SFPD’s Selective Enforcement of Bike Commuters at Caltrain Station

A number of Streetsblog readers are reporting that officers from the San Francisco Police Department were ticketing bicyclists riding on the sidewalk near the Caltrain station at 4th and King this morning. But they were not ticketing any of the drivers blocking the bike lane, which forces many bicyclists onto the sidewalk.

Bike commuter Jean Fraser, who happens to be the director of the San Mateo County Public Health Department, sent us this word about the sting:

This morning at the Caltrain station I discovered two officers ticketing bicyclists for riding on the sidewalk as they approached the Caltrain station. When I asked if the officers were also enforcing the traffic laws against the taxis and private cars that double park and block the bike lanes leading to the station, forcing people who ride bikes to have to move into the traffic lanes, the officers stated they had been given instructions only to focus on bicyclists.

Given the limited resources of the SFPD, the small risk that bicyclists pose compared to the risks of vehicles, as well as the fact that virtually every person who rides a bike to Caltrain represents one less car on our streets, this choice to enforce only one law against only one group seems to be a very poor one. Not only does it not promote public safety much, but it diminishes the credibility of the police department as a neutral enforcer of our laws. People who ride bikes and people who drive cars should all be required to obey the laws, with enforcement actions focused on the areas that pose the greatest risk to the public’s safety.

A spokesperson for the SFPD, Sgt. Michael Andraychak, claims the enforcement was based on “some complaints” from pedestrians about people on bikes and scooters riding on the sidewalk. The enforcement started yesterday morning with education and warnings “that it’s against the law and unsafe to ride bicycles on the sidewalk.”

“They returned out there today and I’m told that at least one repeat offender was issued a citation. I don’t have any specific citation numbers,” he said.

When I pointed out to Andraychak that his comments contradict the standard SFPD line that the agency is not conducting targeted enforcement against bicyclists, maintaining that it’s enforcement for all road users, he gave this response:

“We received complaints from citizens about bicyclists and motor scooters on the sidewalk that were compromising pedestrian safety. Now, if someone had raised concerns about motor vehicles double parking or blocking the bike lane, if the officers weren’t aware of it, then that’s something that they can, in turn, address. I don’t appreciate your characterization there that we’re targeting, and only going after bicyclists. That’s not the case.”

Next time, SFPD might want to consider encouraging cyclists to ride in the street by keeping the bike lane clear of obstructions.

  • Clutch J

    Bicyclists generally don’t belong on sidewalks, where they inconvenience, startle and sometimes injure or kill other people. Bicyclists using streets should be able to steer around the occasional obstruction. If we act like grownups, perhaps we’ll be treated as such.

  • Greg

    Bikes are street vehicles – the alternative is NOT the sidewalk, it’s the car lanes – safely and watching out for traffic, of course.

  • Stu Chuang Matthews

    Doesn’t this mean that we should start a targeted campaign to complain about bike lane parkers in a particular area? I vote Valencia Street but of course the Caltrain station would work as well. Email me at stu@fourmajor.com and we’ll organize it.

  • mikesonn

    http://sf.mybikelane.com/

    Over one year ago and it’s nearly every day since.
    http://sf.mybikelane.com/post/index/14107

  • Occasional? LOL! That bike lane is also known as “The Taxi Stand”

  • “the officers stated they had been given instructions only to focus on bicyclists”

     “I don’t appreciate your characterization there that we’re targeting, and only going after bicyclists. That’s not the case.”

  • I once complained to a city employee that SFPD shifts its enforcement priorities from day to day depending on telephone calls from the public, thereby escaping accountability for long-term results. She told me that’s the only way to avoid a police state. The wisdom of our elders. 

  • If that’s how they do it, let’s bring it on.

  • Peter M

    The SFPD was also out this afternoon going after bicyclists at Scott and Fell. They had three cars parked at Oak and Divisadero, and the second they saw some cyclists going up Scott, they took off after them to catch up to them at Scott and Fell. One of the police cars did put its lights on, so I guess they caught one of the cyclists doing something.

