am

yet you are here 24/7 appending your dumb "troll barrier" nonsense to every post that you cannot refute, as if that is a substitute for rational debate.

You are easily the most OCD poster here.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:44 am

When I compare the thinking pathology between the entitled left and right the lefties here howl.

Again Steve makes the point that the left and right share the same need to get over because they have the special knowledge. Steve feels that he is entitled to something extra at every turn, he feels that if he has to adhere to the same laws as everyone else he is persecuted, if he doesn't get his way and get his extra entitlement he is persecuted. How does he differ from a right wing born again Christian?

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Don't be fooled by fraudulent nonprofits, such as Mark Goldes' Aesop Institute. Read reviews: http://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/aesop-institute/166232/

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

while i agree that bicyclists usually create their own dangerous situations, it also is important that San Francisco pay closer attention to the way bike lanes are set up.

when is the city going to do something about the signal at Schrader and Fell: http://goo.gl/maps/xwqZ6

cars get a green light to turn right from schrader onto westbound fell at the same time as bicyclists get a green light to ride out of the panhandle and make a left onto westbound fell.

and the bicyclists aren't just turning left into the closest lane, they are riding across all traffic lanes to get over to the right going west on fell - which means they are crossing in front of cars trying to turn right and get into the lanes that continue along to GG Park or onto Lincoln.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

generally the first one there has priority.

If I were a cyclist I'd probably decide that an SUV coming across my route at speed was there first, you know?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:10 am

far left wing vs. far right wing...they're all kooks and they only want their narrow view to be law and disrespect the vast middle ground...just waiting for bicycle rights far siders to start arguing they are the next civil rights barrier to fall and how brave they all are...I own two bikes and I wouldnt ride on SF streets because my life depends on it..the drivers can be as selfish as the bikers...hello Crissy Field paths!

Posted by GuestChris on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

right issue that he isn't free to ride his bick wherever he wants, however he wants and at whatever speed he wants, while disregarding all laws.

The rest of us just laugh at him - a response that I suspect he is very used to.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:11 am

They had to flee the opression of the rest of the land.and they fled to this place that was much more free. and there they felt free to each create their own little utopias. and that's what the did. and now the place is hell for everybody.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

aaaahhhhh....you fucking idot that wrote this article.....there is no fucking difference between cars and bikes when it comes to the law. Your bike IS a vehicle. You must obey the same fucking laws as cars!! End of story. You should be ticketed the same as cars. You have NO special privileges and you are not entitled to do what you want.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

aaaahhhhh....you fucking idot that wrote this article.....there is no fucking difference between cars and bikes when it comes to the law. Your bike IS a vehicle. You must obey the same fucking laws as cars!! End of story. You should be ticketed the same as cars. You have NO special privileges and you are not entitled to do what you want.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

Hey, D-bag author, as a PEDESTRIAN, I do no appreciate having to walk or cross a street in fear because asses like you care more about your damn momentum than pedestrian safety! Who died and decided you were the gods of the road?! I can give a rat's ass about your stupid momentum. I care more about LIVES. Or did that news story about the cyclist running over an elderly man, killing him after running a red, and then complained about his broken helmet online pass your pea brain?

Go throw your pity party elsewhere, and cry more about you not getting your way, you spoiled whiner.

When you run a red and kill a pedestrian or a walking child, because you think the law doesn't apply to your entitled ass, don't cry and play victim. You brought this on yourself, and I hope they throw away the key.

Enjoy being an inmate's b!tch.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

No pedestrians have been injured or killed in The Wiggle due to cyclists not stopping completely at stop signs in The Wiggle.

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 5:08 am

two years so clearly there is a problem here.

While neither occurred around the Wiggle, that is an area where the volumes of both bikes and pedestrians elevate the risk. Market Street is another.##

So I support more enforcement of the bad behavior that the Supervisor for that district has already noted.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:14 am

No pedestrians have been hurt or injured on the Wiggle.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

argument, Marcos, nothing needed to be done there either?

Wow, really?

There are daily close encounters between bikes and pedestrians around the Wiggle, and it's only a matter of time unless the bikes are calmed there.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

A cyclist was killed a few blocks to the south several years ago by a truck that did not look when it was turning. A cyclist was killed in May on 16th and South Van Ness due to a truck not giving a shit and turning over him.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

precise location was Amelie was hit?

That appears to be your criterion for changing anything and so, by your rule, nothing should have been done to prevent Amelie's death until after it happened.

