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.


Truly amazing that such individuals can gather the strength to make it out of bed and out the door given the terrible risky peril facing them.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

Now you're saying it's not?

OK, no more bike lanes then - obviously you have enough of them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

Another bully hiding behind their keyboard with their big-and-tough fictional story, and in reality probably couldn't swat a gnat. What infantile people!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

Whining like a crow about cars breaking the law while they feel they should do so with impunity.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

"As for changing state law to adopt Idaho’s bike standards." In Idaho I can own a belt fed automatic weapon, can we start doing here.

Don't be such a light weight, at the tender age of 63 and an amputee, I stop at the stop sign with my three wheeler, and you see some of the hills where I live, besides at great exercise to stop at the bottom of a hill and pump it up.

Posted by Guest It's Me on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

"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.

SOME cyclists do. I don't. So do SOME motorists. I see that happen every day at a stop sign near me. No one whines about that though. That's perfectly okay because it's a motorist. They only whine when cyclists do that.

Fact: Nearly all of the whines and complaints that people have about cyclists can also be said about motorists (and then some) but motorists and their defenders don't like to hear this (they don't like to be objective...they like to take sides likely being motorists themselves), and motorists kill far more people than cyclists do. Anyone who doesn't believe that can look it up.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

the wrong way or drive on the sidewalk.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

There is no reasoning with those fragile authoritarian psyches who get exercised over forcing cyclists to come to a complete stop under any and all circumstances.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

In the same way as you expect me to obey the law and not drive within 3 feet of you, even if you are breaking the law at the time.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

It's impossible to argue with Marcos in regards to bicyclists. He likened bicycling in this city to the Civil Rights movement of the 60's. He thinks his fight to be able to ride on the sidewalk and blow through stop signs as being equivalent to blacks fighting for the right to vote or eat at the same lunch counter as whites. He thinks getting a ticket for blowing through a red light is the same as having Bull Connor turning on fire hoses and attack dogs on nonviolent protesters.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

and there is some stiff competition.

In marcosland, everything is about him.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 1:01 am

Just because you don't agree with a traffic law does not give you the right to break it. This is not a civil or human rights issue. If you choose to break the law and are cited there should be no whining. Instead, work with your fellow citizens (including politicians) to change the law.

Last weekend my wife and I rode The Wiggle for the first time. It was very enjoyable and we felt pretty safe all along the route except for parts of Fell. We stopped at all of the stop signs and red lights. I personally agree with the author that a law like the one in Idaho might make sense for cyclists. But until the law is changed everyone should be expected to obey the current one.

Posted by RD Frazier on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

The Board of Supervisors could pass an ordinance that directs the SFPD and courts to prioritize the enforcement and prosecution of non-dangerous Idaho Law compliant cycling at a level below that of cannabis as we wait for Sacramento to grind through any process.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

It would only carry the will of a few selfish-minded cyclist. As London Breed said, it's the bad behavior of cyclists that prevent the passing of such laws.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

I've been bicycle commuting to downtown for almost 3 decades now, and I appreciate that many new riders are in traffic. I've noticed what I think is a related issue - inability to resist the "herd instinct." If a leading group of riders roll through a stop, then most of the rest seem to follow (sometimes it's simply more dangerous not to ride through with them if your stuck on the inside of the pack). But If the lead group of cyclists stop, then a larger group waits as well. At that point, I cant see this as an issue of riding efficiency or common sense.

I'm no saint, but I partially credit my longevity on the road to respecting left stops and pedestrian crossings (it helped that I also ride a motorcycle, which has "driven" road rules into my 2 wheel mode). Keep riding, but follow your own survival instincts and not the crowd!

Posted by Guest GuestRider on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 7:06 am

You claim this is clearly a sting operation, yet "sting" implies that law enforcement was using some kind of deceptive practice. I don't see any indication of that. You might not like them waiting for sitting (or in this case rolling) ducks, but there's nothing deceptive about it, beyond not telling you beforehand where they were waiting.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

citations but the police are in plain view. Their main purpose is deterrence and the only cyclists getting tickets are the ones too stupid or arrogant to see the cops and slow down or stop.

Consider it a tax on stupidity and hubris.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Makes you wonder if Steven calls it a "sting" when the CHP sit on the freeway to catch speeders. Or when the SFPD sit and nail red light runners on Geary. But that's of course different. To him, that's "proper traffic enforcement".

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

Steven has always had a perverse view of justice. Break the law on a bike and that doesn't matter; break the same law in a car and he demands zero tolerance.

Likewise, Occupiers (remember them? weren't they cute for all of 15 minutes?) could break into buildings, vandalize them, assault the police etc. and that's all OK because they were fighting for social justice (i.e. whatever Steven believes in).

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 7:02 am

None. How many occupiers did the police injure? Many. Who assaulted whom?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 7:54 am

harm being done, whether to police, those resisting and innocent bystanders. Just ask Oscar grant. Oh wait, you can't.

The problem there isn't the police doing their job, but those who were initially breaking the law.

Anyway, Occupy had its 15 minutes of fame two years ago, and we've all moved on, so you should too.

(There was at least one murder attributed to an Occupier at that time, BTW).

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 8:03 am

Almost all the arrests were for people engaging in constitutionally protected freedom of assembly and were unlawful.

Only twisted sociopaths revel in the murder of unarmed people by the police.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 8:23 am

build a crime-riddled camp on public land. nor to break into and vandalize property. Nor to trade and use illegal drugs anywhere.

The fact that you got slapped down by the authorities shows that the people were not behind you, which is also why Occupy fizzled out as soon as the weather turned cold.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 8:47 am

and because it got slapped down by the authorities, contradictory explanations. You must be an follower of the all of the above theory of history.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 9:05 am

dwindle away into nothing once winter arrived.

