Stop wiggling around the bike debate

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EDITORIAL

Our blog post last week about traffic cops ticketing bicyclists riding the Wiggle on Bike to Work Day (see "Bike sting on BTWD," page 13) triggered heated reader reactions on both sides, as stories about bikes often do. Many are angry that cyclists routinely run stop signs, while cyclists argue police should focus enforcement on motorists who present a far greater danger to the public.

When we finally heard back from the San Francisco Police Department this week, a spokesperson said that targeted enforcement on the Wiggle is being driven by complaints, and that the SFPD is compelled to act on those complaints and can't selectively enforce traffic laws. A few people in the neighborhood have pledged in online forums to put a stop to the scofflaw behavior of cyclists there.

This presents an ideal opportunity for San Francisco to finally have a long-overdue discussion about traffic safety and how to encourage more people to ride bikes, which is official city policy — and for good reason in this era of global warming, fiscal austerity, and increasing traffic congestion.

The Wiggle — a series of city-posted turns snaking their way through Lower Haight — is a crucial east-west connection that is one of the most well-traveled bike routes in the city. But it also includes stop signs at the end of every block, six in all, that almost every cyclist slowly rolls through.

Rather than let a few people undermine the city's voter-approved policies promoting cycling, we should see this standoff as an opportunity to use intersection designs and traffic enforcement strategies that recognize it unnecessarily clogs up intersections for everyone when cyclists lose their momentum and have to start pedaling from a full stop.

So as part of the study of Wiggle intersections that is now underway, the city should give serious consideration to installing traffic circles at each of these intersections, something it should then consider for intersections throughout the city that have high volumes of cyclist traffic.

San Francisco should also start pushing statewide reforms like Idaho-style laws allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs, which wouldn't change when motorists or pedestrians have the right-of-way, simply enshrining into law how cyclists already ride.

In the meantime, the SFPD should focus on dangerous intersections and behaviors, as Police Chief Greg Suhr has already pledged, and clearly communicate that priority to traffic cops. As it does with marijuana laws, San Francisco should make a deliberate decision to not make criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

If thousands of San Franciscans are breaking the same law everyday, in the same intersections that actually have low collision rates, perhaps the problem is systemic. We should make changes that foster a respect for the law, not pursue crackdowns that will only feed division and hostility on our streets.

Comments

I've seen a few near collisions between cyclists and pedestrians.

It's a good idea for cyclists to follow all laws, and for there to be enforcement when they do not.

Posted by Guest on May. 13, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

"Near collisions" are often not and are not inherently unsafe.

Posted by marcos on May. 13, 2014 @ 5:49 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 6:23 am

@Guest - Complaint-driven anecdotes are indicative of many things, biases most definitely included, but public policy should be based on actual data. Over the years we have seen statements from Capt. Greg Corrales that indicate a very strong bias against bicyclists.

Posted by Jym on May. 16, 2014 @ 6:26 am

there are probably hundreds of tickets given to drivers for every one given to a cyclist?

SFPD have to ticket cyclists because, if they did not, cyclists would think they can break the law with immunity.

In fact, that perception exists anyway, which is why you see all those public complaints in the first place. Cyclists are perceived as thinking they are above the law, and the ridiculous arrogance of someone like marcos merely add to that perception.

The best way for a cyclist to avoid a ticket is to obey the law regardless of whether you personally agree with it or not.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2014 @ 7:00 am

There are thousands of motorists per bicycle yet only hundreds of tickets which means that cyclists are being ticketed at a rate of 10:1 to autos.

All this while motorists regularly speed, fail to stop, fail to yield to pedestrians essentially with impunity.

Posted by marcos on May. 16, 2014 @ 7:13 am

Your problem isn't with the proportion of tickets given to cyclists and drivers. Your problem is that ANY tickets are given to cyclists. And that is where you lose the plot.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2014 @ 7:19 am

Pedestrians just need to learn to be calm when I blow by them inches away at high speed!

There's nothing inherently unsafe about the "near collisions" I regularly have with pedestrians on my bike!

They need to get over any feelings of fear, anger, or rage they may have when I do that!

Posted by Marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 8:31 am

I only blow by them inches away at high speed when they are cluelessly and illegally occupying road space to which I have the right of way. My favorite sport is to get them to spill their coffee as I bike by them without hitting them. Extra points if they spill their coffee into their smart phone.

There are no laws that prohibit cyclists from bicycling impossibly close to a pedestrian who is illegally in the roadway.