Way to go.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

Talk about shooting fish in a barrel, a cop could stand on any street corner in San Francisco and write ONE HUNDRED TICKETS PER HOUR to motorists who are texting and driving. It's going to take some little rich kid getting run over before they lift a finger against this scourge.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:27 am

And the bikes are easier to catch.

Also bear in mind that many car tickets are issued by camera, so you are not always aware of how many citations are issued to drivers.

That is obviously not possible for bikes, so a more manual and visible method of enforcing the law is required.

One idea would be for pedestrians to issue citizens' arrests to any cyclist who they see breaking the law.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:54 am

I bike commute on a part of the Wiggle and down Market St. every day. How about in addition to focusing on the dangerous intersections, the SFBC and the SFPD focuses on deterring cyclists from riding with headphones in both ears? I see that all too often. The cops use to ticket for this on the UCSC campus and it was effective. I think drivers and cyclists all need to be aware of what's going on around them. We all have to do this delicate commute dance together and that requires communication amongst cyclists and between cyclists and motorists.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Whether they are listening to music or talking on the phone, it is very dangerous because sound is an important component of awareness on the road.

In fact I'd be interested to hear whether that was a factor in many of the accidents involving cyclists in SF.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:56 am

Yes, it is illegal for cyclists to ride with headphones in both ears. This seems like a legitimate safety issue to address.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:57 am

I wish SFPD did more to punish these reckless bicyclist who all think they're above the law.
I like to attend this meeting and give the supervisors an earful that the police are not doing enough. The cyclist have become bunch of self-righteous bunch who think they are somehow above the law or better than the rest of the people.

These guys dong't realize that some people have to commute to the city or need cars. They also don't realize the bike paths are mostly there because the roads built for cars paid by taxes on gas, etc. So if there was no cars, no roads, no bike paths. Unless they want to bike up a gravel path.

BTW, stop by the corner of Van Ness and Broadway and watch the "sting operation" on cars that make a left turn between 4-7PM that's been going on for months...

Lastly, there is nothing conservative about wanting the traffic laws be applied to everyone equally and there is nothing progressive about breaking the laws or thinking you are some kind of elitist special class. If anything, that's conservative thinking!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:26 am

among cyclists, then people will start taking the law into their own hands.

Cyclists have been getting all their own way recently and it is going to their heads. Slapdown time.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:47 am

I identify primarily as a cyclist (though I own a car and drive when it is come convenient than being on a bike). I can relate to many driver complaints regarding cyclists but I would like to offer this perspective:

I acknowledge and obey the rules of the road. Admittedly, that has not always been the case. I grew up riding a bicycle in Texas, where there are hardly any sidewalks, much less bicycle infrastructure. Often, I would have to fight to protect myself, becoming an aggressive rider so that other road users knew I was there. I would justify rolling stop signs and riding through yellows as a strategy for putting distance between myself and the cars behind me. It was even more justifiable because enforcement was lacking and as a result, many users fail to acknowledge my right to the road.

There is a clear paradox between enforcement, rights, and peoples' desires to follow the rules of the road.

I find myself at a crossroads (no pun intended). I believe that the laws are in place for safety and protection. But they are only as effective to the degree they are followed. ALL road users (drivers, cyclists, even some pedestrians) seem to fail at the most basic compliance and it sickens me. It's frustrating to identify with a group, only to have our reputation tarnished by an increasing number of bad apples. There ARE good cyclists out there, but for every 1 of us, there are 5 of them.

I hope that enforcement of the law of ALL users will make people more aware of the laws and will change bad behavior. But in no way do I support this measure as a way for drivers to point fingers and say "See? I told you so.". Drivers and cyclists are equally horrible at following the law and I hope enforcement will change all of the bad behaviors (rolling through stop signs, speeding, being on the phone while operating a vehicle, having both headphones in, et.al.) that put EVERYONE at risk.

Posted by Jules on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:40 pm


That said, your "I identify as" comes across as pretentious and it behooves you not to start out like that if you seek credibility.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

There is a difference between disobeying a law when there is no harm and no foul and disobeying the law when there is harm and foul.

If the cops are going to enforce these traffic laws, they need to focus on violations that are actually dangerous, where there is real concrete and dangerous abridgement of someone's entitled right of way for bikes and cars alike.

