SFMTA Increases Fines for Double Parking and Sidewalk Riding

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].

A Muni bus navigates around a double-parked delivery truck. Photo: _carleton/Flickr

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.

  • You buried the lede –

     Director Bruce Oka said increasing fines without increasing enforcement would be “useless” as a deterrent

    One could argue – probably with some success – that the increased fine will result in LESS enforcement as the DPT people on the street feel sorry for/scared of violators.

    $80 is plenty. All they had to do was up the enforcement. If they ran a “Sting” at the Whole Foods in Noe Valley they could have a field day on “obstructing traffic” with lines of cars blocking 24th Street waiting to get into the parking lot. And unlike various other violations, the “target” would not be able to just “get away” once targeted for citation – they’d be pinned in.

    And if they did such a sting it would also be a stimulus to the local economy as I would sit in front of Bernie’s drinking hot chocolate for hours on end watching the fireworks.

  • mikesonn

    I want to know when it became acceptable to double park in the lane of travel as opposed to just parking in front of a curb cut. Same applies to people who pull into a “driveway” blocking the sidewalk when they could easily parallel park in front of the curb cut.

    On the 2nd case, you are blocking the garage entrance either way but at least you could not block the sidewalk as well.

  • mikesonn

    Might as make the fine “$1 Million Dollars!” because it isn’t like anyone will actually get a ticket.

  • Aaron Bialick

    You know, you’re right about burying the lede – I moved some things around.

  • Anonymous

    It’s sordid to force cyclists onto the sidewalk and then ticket them for…cycling on the sidewalk.

  • mikesonn

    I didn’t see any mention, but will the new cameras installed on Muni also get to be used for double parkers?

  • Jason McKinnon

    Well, that study by SFMTA is way, way off. But, please continue to lie about such things. I must be in the center of that mystical 6 percent at all times as I make my way to work everyday. This disingenuousness is very off-putting. I should learn to only believe the words of others who stand something to gain from their positions rather than my own faculties…which couldn’t possibly be right. Is that the case? Do you even really believe your own bullshit?

  • mikesonn

    Yeah, there is no way there were 20k+ double parking fines through Nov of last year. I’ve never seen one double parker get a ticket.

  • Aaron Bialick

    What does the SFMTA have to gain from under-reporting sidewalk riding?

  • ubringliten

    This is ridiculous about cycling on the sidewalks fine.  Until you make the streets safe, then cyclists will stay away from sidewalks.  For example, at the Caltrain station on 4th/King, bunch of cyclists leaving the station going north on King St. always ride on the sidewalks.  Why?  Because that section of King St. is for cars only with no space at all for bikes and cars coming off from 280N are going really fast.

    I live nearby and I cycle frequently and there’s no way for me to ride on that street.  Well maybe I will have to now and that’s going to make lots of drivers angry.

  • mikesonn

    I take the right lane. Usually, the way the lights are timed, it doesn’t pay to go more than 12-15 mph on that stretch. Although, I have had drivers get very very impatient behind me on their way to waiting at a red light.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    I cringe when I see people do it.

    My goodness, what an exciting life you must lead.

    I ride (briefly) on the sidewalk all the time, and never do so in a way that will endanger or inconvenience any other human being.

    Why just 10 minutes ago I rode up the driveway of the next door house and along the sidewalk 25 feet ( carefully measured them!) to the driveway of my house.

    I look forward to inducing cringes in you and your fellow uncle tom types for years to come.

  • Mitigating circumstances notwithstanding you shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalk. Too often when I see sidewalk riders they’re moving at a very fast clip, earbuds in, oblivious to everything. 

    Lack of better infrastructure isn’t a very good reason to endanger pedestrians in my opinion. 

  • DPT should deputize citizens. I could bring in a few thousand a night for the city if I took a photo with license plate of every car that double parks on Irving between 8th and 10th or on 9th between Lincoln and Judah.

  • Aaron Bialick

    @f84b22d3acf35e1589e626b8e51fe1a4:disqus Wow, apparently you read a lot more into that than I intended. Let me clarify: I cringe when I see people ride in a way that is rude to or endangers others. I roll up to my door, too.

  • Aaron Bialick

    @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus Yep, who doesn’t love the de facto ATM double-park zone in front of Wells Fargo?

  • ubringliten

    how many drivers kill cyclists compared to how many cyclists kill pedestrians?  no it’s the lack of infrastructure and education.  all of copenhagen and netherlands, people don’t ride on the sidewalks because infrastructure is there.

  • If you are only going 25 feet then maybe it isn’t such a big frigging deal to walk those 25 feet.  Don’t roll to your door, just don’t do it, it really isn’t that hard to stop.

  • You know you are safer riding your bike on even the busiest streets than you are when you are riding on the sidewalk.

