A Troubling Story of SFPD Bias Against Bicycle Riders

crash_scene.jpgAn injured bicyclist is loaded onto a gurney by paramedics on 14th Street and Market Thursday evening after being hit by a driver. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

Thursday was a momentous day for the growing and diverse population of people who ride bicycles in San Francisco, though as I’m about to relate to you, the city still has a steep hill to climb, particularly in the San Francisco Police Department.

All day, my job took me to the sites of new bicycle improvements: California’s first green bike box, the city’s first physically separated bike lane and bike racks installed on sidewalks. Although these additions are baby steps toward making the city more bicycle friendly, they are important symbols, and they were roundly cheered by bicycle riders who have been starved for even minimal improvements.

As I coasted eastbound down Market nearing Church on my way home from the Lower Haight last night, I was confronted by a grim picture, the stark reality of life that daily bicycle commuters intimately imagine any time a door is opened into our path, or a vehicle makes an unsuspecting right or left turn without seeing, or caring, that we are riding there.

At the scene, to my left, a woman was lying in the crosswalk on 14th Street, surrounded by paramedics and SFPD officers. The intersection was illuminated by the flashing red and blue lights of emergency vehicles and patrol units. My first thought was, "another serious pedestrian injury or fatality in a crosswalk."

The injured woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, was in fact hit by a northbound
driver in a gray Toyota Camry making an illegal left turn onto 14th Street from
Church, according to a witness. She was on a bicycle and
the wrecked light-blue 70s Gitane ten-speed, with its crank arms and wheels bent, was resting on a utility pole outside
Trigger. It was hard to tell, but it appeared as though she had been seriously injured: her head
was in a brace. The driver, an unidentified woman, remained behind the
wheel, parked in the crosswalk, talking on a cell phone while
paramedics tended to the victim and officers interviewed witnesses.

The injured woman was then loaded
onto a gurney and into the ambulance, where she remained surrounded by
paramedics, and was rushed to the hospital. The only witness I could find was Carlos Corujo, the owner of the Freewheel Bike Shop in the Mission, who saw the whole thing, with his 3-year-old niece in his arms.

"I
was walking across the crosswalk and I saw a girl on a bike coming the
other direction and she was hit while the driver was taking a left-hand
turn," he said. "I looked at the
light right after the accident just to see who had the right of way,
for sure, and the bicyclist had the right of way." He pointed out that
a sign nearby said it is illegal to make a left turn onto 14th Street. In fact, there are three signs around the intersection.

crash_scene_2.jpgThe driver remained in her vehicle talking on a cell phone during the investigation.

And now to the very disconcerting part about the police. As I tried to get information from three SFPD police officers on the scene of the crash, two of them showered me with unadulterated disdain for bicyclists and pedestrians. One officer said she thought bicyclists and pedestrians are always at fault in crashes and that they are stupid for not watching out for drivers. She was very upset with cyclists running red lights. She told me the bicyclist was at fault in this crash without any knowledge that a witness was saying the opposite.

Another officer complained that bicyclists should be ticketed a lot more, then he said that he thought San Francisco bicyclists should all be moved to Treasure Island, where presumably they wouldn’t be in the way. Though I deplore the argument made by some that cyclists are second-class citizens or that they face bias and discrimination in a way that resembles African Americans or other people of color in the U.S., this perverse suggestion by a sworn officer of the law is despicable. When it dawned on him that his bigotry might make it into my story, given
the bright pink SFPD press badge dangling around my neck, he made a slightly menacing reference to memorizing the information on my pass.

In a follow-up interview today, Corujo said that when he was being interviewed by the officers they seemed to have a preconceived idea of what happened, and were fixated on confirming whether the woman had lights on her bike.

"It seems like they were trying to bias the story to even out the score or something," said Corujo. "I don’t know if they were even listening to the idea that [the driver] had made an illegal turn."

Bicycle riders routinely report this kind of hostile reaction from the people sworn to protect and serve, but when I interviewed San Francisco’s new police chief,
George Gascon, a few months ago, I was encouraged that he seemed to be
more open to embracing bicyclists than his predecessor, Heather Fong. He even promised to go on a bike ride with
Streetsblog, though we’re still awaiting a firm date. 

