SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Photo: Noah Budnick/Twitter

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes.

SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic lane.

Tickets were issued to people headed downtown who are essentially given no safe, legal, or practical alternative to use this official bike route. It’s one more sign that the department has no plans to stop targeting innocuous, common-sense behaviors by people on bikes while violations that hurt people remain under-enforced.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” said Jason Henderson, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

“Bicyclists don’t want to be doing that,” Henderson said. “It’s because the city has shirked its moral responsibility and left bicyclists to fend for themselves at that intersection.”

Squeezing to the left on Page, where the oncoming westbound traffic lane is mostly empty, has been normal for years and hasn’t been known to cause any crashes. The SFMTA has actually proposed a partial center-running bike lane on Page to legitimize the behavior as part of street improvements on and around Octavia.

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFPD officials haven’t responded to an inquiry asking how anyone could avoid the citations issued on Page this morning. It could be that police expect people biking to work to use a different route entirely, or to wait in line behind several blocks of motorists waiting to turn on to the Central Freeway.

Passing to the right, in the dooring zone between stopped cars and parked cars, is perilous if not impossible, since there’s not always room. The other streets within a few blocks of Page hardly serve as safe or direct alternatives. As a result, some resort to illegally riding on the sidewalk.

A few blocks away at Octavia and Market Street, SFPD conducted another sting in March at an intersection that’s so poorly designed the only rider spotted using it correctly in a “People Behaving Badly” segment was the city planner who’s managing the effort to redesign it.

“Getting police out there to ticket” at those kinds of spots, said Henderson, “reflects a really broad problem in the police department acting in a really unenlightened and obstructive way. We want to encourage people to use the least-impactful forms of transportation. We need to make it safe to bike. From a public policy perspective, this is a huge fail.”

Meanwhile, almost every SFPD station has failed to fulfill its pledge to prioritize enforcement against the five most dangerous driving behaviors.

When asked for comment on the operation, SFPD media relations staff directed us to Park Station’s new captain, John Sanford, though Page and Octavia is located well within SFPD’s Northern District. Sanford hasn’t responded to our inquiry.

Sanford has called for a crackdown on bike violations, justifying it with a backward interpretation of crash statistics. (In protest, a demonstration is planned tomorrow in which bike commuters will fully comply with the impractical stop sign law.)

Henderson said Mayor Ed Lee “needs to call” Police Chief Greg Suhr and say “‘What the hell are you doing? Call your people in. Don’t harass people who are making the right choice.'”

  • jd_x

    Agree. But the problem here is bicyclists are given no damn infrastructure! You can’t give bicyclists nowhere to go and then get pissed when it ends up being a clusterf*ck. It’s unbelievable that we expect otherwise. Just think about what would happen to cars if, on a two-way road, the lane in one-direction just ended and it turned into a protected, green-painted bicycle lane. It would be complete chaos, and you can bet driver’s would be doing all sorts of “illegal” things, e.g. driving in the bike lane, making illegal u-turns, etc. Same thing applies here to bicyclists. Bicyclists have always gotten the scraps of urban infrastructure, and even when they get some consideration, it’s secondary, haphazard, and sporadic.

    It’s a proven fact that when you give bicyclists (like any mode of transit) legitimate, safe space that has their unique needs at the center of their design, they behave as well as any other transit segment.

  • jd_x

    “So bike riders want the same rights and respect as automobiles”

    Nope: bicyclists want their own infrastructure and own laws that recognize that a 20 lb bicycle with no motor is entirely different from a 2-ton car with 200 hp and with a driver whose senses are significantly diminished by the steel cage they are in. Further, the same infraction on a bicycle poses a couple orders less in magnitude risk to society (using the statistics of how many people are hurt by bicyclists versus by cars). So I would say to you: do you really think both bicycles and cars should be treated the same?

    And if none of what I said seems to make sense to you and you can’t possible fathom that a bicycle and a car are different, then why do we have entirely different laws for pedestrians versus cars (e.g. pedestrians don’t have to stop at stop signs, don’t have rules about which side they pass on, etc.)? Once you start trying to explain that, think about where I bicycle fits in on the continuum between a pedestrian and huge vehicle, and you’ll see that it is much closer to a pedestrian … yet still different.