These cops ain't cheap, we need to give them some hand holding so that their enforcement zeal is channeled to advance the City's stated public health goals.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

what doesn't, but that is a subjective assessment, and I might see harm being done where you do not.

There are lots of laws against things that some people do no harm. Jaywalking is another - why should I wait to cross the street if I can clearly see no vehicles coming? Yet the law remains and if I jaywalk, I make get a ticket.

I'd argue that failing to stop at a stop sign or light, riding the wrong way along a one-way street, and riding a bike on the sidewalk all cause harm even if no accident ensues.

It's not about outcomes - it's about risk, possibilities and about the law.

The problem with prioritizing some laws and not others is that the others then never get enforced at all. In which case there is no point in having them. If we have a low, we must enforce it and there must be consequences to breaking it. You don't get to decide which laws to obey.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

The cops are not getting this one right in the field. Sporadic enforcement of technical violations are not checking bad conduct that endangers others. If the answer to the question "did the the illegal conduct actually require that another road or crosswalk user take evasive action to avoid being hit?" is no, then the cop should not issue a citation.

The fact that the cranks resist common sense triage of policing resources proves that this issue is being used tactically to advance other goals as directing scarce enforcement resources to harass cyclists does nothing to reduce the actual public health dangers.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

you assume the criterion for police action is that harm is that actual harm is done. That is not the case. The police are also there to prevent harm from being done by enforcing laws designed to improve public safety, convenience and enjoyment.

When you blow through a stop sign causing me, a pedestrian, to have to wait when you should have stopped and let me proceed is an offense to common decency and respect, as well as to safety, and therefore it is rightly against the law.

There's also the broken window aspect - if we allow minor transgressions to go free, then law-breakers will take ever bigger risks since they will infer that they only need obey the laws where they personally see some harm.

The laws are there for a reason even if it is a reason that you do not like or agree with.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:47 am

The police are there to do whatever civilian authority tells them to do.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 8:31 am

that the people have seen fit to approve.

Nobody likes obeying laws that they personally find inconvenient, but that doesn't let you off the hook of obeying them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 9:47 am

The Mayor is elected city-wide by the people, unlike any "civilian authority", which is typically staffed by people who do not like the police.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 7:03 am

I am collecting video of hipsters and other aholes riding on the sidewalk on Oak between Baker and Broderick, just yards away from the brand spanking new cycletrack. There's no excuse for it other than laziness, selfishness. No wonder people are sick of this particular strain of cyclists and are pushing back on all the facilities projects they are trying to shove down our throats.

Posted by Oliver on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

Not because I am disabled but because it is the most effective way of fending off cyclists who break the law by invading my space.

Apparently they whine when cars invade their bike lane but think nothing of invading the people lane.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

drama queen

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

doubt that he will take that as anything other than a compliments.

That said, the problem remains, i.e. that cyclists are waging war on everyone else. And since they are the most vulnerable of all participants in their war, the prognosis does not look good for them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

The "That said" doesn't need to be said. It's a waste of time. It's wordy. Just proceed on with "the problem remains..."

You must have dyslexia, it's the motorists who are "waging war" on everyone else, including pedestrians. Not cyclists. There are far more motorists than cyclists. Motorists are the ones acting like bullies in their big death machines called vehicles, including big-assed SUVs. They are the ones who kill the most people ("waging war.") ....Problem understanding?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

cars and people. Bikes try and have the best of both ways, using both the roads and the sidewalks, and disobeying traffic laws routinely.

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

Indicates that both sides of a story are being considered.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

Wasn't calling out Marcos. Marcos is OK with me.

I was calling out the guest with its inane blustery threats about getting a big stick.

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

against cyclists who ride on the sidewalk or ride too close to pedestrians. Two pedestrians have been killed by cyclists in SF recently.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

So you want to start an arms race?


You get your stick, then bikers get pepper spray and so on?

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

It would be the most vulnerable people on the road - cyclists.

In a straight-up fight between a cyclist and a car, the cyclist always loses. Between a cyclist and a pedestrian, I'd still back the pedestrian as he can knock the cyclist off his bike, probably stunning him and throwing him to the ground.

Don't start what you can't finish, homeless boy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

Don't speak of that which you don't know.

In my younger days I left a trail of carnage from here to LA. 2 wheeling the whole way.

Then I grew up.

You should try it, 'growing up' that is.

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

Whereas now in your dotage, you're just a rough sleeper.

Sorry, dude, but you walked right into that one.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.