Even if Chief Gascon’s approach to enhancing the effectiveness of his police force through Compstat bodes well for the city in certain respects, no amount of data analysis will dispel preconceived notions and prejudice among his personnel. The bias against bicyclists by some SFPD officers is a deeply endemic
problem on the force that needs to be addressed immediately, especially
as the city is installing more bicycle improvements, and the number of
bicyclists is expected to soar.

I can’t help but wonder what the "accident" report from last night is going to say. I imagine it will fault the bicyclist, despite what Corujo said, and it’s very likely the driver won’t be cited. Clearly, in the minds of these officers, drivers hold an entitlement to the streets, and bicyclists and pedestrians be damned.

For the sake of the injured woman on 14th and Church and for any cyclist involved in a crash in San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department must not disregard the rights of anyone, particularly people who choose one form of mobility over another.

All of this was no surprise to Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

"It’s not only deeply disturbing that this bias against bicyclists
still exists within the SF Police Department, but I believe it is
illegal, given the Department’s responsibility to uphold the law fairly
and without personal bias. Chief Gascon should make it a priority
to educate his officers and hold them accountable. Without leadership
from the new Chief, there is no doubt in my mind that bicyclists will
continue to bear the brunt of a dangerously biased police force. In
this day and age, San Francisco cannot turn a blind eye to this."

SFPD public affairs returned my phone calls late this afternoon, and was expected to get back to me with a response, and more details on the crash.

crash_scene_4.jpg
  • kit

    If the comparisons to other underrepresented populations make people uncomfortable, ok, I get it. But comparison or not, cyclists are second class citizens on the roadway, dramatically underprivileged in size, power, and respect. Throwing a leg over the top tube is a choice we all make, but that doesn’t make the discrimination any less worthy of disdain.

    Discrimination is discrimination. It’s always wrong. Some is just more deeply rooted, and more inescapable.

  • kit

    Secondly, you really should provide your photos of the scene to the accident victim if at all possible so she may file suit against this driver. If criminal law won’t protect us then we damn well should try civil law. The almighty dollar is a language Americans understand.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    It should come as no surprise when you encounter bigoted, ignorant police. It’s practically a job requirement. Other groups widely hated by police include: blacks, chinese, mexicans, women, kids, teenagers, people who ride the bus, poor people, people not born and raised in San Francisco, jews, muslims, and atheists. And that’s just based on the cops I’ve encountered personally.

    I certainly hope you have time to chase down this story and get a copy of the police report.

  • zsolt

    It would have been helpful to take down the name of the officer. Then we all could write letters to his chief and Gascon and the Mayor with exact details of an incident. That is always more effective and embarrassing than vague general claims about police conduct.

  • zsolt

    Nevertheless, yes, let’s please follow this story. We have a witness.

  • Andrew K

    I was hit by a car at Fillmore and Sacramento last year, as I was passing through an intersection. I was going straight through a green light, and a guy in his Jag convertible made a left turn right in front of me. Although I was paying attention and wasn’t riding too fast at all, I was unable to swerve out of the way before this guy hit me.

    Anyway, that’s not the point – the point is that a couple of SFPD officers nearby came to my aid, took my statement and the driver’s, and offered me a ride home (since my bike was pretty banged up). They were really kind. I’m sad that there are some officers in the force who clearly don’t respect cyclists the way those officers respected me. I don’t know whether there is an institutional bias against cyclists in the SFPD, or whether there are just a few bad apples. But I hope that all officers eventually understand that we all have rights, just like motorists or pedestrians. We need to share the roads and watch out for each other.

  • Sprague

    Thank you for this fair and balanced piece.

  • Bryan – I got into a pissfit on another thread yesterday about my use of the term second-class citizen. I don’t hesitate to use it. I decided to drop the argument today but on Caltrain (another organization who would love to be done with us for good except for intervention from higher entities) I was thinking if I were to continue I would say that the prevailing wisdom is that if you are involved in an accident, it was your fault simply because you are on a bike. With the SFPD it seems like you just need to draw the right officer if you want your rights respected. In Woodside, the cops responded to the death of Peterson and Gough by running a sting on cyclists.

