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

If a couple of cops are giving out tickets, you claim "harassment" and "victimization" and a "sting". But it's BS. There are something like 2,000 cops in SF and just 2 of them were ticketing bikes for an hour or two. How is that a disproportionate response to the fact that two pedestrians have been killed by cyclists in the last couple of years?

If we are going to have traffic laws and we are going to make cyclists obey them, then we have to have enforcement. And I guarantee you there are 100 tickets given out to drivers for every ticket a cyclist gets.

It's precisely the sense of entitlement that you are demonstrating here that London Breed referred to when she cited the perception problem of cyclists for "bad behavior".

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 3:45 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 @ 4:47 pm

F.U. - troll barrier.

Posted by Richmondman on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:31 am

Just wish he'd go back on his meds.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:49 am

I drive Valencia every morning and evening. Note once have I NOT seen some bike riding self absorbed idiot endangering others. I'm not talking about tatooed beard fuzzed hipsters I'm talking parents with their children on the handlebars or on the rear trailers running red lights and cutting into oncoming traffic.

What's the out roar going to be when the inevitable happens and some idiot kills their child then blames it on some one else?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

Nothing is ever their fault, apparently, even when they kill a pedestrian.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

you "gave the cop an earful"? WTF? What puts you above the law?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

is disingenuous for Leah to claim that there aren't any incidents there.

And the argument about momentum could easily be made by cars. Is that what you want - bikes not stopping at stops and cars rolling through stops as well? As we've seen, cyclists already get a bad rap for not obeying the rules without you proposing civil disobedience just because you personally cannot be bothered to stop.

Tim never did these endless rants about bikes. Why do you?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

You are the one misrepresenting the truth.

It's disingenuous for you to claim she said there are no conflicts as that's not even remotely close to what she said.

Here is what she actually said:

"When you look at the data on the Wiggle, it’s not a high collision area"

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

pedestrian fatality in that particular part of the city, that does not mean that there is no risk or problem.

As already noted, no cyclist had been killed where Amelie was killed recently at that precise location but clearly something should have been done to prevent it.

The Wiggle needs to be calmed.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:35 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 @ 5:13 pm

Like yours. Now quit complaining and pay your fine.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

he doesn't like the law. And because in one lousy, obscure State with hardly any people, they have a slightly different law.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

We need to become more like progressive Idaho, Comrades!

Let's change ***all*** our laws to be just like Idaho!

Posted by Idaho barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

"And because in one lousy, obscure State with hardly any people,"

You lie, Comrade!

Idaho has more people than Alameda County!

Barely.

Of course, Idaho is more than one hundred times the size of Alameda County...

Posted by Idaho barrier on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:03 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

I'll gladly agree to adopt Idaho's laws regarding bicyclists if we can also adopt their laws regarding firearms and CCWs.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

Most bicyclists I've seen do not follow the rules of the road. They ride on the sidewalk at really fast speeds, weave in and out of traffic, and ride with headphones on to where they can't hear anything around them. They act as if no one is on the road or sidewalk but them. They probably get as many people killed as drunk drivers because of not obeying the law. I can't stand bicyclists who try to charge right for me and expect me to move because they are on a bike. The entitlement attitude with bicyclists needs to stop.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 4:25 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 @ 4:47 pm

What on earth gives the SFPD the right to enforce a city law that Steven doesn't agree with?

Nothing, that's what. We need some type of state or federal investigation on this abuse of power by the SFPD.

Steven could not be clearer that he doesn't agree with this law, yet the SFPD thugs enforce it anyway.

It's scary. Washington, Sacramento...please help!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

times, to refer to in any conflict or situation?

If not, why not?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

Steven's saying, maybe with a picture of Mao or Che on the front?

It could be called something modest like "The wit and wisdom of Steven Jones" and should be included in all survival kits.

Posted by anon on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

I make it a habit to yield and come to a nearly complete stop at each stop in the wiggle. However, I'm going to be riding my bike in front of cars from now on in the wiggle on parts that do not include bike lanes (especially Waller). I would usually ride off to the side to allow cars to pass so they don't have to wait for me when I stop at stop signs to get up the momentum to gain speed again, but, from what I'm hearing in these comments, drivers would much rather us stop too. From now on, I'm going to take up the whole lane. It is my right. And you will know the annoyance of having a bicyclist in front of you. Slowing down for a stop. Churning the pedals to get going again. Please honk all you want at how slow I am being. I will not care. I will smile and laugh to myself. It is my right.

Posted by Roy McKenzie on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

CA law is quite clear that slower traffic should keep right, and you will get a ticket for obstructing traffic. You will also very likely get squashed like a bug if you have any bad luck or piss someone off.