  • @ubringliten I don’t have the statistics on bike/ped sidewalk incidents, but frankly they aren’t relevant. Sidewalks weren’t meant for two modes of traffic moving at disparate speeds.

  • Anonymous

    Appropriate speed is context-sensitive whether street, sidewalk, etc.

    The “sidewalk riding is dangerous” meme is just bogus auto industry PR — no valid supporting research.

  • ubringliten

     why is it not relevant?  you said cyclists are endangering pedestrians but you fail to note that in the last 5 years there’s only one incident whereas there are at least hundreds that are injured by cars in that same time in the city of SF alone.

    until you have bike lanes on every single street and make it safe, why would cyclists want to bike on the sidewalks?  it doesn’t make any sense.

  • Susan

    What I’d like to know is if cyclists use the streets instead of sidewalks and, due to moving slower than vehicles, end up with tickets for impeding traffic. I guess it’s a wash since both sidewalk riding and blocking traffic cost the same.

  • It isn’t relevant because it  currently against the law, if you wish to make it lawful show that it does not increase risk to the lawful users of the sidewalk.  That said there are numerous studies that show that cycling on the sidewalk is very unsafe for cyclists.  Also why would “auto industry pr” not want bicycles on the sidewalk, it’s better than them sharing the road?

  • The impeding traffic law only applies to vehicles that require a registration.

  • mikesonn

    @facebook-100001895311343:disqus Not true, I know a cyclist who received a ticket for it for not riding in the bike lane near Woodside. [there was no bike lane, btw]

  • Anonymous

    Impeding traffic is a CVC violation that applies to the operator of a vehicle, not the vehicle itself. You don’t need registration nor a license to be cited.

  • ubringliten

    I wonder how the cyclists on the Embarcadero sidewalks would play out.  The sidewalks are really wide with very few walking at night.  Not to mention there are so many tourists riding bikes.  Would they get cited?

    Also, the one thing I don’t like about SF streets is the one way streets.  This will also force cyclists to ride on sidewalks.  I think most SF streets should be a two-way streets which would make it easier for bicyclists to navigate.

  • It’s legal to ride a bicycle on the Embarcadero promendade (a.k.a. Heab Caen Way). There really needs to be better signage – I’ve been yelled at for riding here too many times.

  • Anonymous

    I was told riding it was illegal.

  • I’ve never seen as issue get people so hyped up than sidewalk riding. “Pedestrians” and “bicyclists” shouldn’t be fighting each other. Isn’t it clear by now that the vast majority of people do not ride on the sidewalk and, when they do (myself included), it’s because the street is highly uncomfortable/unsafe or you’ve reached your destination. People – let’s focus on the real threat to our safety: high-speed, high-volume motorized traffic.

  • Anonymous

    I’d guess they more often end up with harassment by drivers/cops, injuries, and deaths — in that order — rather than tickets.

  • Anonymous

    The auto/bus/BRT/truck/rubber/oil industries do not want cyclists on the sidewalk because they know this is the only option making cycling viable for the majority of cyclists in America.

    Enforce the rule and watch the greatest threat to automobilty perish almost overnight.

    Even bike lanes are permissible — just not protected bike lanes. Everytime a PBL is constructed, a motor executive cries.

  • It’s difficult to find an official designation, but the Embarcadero Promenade is a multi-use pathway like the Panhandle. See the first paragraph of this Port document.

  • peternatural

    The conversation so far…

    A: 6% of cyclists ride on the sidewalk.
    B: No way is that true. I always see A LOT of cyclists on the sidewalk.
    A: It’s actually 6%.
    B: YOU LIE! I know for a fact that 6000 cyclists ride on the sidewalk. That’s a big number!! No way can it be a small percentage like 6%.
    A: But there are 100,000 cyclists…
    B: SHUT UP!!

    Disclaimer: I made up all the numbers besides 6%.

  • Anonymous

    You would only be ticketed if there are five or more cars backed up behind you and there is no opportunity for them to pass, such as on a single lane road with a double yellow center line. How often would this situation occur in most urban areas? My guess would be close to never. Chances are more traffic gets backed up by cars making u-turns, pulling in and out of driveways, and maneuvering for parking spots.

  • Aaron Bialick

    @peternatural:disqus It’s actually only 5 percent… another 1 percent were riding the wrong way on the road. The other 94 percent were riding properly.

  • peternatural

    So I made up all the numbers, including 6%.

    The point is that Jason’s “faculties” might see a lot of sidewalk riders, but he can’t tell what percentage of riders that is unless his “faculties” can get a bird’s eye view of everything happening in the city. (Or his “faculties” can peruse the SFMTA bicycle count report 😉

  • Guest

    For the first time ever since commuting by bike, I rode on the sidewalk yesterday morning on Market for one block, between Duboce and Guerrero.  That’s because the traffic lights were out at Market/Duboce, so it would have been crazy to try and cross Market there.  I used the working traffic lights at Market/Guerrero.