    Lo and behold we get this incident. Kit is right – it’s escapable, I can simply decide I will not ride a bike.

    Hyperbole, perhaps. It does have the positive effect of creating great empathy for others who are discriminated against. Does cycling draw progressive minds, or does it create them? Regardless, I do like their company…

  • noah

    These officer’s attitudes are unquestionably deplorable. I’ve always wondered, though, about the “ticketing cyclists” issue. Is it even empirically true that cyclists are ticketed less often than drivers? I mean, in terms of total numbers it’s clearly true, because there are a lot more cars on the road than bikes. But I wonder if it’s true that cops let bike violations slide at a higher rate than automobile violations. I’m all for enforcing the rules of the road equitably*, but it’s not clear to me that it’s an actual problem.

    *note: equitably, not equally. It makes sense to let certain violations slide, based on the context in which they occur. Which you let slide is often different for a bike than a car. For example, I don’t think every car going 30 in a 25 should get a ticket, but that’s not an issue for a bike. On the other hand, I don’t think every time a cyclists rides on the wrong side should get a ticket (though, in some instances they should), but clearly cars should always get tickets in those situations.

  • janel

    I always feel unsafe biking through this intersection. It is extremely wide with many complicated turning movements. Perhaps this would be a good site for pilot green bike lanes across the intersection.

    Copenhagen paints nearly all their intersections with blue bike lanes:

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/186/371113026_5373b8c162.jpg

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3197/3079342059_d9862245dd.jpg

    Portland’s study of their painted lanes through intersections showed that after installation, motorists yielded more frequently to cyclists, appeared to look for cyclists more frequently before crossing the bike lane, slowed down more, and it reduced the number of conflicts. See the study here http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=58842 (pdf)

    As for the cops, how about some bike training and a switch to the Idaho-style stops which would make it more acceptable to do what is most reasonable and predictable. I think because the Idaho-style stop makes all vehicles act predictably it reduces crashes. After it was implemented, bike injuries in Idaho decreased 15% http://theathleteslawyer.com/cases/bicycle-injuries-145-lower-a-year-after-the-idaho-stop-law/

  • Sprague, where do I begin? I hesitate to talk to you as though you are Fox News viewer, but not every stories needs to be as you say “fair and balanced” (all jokes about FN aside). The cops were obviously coming into the situation with a bias, how else do you report that? Is Bryan then forced to say, “well, the lady was on a bike so in the car’s defense…” NO! If I walk into a store and take something, there is only one side to that story – I took something. I can’t start blaming the store for having enticing items.

    Not every story has a left and a right. This is basic stuff here. In this case, the car turned left against a light and in a place that it is illegal to do so. There isn’t a balanced side to the argument.

  • janel

    Also, in SF in 2007 there were 451 reported bicyclist injuries, an increase of 108 from the year before. This is about 1.2 reported bike injuries per day!!

    I just found out the MTA does not have a set goal to reduce these injuries because they claim they don’t have the stats to figure out whether the injuries are increasing because there are more bicyclists on the road. They don’t have this data because they have not yet installed the automated bike counters. Time to get busy!

  • jake

    There are approximately 400 injury-accidents a year in SF, one a day. We never hear of them until now. Streetsblog should interview some ER doctors as a story and get their take on it.

    The animosity against cyclists in America is stunning. It’s like the worst of 2 worlds: the combination of a sick car-culture with a hint of queer-phobia.

    “Get a car you f-n homo…” heard at the last Critical Mass as it passed by a sports bar. Classy.

  • This is interesting to me in light of the upcoming essay I’m about to write for my Rhetorical Criticism class which will be a Feminist criticism on how the design of San Francisco streets reflects an ideology of automobile domination, relating non-motorists’ being forced to navigate through an “auto-normative” setting to womens’ being forced to navigate through a male-normative, patriarchal society.

    While I would never disagree with you, Bryan, that comparing the oppression of an optional identity such as a bicyclist to that of more concrete identities such as women, non-heterosexuals or racial minorities is unfair, there are connections to look for, and I’m really glad to see this pointed out in such a powerful, albeit unfortunate, story.