LE might have squashed the camps in a couple of cities like Oakland and NYC. But there were camps in dozens of other cities around the world and, unless you know differently, they also fizzled out once it became cold and wet.

I predicted it would be a 15 minutes fad. You saw it as a world-changing event. I was right and you were wrong. Again.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 9:13 am

person in the world, maybe who ever lived, but are somehow relegated to posting anonymous comments on the website of a publication that you despise.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 9:31 am

denouement, I admit.

But whatever makes you think I despise the SFBG? Au contraire, my petulant friend, I find this venue quite a delightfully amusing diversion.

The mistake isn't reading it; only taking it seriously.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 9:40 am

In this very thread I learned from Steven that cyclists don't have to obey any traffic laws.

And in another thread, I learned from the always-erudite Eric that Obama is exactly like Hitler and is planning on invading Poland.

Posted by anon on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 9:49 am

I never realized what a big deal Critical Mass was for the car huggers.

I mean the thing has been pretty dead for a decade and yet you still have these motorists popping gaskets over it.

I thought it was pretty corny myself, back in the day, only went on a couple.

Now I think maybe I should have taken it more seriously.

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

sign of the kind of bad behavior that London Breed recently and adriotly opined about.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

Ah yes, Landon Breed, the Bay Areas answer to Laura Richardson.

I'll be double extra sure to pay attention to whatever pops out of her.

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

What you think about who the D5 voters elected matters less than about anything I can think of right now.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 7:00 am

And yet you take the time to comment on whatever I post on any thread.

I've never had a more devoted stalker, thanks guest!

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

I treat everyone here the same - I'm an equal opportunity debunker.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

winner of this debate with his debunker, um, stalker.

Posted by Internet Debate Referee on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

someone agreeing with pete moss.

The lowest form of imping.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

I am not pete moss.

Posted by Internet Debate Referee on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

Well, gee, OJ says he didn't murder his wife so I guess it must be true.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

have never met pete moss.

In fact, pete moss posted a comment almost simultaneously to my last one debunking your sock puppet theory.

Just because you post comments under different handles supporting your own statements, don't assume everyone else does the same. You take this commenting shit much too seriously. Why don't go outside and breath in the smoke filled air.

Posted by Internet Debate Referee on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

Not that it matters either way since a new handle carries zero weight here.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:04 pm


For me!!!!

Thanks, Internet Debate Ref!!!!

May you be in paradise half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Posted by pete moss on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

Are you seven years old?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

I bike all over this fair city every day. I was on the Wiggle several times today. I stopped on Steiner heading north, and waited my turn to go left onto Waller, because I was not first to the 4-way stop. There were cars pulling up across and to my right. A cyclist passed me and turned left anyway, not stopping at all, and cutting off the car across the street to the north.

Momentum shmentum, many of these younger cyclists simply don't think rules of the road apply to them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

So Ive lived in the wiggle for several years. I also own and enjoy riding my bike. I will say that I have ( especially over the part few months) almost gotten mulled over by cyclists that do NOT stop NOR yield nor signal where they are going and are riding very fast. As far as feeling privileged and entitled its mostly cyclists like the author of this article who really need to respect safety of the public and stop their wining. My neighbor in an electric scooter was run over and knocked out of his wheelchair by a Cyclist. So please quit your moaning about how you got warned for running a stop sign. You should of been issued a ticket! Im so sick of the no apologetic too cool for school attitudes that are ruining the laid back quality I used to live about my neighborhood.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 07, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

clumps, they seem to embolden each other to ride aggressively and inconsiderately on the "safety in numbers " principle. It's a form of "swarming" much beloved of pesky insects and European child pickpockets.

On normal roads, such cyclists would quickly get slapped down (metaphorically) by the regular vehicles but, around the Wiggle, the bikes have achieved some form of hegemony and "critical mass" (tho I hate to use that phrase) and as a result they have become lawless and dangerous.

The D5 supervisor has heard this enough to now officially brand cyclists in her district as bad behavors.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 07, 2013 @ 12:38 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 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. 07, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

I've ridden bicycles on public roadways since the mid 1970's, commuted for about 5 years in San Francisco. I recently stopped riding in part to the attitudes of the spoiled brats who are working to destroy the efficentcy of the City's streets. Basic physics: motorized vehicles can move more stuff much faster/further than human powered vehicles. Its a priveledge to able to commute cheaply on my bike, I return the gift by obeying the laws, and attempting to ride co-operatively with faster/larger cars, truck, and motorbikes. The lawlessness and rudeness of the bike riders who have taken the streets in the past few years is disgusting. I applaud the police for any traffic enforcement upon the blatantly rude an dangerous riders. I stop at EVERY stop sign, and make a game of sprinting through the Mission, block to block. From my observation less than 1 in 10 other rider even bother to 'hollywood' at stop signs. I have yet to see an SDPF officer give a ticket to any bicyclist dispite witnessing dozens of oppourtuinties. I fear overzealous enforcment, although I stop and balance before proceeding, I ride with toe-clips and do not put me feet on the ground which may technically make me a law breaker.
I encourage the SFPD to curb the hundreds of blatant badly riding bicyclists without nit-picking or running 'stings' in an attempt to generate income the way they often do with motorists. To the Bicycle Coalition: grow up.

Posted by GuestBayview Bikerider on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

that the people of SF will start to take things more into their own hands.

The SFBC has probably got not so much time to get their act together.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

There must be rules in an inherently dangerous environment. I, too, am a real bike commuter and can't stand to see the idiocy flaunted by other riders. The first time they get bounced off their bikes, they will no doubt blame someone else.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

Riding a bicycle is an implicit right, not a privilege. Driving a car is a privilege.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 11:51 am

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