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 8:44 am

Sometimes they wobble and fall off, which is even funnier.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 8:56 am

But that is against the law.

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 9:16 am

You are traffic too.

I see no difference.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 9:21 am

If the pedestrian were in a crosswalk or on the sidewalk, yes, then intentionally buzzing them unsafely would be illegal. But if they leap out into the street without warning illegally, then the onus is on them.

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 9:36 am

the driver or rider to anticipate sudden obstacles and easily stop or avoid them in time.

Essentially pedestrians always have the right of way, even if you think they should not be there.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 10:16 am

Like I say, I do not hit pedestrians when they are carelessly and illegally in the street, but when they are acting in a way that an uncaring vehicle operator could likely hurt or kill them, I try to scare the living bejesus out of them so that they might learn from the staged near collision incident and avoid endangering others in the future.

Of course if you operate a motor vehicle and kill someone, there is no assumption of responsibility for not hitting and killing a cyclist.

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

So when you illegally ride your bike on the sidewalk and I spook you, that's okay too, right? And if you should also happen to fall on your face... well... you shouldn't have been endangering yourself in the first place. But you would see that as a crime.

You just need to be flat out honest. You don't give a shit about pedestrians or car drivers. You think you should be able to ride however you like and fuck everyone else. But you won't say that because even in your narrow little worldview, you know it would show how big of an obnoxious horse's ass you are.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

On those rare occasions when I do ride on the sidewalk or crosswalk for safety reasons I do so as a guest and conduct myself with total deference to the rights of pedestrians.

I have never hit a ped and have never come close to hitting a ped. I've put my bike down before that ever happened.

No matter how many times you try to put words on the tips of my fingers, what you type is pure bullshit.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 5:38 am

You are arguing that it is OK for cars to blow through stop signs and lights as long as they do not hit anyone. Works for me.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 6:39 am

I am arguing for the law to be changed for cyclists so that we get to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. That is all.

You are an anonymous chickenshit troll.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 7:05 am
Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 8:55 am

You say you've never come close to hitting a ped but you were just bragging about buzzing peds as close as you can (and trying to get them spill their coffee on their smartphones) in order to "teach them a lesson".

Next time I see a cyclist riding on the sidewalk, I'm going to buzz him as close as I can or I'm going to "accidentally" drop a backpack in front of him in order to scare the living beejesus out of him so he might learn that he shouldn't be riding on the sidewalk. If he happens to face plant or veer face first into a tree, well then that's his fault for riding on the sidewalk.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 7:55 am

I've never come close to hitting a ped. I've buzzed peds who were illegally in the roadway or crosswalk, but never come anywhere near close to hitting one.

Once, a drunk white guy was crossing Fillmore at Union against the red light, so I gave him leeway and biked around him. He realized mid stride that he was jaywalking and turned around and tried to run back to the sidewalk except that i was legally in the crosswalk on the green at the time AND THE PEDESTRIAN WALKED INTO ME ON MY BICYCLE.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 8:10 am

charge related to you riding a bike, all these aggressive, arrogant posts here and elsewhere saying how you feel you do not have to obey laws you personally disagree with will come back to haunt you.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 8:56 am
Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 8:56 am

Next time I see some bicyclist illegally riding on the sidewalk or illegally blows through a stop sign and nearly hits a (legally crossing) pedestrian and I'm able to catch up to him, I'm going to remember this thread Marcos. I'm then going to do whatever I can to scare him into crashing and face planting. Because, you know, consequences for stupidity and all that.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 11:33 am

find all his posts here will be read out in court.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 11:45 am

Awesome, take your frustration on me out on others.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 11:57 am
Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

**except that i was legally in the crosswalk on the green at the time**

Except that by your own post you were NOT legally in the crosswalk. It is illegal to enter a crosswalk while a pedestrian is in it, WHATEVER color the light may be. Even if a pedestrian illegally jaywalks against a red "Do not walk" light, it is STILL illegal to enter the crosswalk until he has cleared it.

If you are going to ride on public roads.... LEARN THE RULES!

Richard

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 11:34 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2014 @ 7:05 am

Umbrellas are the perfect solution to bike riders who get too close. Just stick it in the front spokes. BINGO!

Posted by Richmondman on May. 14, 2014 @ 11:55 am

cyclists, dogs and, in many cases, people.

Any cyclist who comes to close to me is going to end up in an unsightly heap on the ground. And I won't even stop to see if they're OK, because I won't care.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

Hit me with a stick and you'll have a U-Lock worth of pain coming your way.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 5:38 am

disorientated heap on the ground.