    I must also point out that the most obvious evidence of the oppression of bicyclists (and overall non-motorists), aside from cases like this, is their absence. When you think about all the people who are reinforcing the status quo with car-use, and not choosing bicycling, walking, or riding transit (which are immensely more logical and potentially beneficial), the reason for such a situation becomes more apparent: the danger and stigmas attached to choosing those alternatives.

  • skd

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Bigotry and acts of violence against a particular group, such as bicyclists; or unequal protection under the law, is discrimination and hate. Do we need a “Bicyclists Civil Rights Act”?

  • jake

    Aaron, that interesting. I’ve noticed that people think it’s acceptable to discriminate against bicyclists for the very reason that it is an optional identity.

  • the greasybear

    Bike without a headlight: fix-it ticket. Car turning left where left turns are explicitly and obviously barred, like crowded 14th and Market: moving violation, and the direct and sole cause of the accident that sent this poor girl to the hospital.

    It is entirely unacceptable for any SFPD officer to stack the deck against any particular accident victim as an expression of bias against the whole group to which she belongs. The San Francisco Police Department must be explicitly trained to treat each cyclist fairly and without bias, in all circumstances, and these particular officers must prove to the public they can indeed be trusted to keep their jobs.

  • Tristan Phillips

    #15:

    Absolutely bicyclists should have a civil rights act. Here…I’ll help with the first rule:

    As bicyclists use roadways designed for multiple types of motor vehicle traffic, and must share the road with these vehicles, bicyclists using roadways must follow ALL the rules and regulations pertaining to motor vehicles as prescribed by law.

    That looks like a good first rule. As a motorcyclist who commutes around a large University this would help a lot with the issues surrounding bicycles and ALL motor vehicle traffic.

  • peternatural

    Tristan, that rule is already in effect. Score one for the world as it already is!!

  • Jesus…this brings back some bad memories…I was hit by a car at the intersection of Church and Duboce. The driver wasn’t making an illegal move but I definitely had the right of way since I was already in the intersection making a left turn. I was really amazed at how nonchalant the driver was about the whole incident. I looked and sounded like shit. On top of having some nasty road rash on my face and fingers, I could barely speak because in the fall and crash the strap to my helmet had basically choked me and my voice was lost. I was lucky that some super nice British kids had seen the whole thing and were helping me out. After giving me her insurance and DMV info the driver said that she had to leave cause she was late to work! She was wearing scrub clothes which makes me believe she works at a hospital, how ironic is that? I wanted her to stick around for a police report, but when I called 911 the dispatcher said she couldn’t send out police unless I was really injured and required an ambulance ride the the hospital, which I really didn’t need. So I said screw it and had my friend pick me up and take me home. It was only when I arrived home at the pleading of my roommates that I did call an ambulance and police finally showed up. I got a police report but I was not at the scene of the accident and the driver was probably at work by now. In the aftermath, I was pretty fortunate. The driver admitted fault to her insurance and I eventually received a nice settlement. The rider who was hit on Thursday should definitely look into her legal rights since it appears from the witnesses that the driver was at fault making an illegal turn. And she should receive a huge settlement for her pain and suffering and damage. I really hope she’s gonna be ok…

  • Jym

    =v= The full gamut of oppression faced by women, people of color, and those of nonmajority sexual orientations is not to be trivialized by hyperbole, and I do not argue that bicyclists face the same treatment. We should, however, be able to reasonably discuss when distinct elements of that oppression are happening, particularly when they are employed by authorities who are sworn not to employ those elements.

    Not all bias is based on an inherent and inescapable attribute such as race. Our laws are wise to recognize the greater seriousness of that kind of bias, but they are also wise to recognize that civil rights should not be rescinded on the basis of such things as religion, creed, or financial circumstances. The bias that bicyclists face isn’t like that faced by people of color, but I would liken it to that faced by Quakers while Puritans were in power, or socialists while HUAC ran amok. It has left some of us just as ruined, injured, or dead.

