SFPD Numbers Confirm Cops Targeting Bicyclists on Market Street

A cop ticketing a bicyclist on Market Street earlier this year. Photo: ##http://sfcitizen.com/blog/##SF Citizen##

Despite the department’s insistence that officers are not targeting bicyclists on Market Street, new numbers from the San Francisco Police Department confirm that cops are going after people on bikes following two high-profile crashes.

Last Friday, as part of SFPD’s traffic safety campaign [pdf], officers beefed up enforcement at 5th and Market and issued a total of 83 citations, mostly to bicyclists, but not a single driver was cited.

Here’s the breakdown, according to numbers provided to Streetsblog by SFPD:  30 bicyclists were cited for running red lights, 21 bicyclists were ticketed for riding on the sidewalk, 16 were cited for “bikes without brakes,” 3 “skateboarders on the sidewalk” were given tickets, and 1 pedestrian was cited for “jaywalking.” The SFPD said “12 misc. citations” were handed out, but withheld specifics.

Why weren’t drivers given any tickets?

“Because the drivers actually followed the rules of the road during the period that the officers were out there that day,” said SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza.

In an interview with Streetsblog yesterday, Police Chief Greg Suhr insisted that officers aren’t specifically targeting bicyclists. He confirmed that the department has stepped up enforcement in general on Market Street.

“It’s just vehicle code violations, generally. It’s actually the pedestrians too. You know, if everybody’s a little bit mad at me, but it’s safer, then that’s okay. It’s basically who raises their hand that’s going to get called on.”

He added he thought the enforcement was “going well,” and further explained: “We’re trying to get Muni to run on time, and we have had a series of accidents. I’m not casting any blame, but just more enforcement.”

The numbers were troubling to biking and walking advocates because the enforcement did not yield any tickets for drivers.

“This is a failure to focus on the real threat. We need to see police out there ticketing the people who pose the greatest risk to others. That means drivers who fail to yield, speed, fail to stop, or are on their phones — those behaviors cause the serious injuries and deaths we see in SoMa and that’s what the police need to tackle,” said Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Director Leah Shahum also issued the following statement:

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition supports efforts to encourage safety on our streets among all road users, whether people are bicycling, driving or walking. It is the responsibility of everyone using our roads to watch out not only for their own safety but also for the safety of others.

And we encourage the SF Police Department to focus on those behaviors on our streets that are most dangerous. There should be no selective enforcement of the laws on certain road users, but rather equal opportunity enforcement of those actions that are putting others at risk. There is a hierarchy of dangerous types of behavior and those threatening the most people should be prioritized for enforcement.

We will continue to encourage the growing number of people bicycling in San Francisco — from moms to downtown commuters to people taking care of errands by bicycle — to take our free Urban Cycling Workshops, held regularly in neighborhoods throughout the city and to learn about our Give & Get Respect campaign, which encourages safe, respectful bicycling.

The SFPD is continuing to enforce the required right-turn on 10th Street at Market. Yesterday, an officer was seen ticketing numerous drivers who had violated the rule.

An officer tickets a driver yesterday afternoon for violating the right-turn only rule at 10th Street. Photo: Bryan Goebel
  • “bikes without breaks” woo hoo!

  • Anonymous

    As a bicycle commuter, I fully support SFPD’s action to ticket traffic law violation by bicyclists. Anyone can tell you bicycle traffic violation on San Francisco streets is epidemic, as evident by the 30 red light running citations given. These violators are not only risking themselves, not yielding to pedestrians, they are also a threat to other bicyclists. More than one time some guy fly through stop sign not only cutting off a car but also me on a bicycle who have waited for our turn. If you want to advocate for more bicycle transportation we must get this state of anarchy under control.

  • I would think Walk San Francisco *would* be concerned about bikes on sidewalks…illegal and dangerous. Thank you SFPD.

  • breaks, brakes, either way….annoying hipster-mobiles.

  • Observed a couple of drivers get pulled over midday today for that right-turn on 10th street rule.