    As a non-bike riding pedestrian, it seemed completely ridiculous to me.

  • Monsterism

    I guess I’ll start calling every morning to report taxis blocking the bike lane.

    What’s the right number to call?

  • (415) 553-0123 is SFPD’s non emergency number.

    I called once to report a hotel using the lane to block shuttles but I don’t think they did anything.

  • peter

    I’m a regular bike commuter.  I find automobiles to be far more predictable than cyclists.  I see too many cyclists riding on the sidewalk.  Other than small children there is no reason for riding on the sidewalk.  There are many legal options for cyclists in congested areas including getting off the street and walking your bike until you can safely ride again.

  • Baxflan

    I got a ticket this AM for rolling a stop sign coming down Fulton between Scott and Steiner. The officer said he had been at Caltrain earlier and had given 11 cyclists tickets for riding on the sidewalk.

  • To go after only the cyclists when it is evident that a substantial number were riding on the sidewalk because the lane was blocked seems counterproductive. It is going after a symptom and not the cause. 

    When safe riding conditions are present cyclists will use them. It is unfair to enforce the traffic code in a nonuniform manner and then expect cyclists to expose themselves to additional risk so that cab drivers can get a free parking spot. 

  • Assuming that sfgov.org assigns email addresses uniformly I would encourage individuals to send politely written responses to Sgt. Andraychak: Michael.Andraychak@sfgov.org.

  • I saw that operation but they were at least ticketing cars and cyclists.

  • Baxflan

    You know, all this “Bike targeting” is getting me to thinking I need to start avoiding the regular bike lanes, cause that’s where the cops hang out. Someone else mentioned Scott and Fell .. thats on my commute home, I don’t need anotehr ticket.

  • I won’t justify people riding on that sidewalk either, but that’s not what’s going on here. The issue is cyclists riding onto the sidewalk to the entrance of the train station, not avoiding riding on the road. There’s no more road where they’re heading.

    Sidewalk riding is not very prevalent in San Francisco (disclaimer – I rarely ride on Market Street). Yet many cyclists – pretty high functioning cyclists – ride on this particular sidewalk. Why?  Because that sidewalk is not a through way for pedestrians – there is no sidewalk North of the Warm Planet bike shop. As such there are rarely any pedestrians on that sidewalk – modulo a line for the taxi stand, which is rare because there are typically many taxis and few people looking for taxis. So people ride up onto the sidewalk and towards the train station or Warm Planet, with the vast majority (95%+) getting off their bikes before they approach the train station entrance.

    Not justifying – just getting everyone on the same page.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    Well maybe it is time for a few targeted cyclists to talk to one of the many cyclist advocacy lawyers in town. Most deal in personal injury, but I am sure one or two are qualified to take a group complaint against unlawful police targeting. I have witnessed over the last week a few interactions between cyclists and police where the police officer themselves were unsure at first why they had “pulled over” the cyclist. It is never a good sign when police are essentially having a “let me get my story straight” moment after they have decided to target, and pull over a cyclist or anyone else. 

    I have made the recommendation a few times, but it really is time for cyclist to start filming their commutes, and especially scenarios like this morning’s where the police are ignoring double parked cars to ticket bikes on sidewalks. I started this morning on my way to university. I have a camera mounted under my stem, and just film the whole ride, since it is dry I even had un-muffled audio. Nothing cooler than being able to show your friends the designated asshole driver of the morning, or evening. Hell, post the videos to YouTube and we can crowd source report on the issue of how cyclists are really treated in this city on a daily basis.

    Anyone who got a ticket this morning should take the time to fight it in court. Just showing up to fight it makes it less likely an officer will target any cyclist again. This is of course using the same collective model auto drivers have been using for years, which is why SFPD no longer issues speeding tickets, well actually almost now auto citations in general.