  • and remember, they always get pay raises, no matter what…your Mayor loves to bust budgets with big pay and pensions for the police…

  • Susan King

    I hope the cyclist is ok. I use this intersection frequently and it is a free-for-all. It really sucks that all the bad PR is on cyclists who break the law (mostly for innocuous things like rolling through stop signs at empty intersections) while motorists are given a free pass for doing things like texting while driving (40% of young drivers admit that they do this), that can cause real harm to others.

    When Greg Corrales was Captain of the Traffic Division, he was quoted in the paper asserting that ‘all cyclists’ are law breakers’ and something about us being ‘hooligans’. When he came to the Bicycle Advisory Cte to explain himself, he related his experiences with critical mass and stood by his assumptions that cyclists are law breakers. He later explained to us that the recent cyclist fatality on Fulton and Steiner was the cyclists fault, even though there was no conclusive evidence (the cyclist struck a truck in the intersection, it was unclear who had the right of way and only one witness, the driver, stated he thought the light was yellow when he entered). Nonetheless, fault was laid on the dead cyclist, with the infraction of ‘entering an intersection when it was unsafe to do so’. This can be the case for any collision in an intersection, regardless of red light running. There is a deep seated bias against cyclists involved in collisions with motorists, as stories like these illustrate.

    ride safe.
    susan

  • Nick

    You can probably take this argment a step further and say the police go out of their way to not enforce violations against cyclists. The third highest fine in the City is blocking a bike lane at $103, and in a year of epic budget shortfalls it goes virtually unenforced. Third highest.

    The highest fine is parking in a handicap zone at $300 and the second highest is parking is a bus zone at $250.

  • Can we get an update on this story on Monday? Thanks for being there and investigating the situation Bryan. So many things here…

    I think we need a Mandeville Canyon case for SF.

    http://www.velonews.com/article/99800

    Why not this one? Or the cyclists who were hit on Valencia a few months ago? etc. etc. Different details, not road rage in these cases, but a few high profile cases where big civil/criminal suits are won against oblivious and careless defendants might really help.

    And of course these cops were biased. They ride around in a patrol car all day.

  • M.

    Last week I was hit by a motorcycle at 14th and Valencia. The motorcycle was speeding, passing cars on the right in the bike lane trying to run the light, when I was trying to make a left turn as the light was turning from yellow to red. Out of the two riders on the motorcycle, the driver fled the scene and the other guy took the rap. He had a broken foot, couldn’t have possibly been driving. My friend, who was there with me, tried to point this out to the police, but they wouldn’t listen and didn’t even cite him! They said if they were going to cite him (for speeding), they would have to cite me for turning in front of him, even though he was speeding, passing on the right in the bike lane, and going towards a yellow light. My friend told me he didn’t even have insurance! I ended up with two broken legs and an incredibly sore lower back and the motorcyclist got away clean. I can definitely relate to this article!

  • G

    Justin, some of them are actually cyclist police. But they break all the rules (which they are allowed, by CA state law… ) but still — watching them ride their bikes on the sidewalk, the wrong way makes me feel for their loved ones. Don’t they study the stats showing the best risk reduction strategy is to ride with traffic in the street?

  • Tom Brown

    @Andrew K Good to hear SFPD treated you well, but did they also cite the driver?

    @M I would take the citation, it was your best chance of ever getting anything from SFPD. Let the court sort out dismissing your ticket. Things wouldn’t look good for guy who ran from an injury accident. With tickets from the police you would have a chance of showing he was at fault. A friend lost about $10000 because the cops gave him the same story, he left without anything significant from the police and then in court his only evidence was his word vs the other party; citations would have helped /a/lot/.

  • christie LaRussell

    First I will clarify what I am about to write and say that I am an avid cyclist. When I use the term “cyclists” I am refereeing to the sport of road distance riding and have been a rider for more years than I care to count. I also have my city bike. I also have a Burley Tail Wagon for my dog. I am also a pedestrian and a motorist. I share the road. I play by the rules. When I am on my bike I do not pass other bikes on the right, I do not run stop signs, I signal, when I pass another bike I let ‘em know. When I am a pedestrian, I wait for my turn to cross the intersection. When I am driving I do the same and give room to bikes.