    Agree that distracted drivers should be the top priority.

  • Cortez

    If the city wants to make some real money why not ticket all the drivers who double park on valencia.

  • Rrothma

    Its about time that the cops ticket bicyclist  if they brake the law.

  • Csford

    I’m a bike.rider/car driver and I see my share of bikers run lights and fail to stop or yeild to motor vehicles. We all need to share the road, so bikers need to follow the same rules of the road as drivers. I say this because the biker is usually the looser in Car vs. Bike.

  • Csford

    I’m a bike.rider/car driver and I see my share of bikers run lights and fail to stop or yeild to motor vehicles. We all need to share the road, so bikers need to follow the same rules of the road as drivers. I say this because the biker is usually the looser in Car vs. Bike.

  • After commenting on another thread about the value of enforcement versus infrastructure to modify driver behavior, I decided to keep track of what I was seeing this afternoon as I drove from Noe Valley to Daly City to the Presidio and then home again.  All in all it was about 20 miles and took me an hour and fifteen minutes, from 3:15pm to 4:30pm. (As usual on a Friday afternoon, traffic on 19th ave was appalling.) What I noticed:

    –Speeding on San Jose Ave and 280 is rampant.  In fact, it’s very hard to go the speed limit because the car behind you will practically tap your rear bumper if you do. 20 mph over the speed limit is not uncommon on 280.  I would guess at least 80% of drivers go more than 5mph over the speed limit on 280.  Ditto on San Jose Ave.  Perhaps in my 20 minutes on the freeway and San Jose Ave I witnessed 100 drivers speeding?
    –Once I got back to the city on 19th ave I started noting texters and cell phone talkers. Of the 60 or so cars I looked into, I spotted 3 drivers talking on their phone and 5 texting.  To be fair, 4 of the 5 texting were stopped at lights. Also to be fair, red lights were the only time I was likely to see texters as it’s a difficult activity to casually spot at regular speeds. In general I was surprised at the low number of cell phone talkers. Things appear to have improved on this front more than I thought.
    –The most dangerous thing I witnessed was when I was stopped at the light where northbound Junipero Serra turns left onto 19th Ave and there is a long stretch of road–3/10ths of a mile–before the next light. I was just one car back from the front; ahead of me were a pickup truck and a motorcycle.  When the light turned green, the pickup attempted to keep up with the motorcycle, resulting in a 50mph drag race, maybe even a top speed of 60 before they reached the cars stopped for the next light.
    –Saw a woman nearly cause an accident by trying to turn left from behind the car in front of her, also trying to turn left.  Evidently he was being too timid and she was annoyed.
    –Saw a man eating from a bowl with a spoon.  Don’t know how he was steering–maybe with his knees?  Also saw a woman eating a slice of pizza while driving.
    –Saw three pedestrians in the Presidio in a crosswalk, who clearly had the right of way, have to jump back so they wouldn’t be hit by two cars roaring across a four-way stop intersection.
    –I saw no one run a red light.  I saw no bicyclists run a stop sign or a red light, though obviously on the freeway there are no bicyclists, and I can’t remember seeing any on 19th Ave. The bike lane on Arguello had its fair share of bicyclists who seemed well enough behaved.

    During this hour and fifteen minutes I saw no police at all, much less anyone pulled over.  Perhaps they were all on Market Street.  The good news is that though there were some near misses, there were no accidents and no one was hurt.  All in all a normal Friday afternoon.

  • Mario Tanev

    SFPD were quoted in the Chronicle saying:

    “Over the course of one hour, the officers at Fifth cited at least 10
    cyclists and spoke to two car drivers who were driving illegally in the
    public transit lane.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/12/BALM1KMPSE.DTL&tsp=1

    How is that not selective enforcement? Cyclists get cited, drivers get “spoken to”. Iron fist and kid glove.

  • Nick

    Did the SFPD also ticket any of the cops on bicycles that were riding on the Market Street sidewalk?