    We have to fight to prevent ourselves from being viewed as the low hanging fruit for revenue, and citations written per day statistics.

  • Masonic will be the death…

    The non emergency line does nothing. The dispatcher takes down the info and regularly will tell you that all police in the area are currently busy.

  • @twitter-14678929:disqus I was basing my comments on this:

    “When I asked if the officers were also enforcing the traffic laws against the taxis and private cars that double park and block the bike lanes leading to the station, forcing people who ride bikes to have to move into the traffic lanes, the officers stated they had been given instructions only to focus on bicyclists.”

    Which implies that a blocked lane was requiring cyclists to choose between sidewalk or lane.

  • Rlyedlin

    I got a ticket this morning. I jump onto the sidewalk near the motorcycle parking before Warm Planet Bikes occasionally to avoid the cabs/buses in line near Cal Train. I will fight it!

  • Fran Taylor

    Has a cop ever ticketed a car parked on the sidewalk? Presumably, the car wasn’t dropped there from a helicopter but had to drive up into pedestrian space to get to that spot. I regularly see cops drive by cars completely obstructing the sidewalk, and they don’t even give them a glance. And they can’t say we haven’t complained about that!

  •  Sean – check the google street view
    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=San+Francisco+Caltrain&hl=en&ll=37.776456,-122.395763&spn=0.006886,0.00854&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=55.806079,69.960938&vpsrc=0&hnear=San+Francisco+Caltrain&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=37.776522,-122.39567&panoid=GrWXBMjFYm8W3TZ4cHYFIA&cbp=12,79.77,,0,0

    The taxis fill the taxi stand and then line up past the end of the taxi stand. The taxi stand is in a curb cutaway, past that there is a sidewalk and parked cars, so the taxis double park in the bike lane. The cyclists go around the taxis to the left as to be expected. AFTER a cyclist headed to Caltrain gets past the cyclists, the cyclists ride up onto the sidewalk by the bike shop using the handicapped ramp, and ride towards the entrance of the train station. Nobody is riding on the sidewalk to avoid the double parked taxis.

    The double parked cabs are simply a constant hazard in the same proximity as where SFPD decided to run a sting on the sidewalk.

  • @36321fe5a5d1c293249db44cbedff209:disqus The only fatal bike/ped collision I know about in the last 21 years wasn’t on the sidewalk, but that’s “sometimes.”  Cars in bike lanes goes on 24/7, but that’s “occasional.”  Riiiight.

  • @twitter-14678929:disqus thanks — appreciate the clarification.

    I still think the officers are acting too much like automatons who are capable of enforcing only one law at a time. Cyclists who ride in the sidewalk / run through crosswalks / etc. get on my nerves as much as drivers do.

  • @Stu – Valencia Insurrection Against Bike Lane Encroachment (VIABLE) is what we called it back in the 1990s.

  • Hi Fran – want to come with us to show Dennis Herrera how fun it is to ride Cesar Chavez on a bike? He’s joining us tomorrow at Ritual Roasters at 6:30 AM, for Q&A and then a tour of Chavez including the wonderful underpass of broken bottles and dreams.

  • Odm2

    It is ridiculous. But I have to say, as a regular rider of the Wiggle, that I still can’t understand why when I’m passing through Scott and Fell, almost no one else stops at the red to wait for the left turn signal that was provided. It really doesn’t save time, as you’ll almost always end up stopping at Divisadero anyway. I also can’t understand those who blatantly stop their bikes in crosswalks and make pedestrians walk around them. Obviously, in the big picture (with cars) these things are typically not widespread nor do they pose major public safety hazards (more than anything, I think they’re just rude and unnecessary), and ticketing them (very expensively, at that) is not the answer. But I have to say, from a personal standpoint, that it can be frustrating at times seeming like the only one making an effort to navigate the existing street infrastructure safely, legally and courteously as everyone else flies by you.