London Breed had people like you, Steven and Moron-Marcos nailed.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 5:00 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 @ 5:13 pm

"Slower traffic must keep right" applies to traffic in multi-lane roads. A bicyclist is entitled to use of the entire lane. Too bad the wiggle and many other SF roads have only one lane each way.

Do you really think that the SFPD would ticket a car moving at 10 MPH for obstructing traffic? Why should they ticket a bicyclist peddling at that speed?

The trollocrats and the trollpublicans dominate this website.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

That's always been the case.

But the more important reason for bikes to keep right is because it is safer.

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

To your point a Bike Lane IS a Lane. The biker should be in that lane if it's present.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Sgt Ernst has instructed cyclists to pass on obstructions in the bike or right lane on the left, in a lane of traffic, at a safe, slow speed.

Problem?

Posted by marcos on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

same way that applies to any other vehicle.

But only when it is safe to do so. Otherwise, you wait. At least some of the cyclists killed by right-turning traffic did not hold back and wait.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

It would be quite nice if drivers and commercial vehicles could be bothered to acknowledge that. Almost every single time I ride I encounter at least one entitled person who decided to pull over into the bike lane with their emergency lights on because they're too important to find a parking place. Or a delivery vehicle that would prefer to take up two lanes of traffic rather than one. Just two days ago I was on Oak and Divisadero and I saw a UPS truck that had not only pulled over into the bike lane, but had manuevered around the poles set up to separate the bike lane from car traffic.

Trying to quickly manuever a bicycle around an obstruction in the lane is rather challenging and merging out of your lane is often far more problematic than it is with a car. Yet drivers continue to act like the bike lane is just a parking space or a shoulder rather than a full lane of traffic that deserves to be treated as such. I doubt drivers would appreciate it if cyclists pulled over to the left and just stopped in the car lane whenever they felt like taking a break or (and I've seen this very frequently as well) just chatting with a friend by the side of the road.

Posted by Belgand on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 3:51 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. 05, 2013 @ 7:38 am

traveling the speed limit. I travel about the same speed once I get my momentum going. It just takes me a bit longer to get there. I don't think police will ticket me for taking a few seconds longer to get to the speed limit. I'm allowed full use of the lane. Hopefully I won't get "squashed like a bug" by someone who decides to take out their road rage on a cyclist.

Posted by Roy McKenzie on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

situations in SF. The limit is usually 25 which takes time to achieve on a flat even if you are very fit. And impossible on any kind of hill of which we have many.

And remember also that the requirement to not obstruct traffic applies even if the other vehicles are exceeding the speed limit, and 35 is the de facto speed limit for cars in practice.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:07 am

for the law degree you earned by cashing in cereal box tops.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:07 am

would just throw out an empty claim and insult instead?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 8:41 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 @ 8:48 am

at between stops. On average bikes can keep up but not in the middle of blocks or on longer stretches with phased lights, where traffic runs more at 30-40.

Any bike taking an entire lane on fast streets like Gough/Franklin or Bush/Pine is going to be lucky to get away only with being horned, buzzed or driven off the road.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 9:59 am

I consistently take the entire lane as is my right. It's quite unsafe for cars to weave and dodge around you just so they can get a tiny bit further ahead. Something I see quite often as a car will rush up, jerk around, and then gun their engine just so they can reach a stop sign a second or two before me where I will wait behind them. It's not a legitimate issue most of the time, just a case of drivers who feel entitled to be the only thing on the road. Much like cyclists who run lights and ride on sidewalks or pedestrians who cross against the light, fail to stop at intersections and check for traffic, or jaywalk in the middle of the block. Pretty much everyone out there has a massive sense that they're the most important person on the road and everyone else should just stop and work around them.

Of course, I also make a full and complete stop at every light and stop sign and signal before all turns. It's for my safety as much as anyone else. You stop getting a right to complain about the poor behavior of other people and their failure to follow the law when you can't be bothered to do so yourself.

Posted by Belgand on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 3:59 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. 05, 2013 @ 7:39 am

stop sign and light. If all cyclists did that, they'd probably get a lot more support and sympathy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 8:24 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. 05, 2013 @ 7:39 am

comment about traffic laws.

The American Internet Bar Association is working on your disbarment.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

It's an opinion and, in your case, misguided and incorrect.

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

you at best misinterpreted, then I'll look up the one that is common knowledge that bicyclists are vehicles that are entitled to full use of the lane.

I still remember it from drivers education and from the DMV booklet I read prior to the written part of the drivers license test.

Until then, enjoy my sense of humor.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

but you thought you would just gainsay it anyway, whatever it was?

Sorry, buddy, but you're going to have to do your own homework.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:10 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 @ 9:53 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 @ 9:54 pm
Posted by barrier man on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 9:00 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 @ 8:48 am

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