    Is this enforcement campaign politically-based payback by the new police chief because “bikes are annoying and get in our way?”

  • @Rrothma – My brake lever broke, so I am indeed riding with breaks. Wish I could stop, though.

  • Mdg1111

    Are you implying that loose women ride bicycles?

  • Mdg1111

    For reals there, csford? 

  • Mdg1111

    Google “concern troll”.  Your b.s. anecdotes aside, the real danger out there is from cars and buses, not from bikes.  Let’s stop MUNI from killing pedestrians before we start bitching about bikes going through a red light when there are no cars around.

  • Rhonda

    The city is broke.  Ticketing is a way for the SFPD to bring in money. 

    Ticketing bicyclists is a helluva lot easier, and quicker, to do than to “catch” a motorist, then ticket him.  What are the amount of the fines?  Are the fine amounts the same, or close, for bicyclists and drivers?  If that is so, then look at it this way:  One cop can ticket many more bicyclists per hour than he can motorists.  If the fine is $100, and you can ticket 10 bicyclists in an hour, whereas, you’re only able to ticket 5 motorists in a hour, and you’ve got a quota (yup, cops have to bring in money), which group do you think is going to get hit hardest?  The bicyclist or the motorist?  Ding!  Ding!  The bicyclist!  And fuggedabout the pedestrian who is jaywalking!  That’s an easy one to get and ticket.

  • Anonymous

    I am also a bike commuter and I agree. I feel that the “outlaw” behavior on the part of many cyclists is provoking rage from some drivers and indirectly threatening my safety. There’s no excuse for running a red light, period.

  • 3boy7

    Good for the people as a whole. Tag those who proceed as entitled and they won’t act so entitled. Who cares that they are cited for violating the law? Who cares that they are being targeted? They should be. Most people agree with that. It is called law enforcement.

  • And everytime I bike on Market I see cars not making the required turns, turning without using lights, blocking intersections and speeding dangerously. No one dies if a bicyclist runs a red light, except maybe the cyclist.

  • icarus12

    Riding a bike here in Helsinki this week.  Great infrastructure, lots of bikes, but a lot more slow-going and rules to be followed than in what still is a bit of the wild west in SF.  Think of these ticketing campaigns as something like growing pains.  We cyclists are going to have to stop at more red lights and go a bit more slowly in streets with a lot of car or fellow bike and pedestrian traffic.  Eventually, I think we’ll have a biking culture that follows the road rules more but isn’t completely hung up on the rules either.  Also have to say that so far I have been almost hit by fellow bikers in SF several times and have felt endangered by bikers far too often.  So I think this Market Street enforcement, while a bit over the top, may be a good thing.

  • tro

    @ Ross Patton. are you serious? you do realize that this half-hearted enforcement campaign is in response to a pedestrian recently being killed by a cyclist who ran a red light? so yes, people do die when cyclists break the law

  • Alex

    I’ve been so impressed by the huge increase in cyclists on Market compared with even five years ago. The new lanes are drawing a lot of people who found Market too intimidating to ride on before.  Unfortunately, they seem to need education about appropriate road behavior. Just as there was a focus on cars when they established the ‘no private cars’ zone on inbound market, it’s totally reasonable to focus on bikes now that there are so many of them behaving badly in that area. I work at sixth and market and see a lot of it every morning.

  • Velocentric

    Don’t ride on the sidewalk, Don’t run red lights,
    Make sure your bike is equipped with actual brakes.
    I’ve managed to easily follow those rules during 20 years of cycle commuting.
    Sounds like the SFPD is doing a good job.

  • That was actually my error/typo, and not SFPD’s. Fixed.

  • Anonymous

    Mdg1111, I’m stating observation well known in San Francisco. If you call this trolling, either you have never been on the street or you are in deep denial. 30 red light running citation is no bs anecdote.