    I invite all of you to get to know our Lower Haight Beat Cops as us property and business owners have done, they are actually good guys and are trying to help us clean up the hood.

    It is unfortunate that so many city riders are using their bikes as weapons while complaining that car drivers are doing the same. This hostility has got to stop. It’s dangerous. The solution is simple, enjoy the bike and play by the rules. You are traffic start acting like it.

    I was hit as a pedestrian and severely hurt because some yahoo ran the stop light at Haight and Steiner. I was hit again and taken down while on my bike, and again hurt, by another yahoo who tried to make an illegal turn and lost control. I have a friend who was hit in the crosswalk in the wiggle and got his ribs broken by a rider who did not stop. A dog was killed in the wiggle by a bike that did not stop.

    I walk through he wiggle several times a day to take my dog to the park and I am not exaggerating when I say I feel like I take my life in my hands trying to cross the street. Not only do very few bike stop, they don’t even slow down and yell at us in the crosswalk. When I say stop I don’t mean “feet on the ground”, I mean a bike stop… slow down and wait your turn. If you don’t, you deserve a ticket. I am all for ticketing bikes who don’t ride responsibly.

    There is a saying, it takes less energy to be nice than not. Try it and you will have a better experience out there.

  • @M. – In addition to the reasons you listed against the motorcycle, the fact that he/she was riding a MOTORcycle and you a ~45-pound, human-powered bike should automatically put more responsibility on the motorcyclist, and trying to equate the two is inherent bias on the officers’ part.

    @ Christie – I ride the Wiggle (and definitely yield to peds) but also would be hesitant to cross a street on it. I think the problem is street design – they’re designed at an automobile scale, so bike riders tend to feel the need or ability to move faster and that the markings or signs aren’t really directed at them. Things like corner bulb-outs would really help not only to reduce crossing distance for pedestrians, but also increase the awareness of them by people on bikes and in cars as well as improve intersection visibility by removing tail-end parking spots. Our intersections in general tend to have a feeling of excessive spaciousness for drivers and bicyclists, leading them on to disregard pedestrians. Police enforcement can only do so much and take away time from more serious matters.

  • Cager with a roof rack I know, I know, it’s serious!

  • SomaB

    Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you for shining a light on this issue in general and coming to the victim’s aid here.

    While it seems like other cities might have it worse, every unfortunate interaction I’ve had with the SFPD was like taking a quick trip to Glenn Beck Crazy Universe with a good dash of Psycho Stasi thrown in for good measure. It’s a general problem, not limited to anti-bicycle/pedestrian and pro-car bias, but that’s one of the biggies. Moreover I think the comparison to racial/gender/orientation bias is totally valid, and there’s no need to get in a big tizzy, commenters, about levels of discrimination and historical precedent etc.

    In any event, hopefully your work here will help things change, or at least help the victim in this case. StsBlg continues to be a vital part of the conversation in SF.

  • EL

    Until the police report is written and the author reads it, any statements regarding the 14th/Church collision are nothing but assumptions. If I were any of the officers, I wouldn’t have even talked to the author at all, since the author is clearly a distraction from their duty to investigate the collision.

    Based on the witness statement, the vehicle making the illegal left-turn is primarily at-fault. The absence of a headlight on the bicyclist is a contributory factor to poor nighttime visibility and will be used against the bicyclist as an example of not exercising due care and caution. All this means is that if there is a payout, less will be paid than if there was a headlight.

  • Ajay

    What we need is more cops on bicycles. Then they’ll see the world through the bicyclists’ eyes. Plus, cops on bicycles can do a better job of responding to crime than cops in cars.

  • Baronpilot

    In March of this year a 72 year old vietnamese immigrant was mowed down while riding his three wheel adult trike. He was at an intersection and a very tall monster truck turned right and killed him.