  • @582ac4e39c08958cb8493e9ce817d4c6:disqus I completely agree. There is a time and place to disobey a red light or a stop sign, and in my mind that’s if no other traffic (and in particular pedestrians, as an even more vulnerable user) has a right-of-way. 

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve witnessed a pack of cyclists run a red at Folsom and 4th when pedestrians in each direction get a crosswalk. They end up at 3rd at a red light, making it pointless to have endangered anyone to begin with.

    It has reached the point where I’ll call people on it because I’m tired of the cyclists who blatantly disregard the safety of others, the cyclists who get into follow-mode and tag along, and having pedestrians think we’re all jerks.

  • Anonymous

    If cops aren’t going to enforce bike lane laws, then bicyclists need to start busting some windows. That will teach punks not to illegally park in bike lanes.

  • Andrew Ness

    SFPD absolutely knows that cars and trucks block that bicycle lane on a daily basis. I myself call them and report it every time I see it, which is often a few times a week. That spokesperson needs to research the complaint logs before lying to the public.

  • Gneiss

    Good grief!  I travel on Townsend every weekday morning and get forced into the travel lane at the CalTrain station by taxis and cars double parking and merging without signaling into the bike lane.  I’d argue that the behavior of those motorists pose a much greater danger to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists and a few people cycling at the station.  This sounds like CalTrain employees complaining and getting preferential treatment from SFMTA and SFPD on this issue than addressing real safety issues.

  • Anonymous

    Yesterday AM as cops were reportedly ticketing cyclists on the sidewalk across the street a guy was physically and verbally threatening Safeway employees who objected to him walking from the store with backpack and pockets visibly crammed with purchased merchandise. He walked away, free, while the cops were busy running up their quotas.

    We need confirmation this garbage will stop under the next mayor before we elect the next mayor.

  • Anonymous

    It’s naive to think that the police can evenhandedly enforce all traffic laws to the same degree at the same time.  They obviously will always be targeting something more and something less.  Ideally they choose their targets proactively based on a long-term strategy, but just as likely it’s reactive based on complaints from the public or the whim of some official.

    So just start a complaint campaign about double-parked cars if that’s what you want to do.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

  • Anonymous

    I called 311 once when the hotel parking lot on 8th St. between Market & Mission put their metal advertising sign in the bike lane. The 311 operator transferred me to the correct department and the person I talked to said they’d send out cops. Next time I rode by, the sign was out of the bike lane. So phone calls can work!

  • howardtaft

    Just gotta say. As someone who picks someone up at the caltrain 3-5 times a week around 645-7pm.  At that time (not the morning) there is almost never anyone blocking the bike lane (you do have to cross it to get to the curb…. a problem in itself).  However the bikes leaving the station mostly ride on the sidewalk, hop down, and cross to the other side in the middle of the block.   This in combination with the cabs doing crazy cab maneuvers, makes for one stressful driving situation.   Oh and then there are the various buses. 
    Going southwest on Townsend becomes real wild as you get to the traffic circle at 8th and then the split to 9th vs division/san bruno.   Bike riders need to give way more notice with their hand signals before cutting in front of a car to make make a left fork vs. right fork.  I try to drive super slow because i’ve nearly hit people a number of times at that 9th st fork.  I usually go up 9th, and people will just cross right over in front without signalling. 

  • John

    So does that mean that when peds get run over by bikes they should start clotheslining random cyclists to “teach” them?

  • John

    And they *do* injure folks. I got a cracked rib from being knocked over by a jackhole riding on the sidewalk on Howard. I assume he didn’t want to go over a block where he’d be going with the flow of traffic.

    As the cop confirmed that is felony hit-and-run, especially with an injury. It really reduced my sympathy for folks on bikes. As a ped I view them as much of an enemy as cars if not more.

  • Adrian

    I’m not sure I follow the logic of this story. Are you excusing bikers breaking the law because cars/taxis are also breaking the law? The problem causing the cops to target bikes is that bikes routinely break the law. And normally nothing happens.