  • peternatural

    Bicyclists should follow the rules of the road:

    1. Safety.
    2. Courtesy.
    3. Don’t run red lights or stop signs when cops are present.

  • Pseuodolus1

    We all need to share the road ^H^H^H^H sidewalk.

    There.  Corrected.

  • Anonymous

    This idea that bikes aren’t as “dangerous” as cars or Muni, ergo you can do whatever the fuck you want is patent bullshit. If you’re over 13 and riding your bike on the sidewalk, you’re either an idiot or a jerk-ass. Period. If you run red lights you are putting yourself in danger. Period. End of story.If everyone (car drivers, Muni drivers, bike riders and pedestrians) would take a moment to not wander around in a cloud of selfishness and pay attention, we’d be better off.

    Saw a classic case today: stupid woman with headphones ignored the signals, walked across RIGHT IN FRONT of an oncoming N that was frantically blasting the airhorn and missed getting run over by a moment. when I tried to tell her she was almost killed (and it would have been a hella Darwin moment) she didn’t hear me because her stupid iPod was on.

    Point being, if you insist on being a dumbass, don’t expect a reward. This isn’t t-ball, kids.

  • Anonymous

    but they’re so smug and self righteous….well not all, but a select few and their insufferable bullshit tags the majority, which are law abiding and mean well and do their best.

    good to know in brainiac liberal san francisco everyone can go all soundbite instead of responding to reason, such as what you describe.

  • Anonymous

    I do think this is a good point. I think a lot of the behavior of
    cyclists is due to having to survive in an environment which totally
    neglects their rights to safety and convenience. Though less so now
    (though still to some degree), in the past cyclists really had to fight
    for their own, and this in term creates a sort of aggression necessary
    for survival. And once you develop this level of aggression, it can
    extend to areas where it isn’t needed; I think it’s very natural and
    hence the reason most cyclists do it. It’s a sort of self-defense
    mechanism. Further, when there are very few people cycling, you can get
    away with a lot. For example, at most intersections with stop signs that
    a cyclist might roll through, they are used to not having to look for
    other cyclists doing the same thing since there are rarely any other
    bikes out the. But as biking infrastructure improves and more and more
    people start cycling, if multiple cyclists come to that same
    intersection at the same time from different directions and everybody
    rolls through, it’s going to be problematic. As the numbers increase, it
    is inevitable that cyclists will become more “domesticated”.

  • Anonymous

    I think the point of this article is certainly valid. In civilized society, the breaking of different laws has different consequences and hence the punishment is different: the more severe the consequences, the more severe the punishment for getting caught. It’s the reason you get locked up a lot longer for murder than theft. On that note, it makes no sense to have bicyclists be treated the same as cars and have them be punished the same. A bike weighs orders of magnitude less than a car, travels much slower, and its operator does not have his senses dulled. So when a bicyclist breaks the law, physics dictates that the consequences are less severe than when a car does, so the punishment should be correspondingly less severe. It really bugs me — and I believe it is morally and ethically unjust per my arguments above — that bicyclists are expected to pay the same fine as a motorist for breaking the same law but with a much less dangerous vehicle. I think this unjustness just reflects a society that hasn’t learned to integrate the bicycle properly. The good news: I think that day is coming soon and we will realize how much of a net benefit it is to society to have more people cycling and less driving.

  • Anonymous

    But the consequence of a bike breaking the law can be as serious or worse for the bicyclist. Like Nancy Ho, who made an illegal left turn and paid for it with her life.

  • Anonymous

    @pchazzz:disqus No doubt, but it will always be worse for a car breaking the same law than a bicycle, as the car often injuries its occupant while — and this is the most important part — *also* hurting others, especially more vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. I’m not saying bicyclists can’t hurt themselves (like Nancy Ho … though if it was bikes she turned in front of instead of a car/truck, you can beat that she would still be alive), or even that they can’t hurt pedestrians (like the cyclists who killed the pedestrian at Mission and Embarcadero a couple weeks ago) or other bicyclists, but statistically speaking, the injuries are much less severe the lighter the vehicle. It’s just a matter of physics, of a bicyclist weight much less than a car (and usually traveling much slower and unable to accelerate as fast).

