Yesterday the SFMTA Board of Directors signed off on raising fines for double parking, obstructing traffic, and riding bikes on sidewalks to $100. The fines were previously $80, $50, and $50 respectively — “substantially lower than the penalties for similar violations” set in 2010, according to the SFMTA [PDF].
Although Director Bruce Oka said increasing fines without increasing enforcement would be “useless” as a deterrent, proponents like Director Joél Ramos stood behind increasing fines on double-parked vehicles, which have been reported as the number-one factor slowing down Muni buses and trains aside from vehicle breakdowns due to poor maintenance.
“When we make transit more efficient by getting rid of double-parked cars or whatever it might be, that translates to operations cost savings,” Ramos said at a board meeting in December. Double-parkers can also endanger people on bicycles, particularly if they are forced into lanes with moving vehicles or rail tracks.
According to the SF Public Press, San Francisco police issued 20,576 double-parking citations (through November 2011) and 372 citations for people riding bikes on sidewalks.
While sidewalk riding is a nuisance for pedestrians, some bike advocates have pointed out that the behavior is mostly a sign that the streets don’t feel safe enough to bike on and that more bicycling education is needed. The increased fines could be a heavy burden on low-income violators who depend on their bicycles but are unaware of the law.
The SFMTA’s 2011 Bicycle Count Report [PDF], released earlier this month, found only 5 percent of bicycle riders using sidewalks — the majority of them on streets with high-speed motor traffic like Lincoln Way, 19th Avenue, the intersection of 17th/Castro and Market, and San Bruno Avenue.
“SFMTA will work with our partners to improve the conditions that create high levels of wrong way and sidewalk riding (speed, lack of bike lanes or vehicle separation, safety, etc.),” the report states.
Although SFPD Commander Lea Militello said at a SFMTA board committee meeting last month that to curb sidewalk riding, “we have to make it hurt,” according to the Public Press, SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman told Streetsblog she felt assured by the commander that officers only issue the fines as a last resort after admonishing violators.