    I know this because I’m an avid cyclist and bike commuter. I sometimes run red lights, usually after stopping and looking around, and judging it’s safe. This week I ran a light on the way to work. It was early, and when I looked up there was and SFPD car stopped at the light going the other way. What did he do? NOTHING! If I was a car and I ran the light, what do you think he would have done? Why do I do it? Because I feel like I can get away with it.

    If bikes want respect on the road, we need to start obeying the rules of the road. If cops want to ticket cyclists without controversy, they should ticket EVERY infraction. In the absence of unlimited resources, cops should heavily target bikes everywhere until bikes get the message.

    You don’t drive your car on the sidewalk without expecting a ticket. Why is a bike any different?

    Bonus: Tickets are expensive, the city will get great increased revenue.

  • Anonymous

    I agree cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers should always be predictable.  But if the result is you’re driving “super-slow” in this incredibly pedestrian-and-cyclist-busy area, maybe it’s a good thing these risky riders are making it safer for the rest of us.

  • Anonymous

    The problem isn’t “the law” but right-of-way.  The cops don’t care if right of way is violated or not.  So invariably they go to where right-of-way is not typically violated, like T-intersections, or harmless strips of sidewalk like this one.  They show discretionary enforcement, not towards the more dangerous infractions, but rather towards the least dangerous.  The guy swerving and cutting people off is too hard to catch.    This is the real problem: public safety is barely a consideration.   “The law” is a means to an end, not the end.

  • Andrew Ness

    You should call SFMTA Parking Enforcement directly at (415) 553-1200, Option 1, Option 7.

  • LawAbider

    This story is even more problematic than it appears: Though there are some cyclists who ride into the station, which is obviously a cause for concern, SFPD was targeting bicyclists who use the curb cut to get from the Townsend bike lane to the sidewalk into the Bike Valet, the length of which is about 15 ft of sidewalk.

    This also doesn’t address when the officers themselves obstruct the bike lanes: last week, when citing cyclists who ran the red light by SF Honda, the cop then parked his motorcycle diagonally in the bike lane, forcing the rest of the cyclists into swift-moving auto traffic and nearly causing collisions. 

  • howardtaft

    djconnel:  So you are saying that it is good that the cyclists are cutting in front of traffic and not signalling, because it make me, one driver, drive slower?   I kind of think it would be preferable that no one cuts in front of anyone…  car, pedestrian, bike.   That way we can all drive normally without fear that we are going to maim someone. 

  • Yes, you are correct in stating that cyclists should be cited for riding on the sidewalk. That is annoying and endangers pedestrians. 

    We also have a right to equal enforcement of traffic code. When was the last time you saw an officer cite a car for blocking a bike lane? Or heard of a “sting” in a high-traffic area? 

    Instead, I read about a sting every week going after those scofflaw cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    @0206fb364172bf8fd8435eb444500b6d:disqus Totally agree. If that’s what it takes to get the cops to do their job, then that’s what we apparently need to do.

    But that’s a sad commentary of the SFPD: they only enforce laws when people complain? I mean, I get it that you go out to a “hot-spot” where you’ve gotten a lot of complaints about some law being broken, but for eff’s sake, while you’re there and you see other laws being broken, go ahead and enforce them. That’s the kind of poor judgement that shows SFPD’s bias against bicyclists.

  • Anonymous

    The box SFPD has put themselves in as getting narrower and narrower. They’re running out of excuses to explain why they are not biased against cyclists.

    I’ll say it again: every traffic cop should be forced to spend part of their time on the beat while on a bike. They will quickly see what the real problems are in this city.

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-14678929:disqus Yep. Sounds like all cyclists have their marching orders: start calling SFPD and complaining about all infractions that motorists commit against bicyclists (and pedestrians).

  • Anonymous

    @83b5031778ed3921e47c379daa4b4763:disqus   If that’s true, then how do the pedestrians on the sidewalk call the police and get their message through? I mean, if they’re finding a way to do it, then cyclists should be able to do it.

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