    A bicyclist can certainly hurt themselves, but so can a car driver. The difference is, it’s much more difficult for a cyclists to hurt *others* while a car can easily do so. And in civilized society, we always give preference to your effect on others (you can, more or less, do what you want to yourself). For that reason, the consequences of cars breaking the laws are much more severe than bikes, and hence the reasons the punishments should be different.

    Cars are not bikes, and it is one of the great mistakes of our car-centric urban design that we expect them to follow the same rules and receive the same punishment for breaking the same rules. I’m not for anarchy on the streets, but I can certainly tell you that our urban environment was not designed for bicycles, and it’s absurb to pretend they have the same effects as cars. When you design a city around bikes, it looks a lot different than our idea of a city (see Copenhagen, Amsterdam, etc for what it does look like).

  • Masonic will be the death…

    This whole selective enforcement thing is complete BS. I have no love lost for a cyclist who runs a stop sign, or red light and gets busted, but to give people in cars warnings for infractions at the same time is an effing joke.

    Yesterday I spent most of the day as pedestrian, walked down to lower Market over to SoMa, back up to my neighborhood (the Panhandle), and then out to Inner Richmond. (I simply refuse to ride MUNI) While on Market I saw two folks pulled over for violating the mandatory right. I stood around and waited, and then asked the officer if he issued a citation (yep, I’m that guy) the first office told me no and said it is just an education campaign. The second refused to respond, and from what I witnessed also issued a warning. Around Lower Market I saw a few sidewalk cyclists, but all were toothless, and riding old broken piles of crap bikes, in clothes that hadn’t been changed in months. In other words not your average commuter, or stereotypical fixie riding boogiemen (women).

     A few blocks later I was nearly run over in the crosswalk at 9th and Bryant by a jerk who ran the red light coming off the freeway on to Bryant to rush into the BB&B, Trader Joe’s Plaza. This driver did so in front of an SFPD cruiser at Ninth who only needed to make a right turn and follow the car into the plaza parking lot. The duo chose not to, and joking told me I was smart to look both ways before crossing. I have already reported the cruiser number to SFPD.

    Situations too numerous to count:
     right turns through busy crosswalks
    autos rolling through stop signs at speed (particularly rampant in the I.R.), and another flagrant red light runner on Market heading out (again through an active crosswalk)
    speeding galore

    These situations are why we have the issues we do in this city. The SFPD works on a constant scale of attrition, with respect to what is important. That is of course until something is politicized. Basically murders (in certain neighborhoods), and bikes running stops, and red lights are all that are important this week.

    In total I saw 2 motorcycle cops (both busy), and five cruisers out and about.

    Selective enforcement, along with warnings change nothing. Besides the city and state are broke, fines are revenue.

  • ped/biker/motorist

    I think what is needed is to change the designation of bike == car, which is completely absurd.  Bikes do not have turn signals, they aren’t allowed on freeways, and most importantly, they are, de-facto, not allowed to use a full lane.

    Most times when I use a full lane as a bicyclist, I am aggressively hounded to the side by cars (honking, yelling, tailgating).  Do motorists really want bicyclists to go 7mph using a full lane of traffic?  I doubt it.  Just look at motorist behavior on Oak or Masonic when a bicyclist decides to use a full lane.

    I’m not advocating breaking the law, I’m for changing the way the vehicle code treats bicyclists.

  • The Greasybear

    SFPD claims not one motorist committed a citation-worthy infraction during the course of an entire day at Market and 5th Streets? Ludicrous. SFPD’s selective enforcement campaign again shows that biased department’s ongoing preferential treatment for bad motorists and its widespread bias against cyclists.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    I love taking a lane on Masonic, especially when I am heading up to Trader Joe’s. There is nothing better than having a driver cheer you on climbing up the hill by yelling and honking at you. Oak isn’t so bad because with a little effort one can easily get going faster than traffic. It is quite satisfying to pedal by a cars between Stanyan and Baker.