    We’ve neglected bicyclists from urban design and thus said that their safety (let alone their convenience) is secondary to everyone else, but then we want them to follow silly laws that were not written at all for their unique needs and which do not actually make sense?

  • That is a great guideline for answering “How should I generally be riding?” But not necessarily for “Is riding across a crosswalk in itself illegal?”

  • ClaireB

    I really want to get to my destination safely, efficiently, and quickly by not polluting anyone’s air, not paying thousands of dollars for a vehicle, not filling up on oil imported and refined, all while getting some exercise to decrease my burdeon on public health. Why is that seemingly impossible?

  • darelldd

    I have finally figured it out. We need to ban pedestrians, and then we’re ALL safe. Done!

  • SF Guest

    Pedestrians are banned on freeways.

  • Dark Soul

    The resource is correctly being spent to ensure safety.. Finally they are taking it seriously

  • darelldd

    I can’t think of any reason that would not be legal.

  • darelldd

    Hmmm. Definitely not my area of expertise. But as far as I know, pedestrians are not banned on freeways in general. Only if expressly prohibited by signs at onramps – similar to cycling. All that I know for sure is that on signs that ban cycling on freeways, walking is always banned. And if walking were ALWAYS banned, I’m not sure we’d need to waste the sign space.

    But of course what I meant was banning the pedestrians at this particular intersection where they seem to be most endangered. (tongue firmly in cheek. It is a common refrain to wish to ban cycling in places where cyclists being run over by cars at relatively high frequency).

  • Alicia

    Just because they haven’t hit one doesn’t mean they aren’t endangering pedestrians.

    Just because the sun isn’t predicted to die for millions of years doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen tomorrow!

  • Alicia

    It’s not “lol pedestrian”

    It’s “lol does not read actual info on traffic hazards and thinks bikes are equally or more dangerous to him as cars”

  • bassguitarhero

    how many cars have you been hit by?

  • Alicia

    Oh, are we having fun with irrelevant questions now? When did a dingo steal your baby?

    I don’t have to be personally hit by a car to know that (a) the likelihood of it happening is far higher and (b) the likelihood that it will kill or seriously injure me is a lot higher for collisions with a car than for a bike. Enough of your false equivocation. It’s fundamentally dishonest.

  • NoeValleyJim

    You are not a Real San Franciscan either.

  • NoeValleyJim

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1389602/

    17% of auto drivers come to a complete stop at an intersection without prompting.

  • NoeValleyJim

    No one complains about because it happens every day all over The City.

  • hailfromsf

    Exactly. It’s hard to set up a city-wide “sting.”

  • folderpete

    That would be a definite improvement on Market St, 8th – 3rd. Ped behavior there is getting quite risky for quiet cyclists, cuz the peds just don’t look (thinking Silence = Safety).

  • darelldd

    No, it is not illegal to pass slower cars with a bicycle. Apparently there is a short section of double-yellow that both cars and cyclists cross over to get around the long line of turning cars. THAT is illegal to cross. Cars and cyclists do it regularly here. The article is about a crack-down on cyclists doing it.

  • darelldd

    Can I vote for this as the best comment in the thread, please?

  • darelldd

    >> I want to be able to walk down the sidewalk and cross the crosswalk without dodging bicyclists illegally riding on the sidewalk and riding through crosswalks.

    Awesome! Then join in the chorus of voices demanding reasonable infrastructure, laws and enforcement that accommodates safe and efficient cycling! Cars have theirs. Pedestrians have theirs. Cyclists have… crap, basically.

    I dare you to ride any distance in SF without breaking the law (it would be good to also LEARN what the laws are… the subtle ones beyond “stop at stop signs.”). Driving too, for that matter. The law isn’t what matters here. Safety and concern for other users is what matters. Push THAT, instead of letter of the law, and you might get somewhere.

  • NoeValleyJim

    If they did cite the driver, the DA would refuse to press charges. Because cars.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Yer’ not from around here, are you?

  • FacheuxIsMyHoe15Dollars

    You’re right, geez I mean if you don’t have a handle with your neighborhood on it you just aren’t certifiable.

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