    The driver of the truck was a soldier, back from Iraq. He did not have insurance. After coaching by Westminster police, he changed his story. No charges were filed. Here are two stories:

    http://www.ocregister.com/news/truck-208378-cyclist-bike.html

    http://www.ocregister.com/news/dieu-126681-gloria-vu.html

    ***************************
    Last week a 9 year old boy, Nicholas Martley, was ran over by another monster truck. He was in a cross walk in front of the raised pickup, and was killed.

    http://www.ocregister.com/news/mortley-222539-boy-school.html

    ***************************

    So, in a relatively small area in Orange County we’ve got two gruesome killings of bicyclists by monster trucks. The owners of the trucks install lift kits, etc. to raise the vehicles which impairs their vision, and then explain why they kill innocent people because “I never saw them.”

    Is this Alice in Wonderland??? How can you raise you truck so you can’t see a bicyclist and then explain the death of the cyclist by saying you didn’t see them?

  • smushmoth

    @aaron, good job of passing the responsibility.

    I live on the wiggle (and commute by bicycle daily) and had my leashed dog in the crosswalk hit by a cyclist riding up haight turning left at scott blowing by a car yielding for me. Of course he did not stop, but told me it was a dog eat dog world. After asking the pedestrian people, Nick Ford, who is a city bike person, if the city, or the SFBC could do some outreach to slow the bikes down in the neighborhood, they told me that if I had a problem I should contact the police.

  • Nick

    Sounds like a troll attempt. He hit your dog then told you it was a dog eat dog world.

    You said he didn’t stop, but still had time to make a witty comment while no doubt traveling at an excessive rate of speed.

  • smushmoth

    I can send you the email exchange with Nick Ford if you’d like. The rider was traveling west up Haight and turning right onto Scott, I was crossing from the South with a car stopped on the north side (facing west) on the for me to cross the street. The rider passing the car on the right just went through the intersection.

  • smushmoth

    I looked at my email, it wasn’t Nick Ford, it was Nick Carr (both such great names for a cycling coordinator)

  • Kevin Mac

    Its hard to see bicyclist at night, especially on the dark streets. They should all be ticketed for not having lights on their bicycles. I have also had several near collision with bicyclist that run stop signs at four way intersections (some going extremely fast). I would hate to have one of them die because they failed to stop for a stop sign. I think the SFPD should start ticketing the bicyclists, until they they get a clue that they have to follow the rules of the road.

  • zsolt

    “Until the police report is written and the author reads it, any statements regarding the 14th/Church collision are nothing but assumptions. If I were any of the officers, I wouldn’t have even talked to the author at all, since the author is clearly a distraction from their duty to investigate the collision.”

    I know, heaven forbid a member of the press is on hand to observe and ask questions!! I thought that’s a sign of a democracy.

  • @shushmouth: How am I passing the responsibility? I said I definitely yield to pedestrians (implying that everyone should), and then I explored actual solutions to the situation based on what the evidence all points to – street design. What’s your solution – keep being mad at cyclists? Pay police to sit there and ticket and create a hostile environment?

    The point is not to try to pass responsibility from cyclists, it’s about looking at what guides the behavior of cyclists and all users. Education may help in the short-term, but we need real, long-term solutions that will guide the behavior of any person using our streets, “educated” or not.

    If you don’t want the pedestrian improvements I proposed, then I don’t know who can help you.

  • smushmoth

    @aaron,
    Let see, you wrote
    “I ride the Wiggle (and definitely yield to peds) but also would be hesitant to cross a street on it. I think the problem is street design”

    That is passing the buck.

  • Right, so I said I’m careful when I’m on a bike there and that I also feel unsafe as a pedestrian there. Perhaps you’re misinterpreting what I’m saying… I’m just trying to acknowledge cyclists’ responsibility as well as the unsafe situation for pedestrians. Can you be more specific?

  • smushmoth

    Dude, quit blaming “street design” for large numbers of cyclists ignoring the large red octagonal sign to the point of not even applying their brakes, to the point of YOU being hesitant to cross the street. (I’ve counted, it is a single digit percentage who even slow down and don’t talk to me about cars as the counts show that they as a whole do stop). The city bike (including the SFBC) and pedestrian people know that those intersections are a problem. When asked if they could station people (cyclists) down there to educate cyclists and skateboarders about their responsibilities, in the same way the SFBC put someone (and should still on occasion) at the corner of Masonic and Fell to educate drivers about the Red Arrow, they basically told me to “suck it” and call the park police station.