    Fell on the other hand is ridiculous. I love how motorists try to squeeze me when I have to go around one of their fellow motorists who does not understand the concept of a left turn lane and bike lane being two different things.

    When in doubt take the lane and hold it. It is always safer than giving away too much lane and getting pinched.

    And for the most aggressive drivers I just bring out the bike lock from my back pocket for a friendly attention getter as I remind the driver that I am allowed full use of the lane, and am not going anywhere.

  • guest

    Hello SFGate commenter, and welcome to Streetsblog. While here please refrain from using meaningless buzzwords like ‘entitled’ and from making unsubstantiated statements like “most people agree with that.” 

    I’d also like to point out to you that all of us who pay taxes and use the road, one way or another, are in fact ‘entitled’ to safe passage. You might continue to use that word in the facile way that you do in other comment boards, but some of us actually think about language. To be ‘entitled’ implies that we have rights. We all are entitled to equal treatment under the law. So actually, no, your idea of ‘law enforcement,’ which is actually selective enforcement, doesn’t jibe so well at all with how *I would presume* most people define good governance. (See what I did? I’m inserting a disclaimer with my use of “most.”) 

  • @d78a668439ed2769e6a7cf0d54b7d278:disqus – The term “loose woman” originally referred to women who didn’t wear corsets.  The popularity of bicycling is one of the things that did away with corsets.  So, yes, bicyclists are definitely looser.

  • EL

    I’m curious… at Market/10th, how many citations were issued to drivers compared to bicyclists/pedestrians?

    Perhaps that balances the numbers better?  What’s particularly worrisome for me is that 16 cyclists were cited for having no brakes.

  • bjp123

    How about…
    3. Don’t run red lights or stop signs. Ever.

  • bjp123

    How about…
    3. Don’t run red lights or stop signs. Ever.

  • mikesonn

    Drivers pulled over at Market/10th were violating the private auto forced right turn, both pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to go straight there.

  • EL

    Yes mikesonn.  I know peds and cyclists can go straight.  But if SFPD wasn’t doing targeted enforcement, then (even your own experience of the area would support this) there should have citations of bicyclists stopping in/beyond the crosswalks, cyclists on sidewalks, etc.

    The bottom line is that targeted enforcement certainly exists, and most of the time, it targets drivers.

  • mikesonn

    “We’re trying to get Muni to run on time”

    If that was the case, they’d be at 3rd and Market nailing the jerks that block the box and make the 30/45/8x wait upwards of 20+ minutes to cross Market.

  • mikesonn

    EL, I think you are confusing several intersections.

  • Divis Resident

    “If you’re over 13 and riding your bike on the sidewalk, you’re either an idiot or a jerk-ass. Period.”

    I wish that were true — but cycling conditions on some streets are just too dangerous.  Take Divisadero when it turns into Castro.  You’ve got to be crazy to ride a bike southbound there.  I get on the sidewalk and pedal slowly.  There’s really no alternate route to take.  I bet there isn’t a single car that drives under the speed limit here — even with the blind turn and crosswalks.

    Walking a bike takes up twice the space on the sidewalk.

  • Bernard

    –“Because the drivers actually followed the rules of the road during the
    period that the officers were out there that day,” said SFPD
    spokesperson Albie Esparza.–

    I was riding to BART that morning, like every morning, and this quote is a flat out LIE.  I watched 2 cars run red lights while a cop gave a ticket to someone for not having reflectors. 

    I think we should be cited for egregious violations, but giving a reflector ticket to someone while two 1-ton vehicles sail through an intersection nearly killing pedestrians is irresponsible and unprofessional.  

  • sdfsdfdsf

    Um, can you officers enforce other, less ridiculous stuff. How about fixing the graffiti and vagrant problem rampant in that area? I’d also like to see these retardedly loud motorcycles get ticketed for noise violations once in my lifetime.

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