Not that I couldn't whup an old queen like you anyway.

Interesting how you are always looking for confrontations though.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 6:38 am

can't say that I'm surprised.
SF would be a much better place if drivers, bikers, skateboarders, cops and pedestrians all collectively just acted a little bit less assholish.

really drivers? you like to get close to people on bikes?
really Marcos, you get off on almost hitting people?
really pedestrian, you didn't manage to look both ways before crossing the street?
really Man in Blue? Ticketing people who don't come to a complete stop in the Wiggle?

time for people to look inwards, determine when they are being an asshole, and then don't be one.

as for the Wiggle, why blow tons of $$ on roundabouts? how about just "Yield" signs for bikes?

Posted by guestD on May. 14, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

but in this case it's an imp.

*real lillipublicans or fake? Reader must decide!

Posted by lillipublicans* on May. 14, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

Anyone reading comments here can tell marcos has extreme anger and self-righteous issues. Anybody so damaged, or who lacks self-awareness, is no friend to anybody, including him or herself. Politics attracts many mentally damaged people for some reason. The emergence of internet hasn't helped since it's so easy for them to spread toxicity wherever they post. The best internet sites that deal with contentious issues like politics and economics have strong moderation to keep the crazies like anon, marcos and lilli - both real or fake versions - from destroying community space so that more respectful, self-controlled people can share ideas.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2014 @ 5:49 am
Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2014 @ 7:03 am

if the cyclist isn't keeping right or is swerving around.

The point was more that marcos was trying to claim the right to do something that he doesn't want drivers to do, and that is hypocrisy.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

Drivers driving legally must afford cyclists cycling legally 3' of clearance on shared roads. Cyclists operating legally must afford pedestrians who are walking legally in a crosswalk, the only legal place for a pedestrian to be in the roadway, the right of way.

There are no laws that limit how close a legal cyclist can come to an illegal pedestrian and that is why I buzz them, trying to get the aforementioned hat trick of coffee spoiling the smart phone.

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 7:30 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2014 @ 6:43 am

So many clueless, suicidal pedestrians today on the bike ride into work, from Mission and Second Street to Sansome, hoardes of peds with death wishes crossing against the red oblivious to any oncoming bicycle traffic.

At some point, this becomes a serial exercise in Darwinism.

Posted by marcos on May. 15, 2014 @ 7:04 am

These are never in the top 10 dangerous intersections, traffic enforcement should be focused on places where people are actually getting injured.

Having said that, I also think that cyclists should obey the law. I don't see why it is that big a deal to have to stop, especially since you should be slowing down anyway. I have almost been hit on my bicycle by jerks blowing stop signs. I always stop.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on May. 13, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

Cops get complaints about all sorts of conduct and turn a blind eye regularly to a wide range of significant public health threats.

That officers and the brass choose to enforce against cyclists on the wiggle is a discretionary call that signals the department's and individual cops' priorities.

Cyclists are second class citizens.

Posted by marcos on May. 13, 2014 @ 5:51 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 6:24 am

@marcos - I would guess it's the department's priorities and that this particular action was at the discretion of Capt. Greg Corrales, who has a long history of animosity towards bicyclists.

In his present role as commander he has graced us with alliteration- and adjective-laden newsletters recapping the week in law enforcement. One week he graced us with an item about a bicyclist "with a sense of entitlement" being ticketed for running a STOP sign in the Lower Haight. Around the same time there was not one but two motorists in the Lower Haight who had been driving at high enough speed that they actually flipped their vehicles, but he didn't see these incidents as worthy of mention, much less to convey deep psychological insight into the minds of the people behind the wheel.

One of his doozies back at the start of the war on Iraq was a rant about low attendance at a rally in support of the war, versus the large turnout at Critical Mass. The more obvious comparison would be with the anti-war rallies (with their even higher turnout), but that wasn't his focus. It seems to me that this kind of lopsided bias would be behind a ticketing sting on Bike to Work Day.

Posted by Jym on May. 16, 2014 @ 6:50 am

Bicyclists rule and we're ready to take over City Hall.

Posted by Guest on May. 13, 2014 @ 9:43 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 6:25 am

How's that playing nice with the SFPD working out for the SFBC?

Posted by marcos on May. 14, 2014 @ 6:37 am

Bunch of self-absorbed privileged affluent white kids with a sense of entitlement.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2014 @ 6:54 am

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