  • SFResident

    @smushmoth:

    “as the counts show that they as a whole do stop”

    I’m honestly curious where I can find these “counts?” Because in my experience as a pedestrian neither bicyclists nor motorists care much for stop signs – and I certainly worry about the cars more than the bikes. Can you provide a link to some raw data or peer-reviewed articles?

    “When asked if they could station people (cyclists) down there to educate cyclists and skateboarders about their responsibilities”

    That would cost a lot of money and/or volunteer time and these organizations have very limited resources. If you’re so concerned about this why not be the good citizen and do it yourself? Print out handbills or something.

    You seem to be viewing this whole issue through a moral lens which might make you feel self-righteous but isn’t going to lead to safer or better streets. Bad street design in the wiggle area doesn’t excuse bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians who break the law but it does help to explain why so many of them do it and what we can do to fix or lessen the problem.

  • smushmoth

    I’m not looking at this through a self righteous lens, I’m looking at it as a neighbor who had his leashed dog hit by a bike that failed to yield.

    As for counts, sit out and count the cars and bikes stop or even slow down at the corner of Haight and Scott.

  • smushmoth

    Also the SFBC had no problem getting people to hand out flyers to their winter fest, I must have been handed at various times. They also seem to be able to still get people to set up repair station on occasion in the Panhandle or the next to the Duboce bikeway. When it comes to finding some volunteers to ask for some personal responsibility or safety, volunteers are too hard to find.

    Aaron himself said that he is hesitant to cross the street along the wiggle because of cyclists, don’t you think there is a problem?

  • the greasybear

    @smushmoth:

    We might take more seriously your challenge to the SFBC to go after cyclists you think are riding badly if–if–you were already on record somewhere publicly holding AAA accountable for not taming bad San Francisco motorists, like the one who ran over my foot in a crosswalk. Or the one who hit and knocked a child off a bike on Valencia and then fled justice.

    But you haven’t called for AAA to go after such bad motorists, have you? You haven’t applied the same standards to motorists and their lobbyists that you hold cyclists and our advocates to, have you?

  • Look, we all have the common goal of wanting safer streets where cyclists (and motorists) yield to people walking. The question is how to make that happen.

    I understand you’re frustrated, but looking at it the way you are, as I understand it, is too simplistic and the solutions are weak – think about it:

    – How much will this educational campaign really reach people? If you’ve worked in any kind of campaigning, nonprofit communications, or advertising or PR at all, you’ll know how hard it is to really get a response.
    – Even if you reached everyone, how long would the effect last? Is there a foreseeable point at which the cyclist culture on the Wiggle will just shift and everyone will be more mindful of pedestrians?
    – As SFResident has pointed out – how economically viable or sustainable is this?

    On the other hand, if you actually research traffic behavior (or human behavior in general), you’ll find yourself looking at the conditions that lead to this behavior and asking how those changes can be improved. The biggest determining factors of patterns of human behavior are the social and physical conditions in which they are present – this basic principle applies to traffic (and therefore street design). Street changes not only prove to be a very effective method time and time again – they are inherently effective, as it is the very environment through which users must navigate.

    Now, the Wiggle is a major bike route with a high volume of cyclists (which bolsters an extra sense of safety and right-of-way for them). While we want to encourage the use of this route, we also want to maintain the safety of pedestrians. But these intersections, like 99% of San Francisco, have tight sidewalk corners and long, barely marked crosswalks.

    You yourself, smushmoth, have said you’re a daily cyclist. Imagine the difference approaching one of those intersections at which the sidewalk extends into the crosswalk to the width of the parking lane, the crosswalk marked brightly in yellow solid stripes. And the corner doesn’t have a parked car on either edge of it, so you have a wide field of vision.

    On the other hand, picture yourself crossing one of those intersections by foot – approaching a minimal-length, heavily marked crosswalk, which before you enter places you in an open field of vision for bicyclists and motorists to see (maybe even with some pedestrian-scale lighting).

    Now, honestly tell me which one will make you feel safer – flyers and promoters or a pedestrianized streetscape.

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