    I wonder if PD would have given any leniency in this situation….

  • Anonymous

    @facebook-100001895311343:disqus wrote: “If you are only going 25 feet then maybe it isn’t such a big frigging
    deal to walk those 25 feet.  Don’t roll to your door, just don’t do it,
    it really isn’t that hard to stop.”

    But why does it matter then? Why is it that slowly riding a bike on a sidewalk is such a big deal? You are hung up on the letter of the law rather than the point of the law (to prevent people from getting hurt). Please show me the statistics that say it has caused any more injuries than, say, pedestrians running down a sidewalk around a corner and slamming into somebody (and we don’t ban people from running down the sidewalk … but if you do so and aren’t looking, you are a jerk, but there is no law against it). There is no reason you or anybody else should care about a cyclists riding slowly for a couple hundred feet on the sidewalk to get to where they are going. This is entirely different from somebody flying down the sidewalk using it as a thoroughfare.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree about the 4th and Townsend intersection at Caltrain. Bicyclists needs there have been completely ignored by the city. Why are cyclists always second-class citizens who can never have anything designed for them? Cars, buses, taxis, and people we design for, but to hell with cyclists. We expect them to just fudge their way through the scrap of urban design, and then we get pissed at them for doing so. Since Caltrain is such a huge focus for cyclists, the MTA/Caltrain need to redesign the intersection and the station so that cyclists unique needs are actually considered in the design. And until that happens, it is utterly ridiculous to give tickets to cyclists riding on the sidewalk the couple hundred feet before the station.

  • mikesonn

    First off, the whole area needs to be striped and auto traffic slowed to 10 mph.

    As for King, it is a complete insult the bike lanes end 1.5 (LONG) blocks before you reach Caltrain. Townsend provides a bike lane to/from EMB, but you have deal with double parkers and drivers blindly pulling into and out of garages, not to mention the light at Townsend/EMB that takes forever.

    I guess the city really wanted that wide median next to the N/T tracks that serves zero purpose. All hail the median and it’s speed inducing qualities.

  • Anonymous

    @google-c1054b713ae4d63cc3ebaf620c20fb35:disqus wrote: “Sidewalks weren’t meant for two modes
    of traffic moving at disparate speeds”

    Totally agree: sidewalks were designed for pedestrians. However, roads also weren’t meant for two modes of traffic moving at disparate speeds, i.e., bicycles and cars. So if you are bicyclist, where are you supposed to go? This is the classic problem with American urban design: cyclists unique needs are totally neglected. So what do cyclists do? Either they brave the road at their own risk, or they take the sidewalk putting pedestrians more at risk (though *much* less so than the risks cars put on cyclists who ride on the road). I find it hard to blame those cyclists who make the latter choice. And I certainly think there is a difference between riding on the sidewalk as a thoroughfare versus riding slowly to get to your destination.

    In theory, I think we all agree that bicycles shouldn’t be on the sidewalks. But until we design our roads with bicycles in mind (which means safe and convenient protected bike lanes), then we can’t expect cyclists to act like the roads do have this design. And to ticket cyclists who are doing so (unless it’s blatantly reckless to the safety of pedestrians), like those at the 4th & King Caltrain station, is ridiculous and shows a society whose understanding of risk is completely misplaced (since cars kill and maim *way* more people). This is just such a low-priority item that it is sickening to see it lumped in with double-parking, which is a much higher priority item because its consequences are more severe.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    I’d make the trip back to my old neighborhood to watch that! (Plus I miss Bernie’s)

  • The Upright Biker

    What about kids? I take my three kids on bikes to Crissy Field via Columbus to Fisherman’s Wharf to Ft. Mason. On Columbus, I have them ride on the sidewalks because it is just too dangerous on Columbus for them.

    Will this trip now potentially cost me $300 a pop? 

    This is a foolish move for a non-problem.

  • Kids are allowed to ride on the sidewalk.

  • mikesonn

    Traffic aside, I wouldn’t have kids ride Columbus because of the pavement quality (or more so, lack thereof).

  • ubringliten

     Kids riding on the sidewalks while parents riding on the streets is really difficult to direct the kids especially when they are younger than certain age.  I think this would impose danger.

  • Anonymous

    Non-problem? I suppose it’s a non-problem if you feel entitled to ride on the sidewalk. For pedestrians, however, it is a problem and the increase in fine is justified. If someone is going to ride a bicycle on a public street, they are obligated to know the rules of the road.

  • Anonymous

    Though riding bikes on the promenade at excessive speeds needs to stop. Like cars, it’s the dipshits who think they’re on a race course that endanger others on the Embarcadero bayside promenade.