SFPD Park Station Begins Pointless Harassment of Bike Commuters

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has made good on his promise: Officers were out this morning ticketing bike commuters who failed to comply with a strict application of the stop sign law on Page Street and the Wiggle. One bike rider said police justified her ticket by adding their own fictional flourish to the law.

Laura Kiniry, 41, said she canceled a doctor appointment she was biking to after receiving a $234 ticket (plus court fees) because she didn’t put her foot down after climbing uphill on Central Street to make a left onto Page.

Kiniry, who has biked in the city for 18 years, said she saw two people on bikes already pulled over by police at Page and Baker. She assumed she wouldn’t receive a traffic citation for making a safe, practical near-stop after pedaling uphill at single-digit speeds.

“Maybe I didn’t come to a complete stop. I looked both ways,” said Kiniry. She said the officer told her, “‘You have to have at least one of your feet down.'” That supposed requirement appears nowhere in the California Vehicle Code.

Kiniry says she told the officer, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to bike. I’m not going downtown anymore. I’m terrified, I don’t know if I’m allowed to pull up next to a car, I don’t know what I’m allowed to do anymore. I can’t afford this.”

Today’s ticket blitz came a week after the Wiggle “stop-in” demonstration highlighting the absurdity of strictly enforcing the stop sign law. The law makes no distinction between bikes and cars, and expects bicycle riders to make a full stop, rather than the normal practice of slowing and yielding to others.

Demonstrators on bikes lined up on Steiner Street before each, in turn, came to a full stop at Waller Street and turned left, moving the queue at a snail’s pace. While no uniformed SFPD officers stuck around at the demonstration, one officer drove past the queue and said on his loudspeaker, “Thank you for obeying the law.”

SFPD was right back at the same intersection this morning handing out tickets to bike commuters who didn’t come to a full stop.

An SFPD driver thanks bike commuters for obeying the letter of the stop sign law at last week's demonstration. Screenshot from The Wigg Party via Uptown Almanac
An SFPD driver thanks bike commuters for obeying the letter of the stop sign law at last week’s demonstration. Screenshot from The Wigg Party via Uptown Almanac

After receiving her ticket on Page, Kiniry said she walked her bike home, a few blocks away on Oak Street. But first, she stayed at the scene to warn approaching bike commuters that police would ticket them if they didn’t put a foot down, which doesn’t make anyone safer.

“At least six cops” were posted on Page, noted Kiniry. “Really? Shouldn’t you be doing something else?”

Last week, Supervisor London Breed came out in support of letting people on bikes yield at stop signs, which has been the legal standard in Idaho for 32 years. When reached for comment, staff from Breed’s office reiterated her stance and said she urges SFPD to comply with its data-driven “Focus on the Five” campaign.

In an email exchange shared with Streetsblog, Inner Sunset resident Sean Rea told Park Captain Sanford that he is “willfully disregarding statistical evidence that proves the majority of injury accidents are caused by motorists — not by pedestrians or cyclists.”

Sanford has said the bike crackdown is a response to complaints rather than data. So Rea wrote multiple emails to report run-ins he’d had with reckless drivers while bicycling. Here’s one example:

Twice this week I was cut off by drivers who failed to yield to me. In both cases, [an] SFPD patrol car was behind me and had complete visibility of the situation. I was able to talk to each patrol car at the next red light and when I asked why they didn’t cite the driver, both said something to the extent of “well, you’re OK, right?”.

This seems like a stark double standard to me. Drivers can put me at risk but as long as they don’t hurt me they won’t get cited. Yet when cyclists make small infractions that don’t result in injury the response from you is a crackdown.

Here’s Sanford’s response to Rea’s complaints:

It appears that you have already made your mind up and you clearly do not understand our obligation to address all issues within the district.  I respect your opinion, but we obviously disagree with each other.  Again, I have noted your concerns and admit we have many issues with motorist, but I have not heard you admit that some cyclist our violating the law. Despite them not being able to cause as much damage as vehicles, it is still the capability of someone getting seriously hurt.  Again, sorry we disagree.

While pedestrian injuries involving bicyclists do happen, rarely, SFPD’s literal application of the law is sweeping up safe cyclists instead of targeting the problematic locations or bicycling behaviors.

This morning on the Panhandle, a man riding a bike hit a woman on the narrow Panhandle path, which is often crowded with bike and foot traffic. The woman was sent to the hospital, according to a tweet from KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts, who is expected to run a “People Behaving Badly” segment on bike enforcement today.

Kiniry and Rea both said they see bike violations that range from annoying to dangerous, but that SFPD’s indiscriminate dragnet isn’t making streets safer.

“I always thought what I was doing was the law,” said Kiniry. “I get upset when I see cyclists blow through stop signs. I think that’s dangerous. I would never do that.”

“The people that put people in danger, that put pedestrians in danger — I’m not one of them. And they’re not giving them tickets. They’re giving someone like me a ticket.”

The next SFPD Park Station community meeting will be held next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

  • LHT

    I thought ignorance of the law wasn’t a valid defense. If it’s not a defense for me, it sure as hell shouldn’t be a defense for those ENFORCING the ‘law’! Grrrr

  • pdecks

    Agreed. Just yesterday when I was biking on Sansome in the center lane, making my way to the left side of the street to turn left, some driver gunned around me to get to the red light in a hurry. I saw him freaking out in his car and then he yelled at me, “What the f*ck are you doing?!” I said, “I am riding a bicycle.” He yelled, “Stay on your side!!” I said, ” I am going left. This is ‘my side’, whatever that means.” I am glad that I was turning and was able to get away from someone who had such little regard for human life.

  • Volker Neumann

    meanwhile on page street https://youtu.be/hGL3v8qlQBY

  • bourbon

    The gentlest and most diplomatic way I can put it is that SFBC is ineffective. What we have in this city is a problem of perception that is anchored in a strong culture of car centrism and entitlement. People don’t see and don’t want to see how completely ubiquitous bad driving is and how biased and counter-productive their attitudes are. SFBC should be actively and creatively addressing this. Make videos, etc. Instead, they redouble their “bike polite”efforts to make nice with biased police and screeching parking advocates.

    Time to start a new bike advocacy organization. Anyway, this last one was taken over by a petty Board and some dude parachuted from New York playing a petty political game.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    This derails the thread away from the Park Station crackdown. I don’t agree that inserting SFBC politics here is useful to anyone.

  • bourbon

    The effect that these crackdowns have on me is that I won’t bike anymore. Some wiggle residents might stop foaming at the mouth for a second and jump up and down in glee at the prospect of less cyclists, but the alternatives are this:

    – take muni, making it more crowded for everyone else who uses it, and making me a much less pleasant person to share the city with

    – walk, but then at every block a car almost hits me because the drivers who respect ped right of way when making right turns are rare unicorns. I have no way of acting upon this because apparently everyone is too busy moving mountains to get cyclists to place their foot down, so I might actually get hit at some point like so many others.

    – take uber/lyft, increasing the congestion that the same people who oppose bike lanes complain about.

  • bourbon

    It was an important PSA and it makes sense to insert it as it comes up. If SFBC takes money from people and deceives them into thinking that they are renewing their membership as opposed to merely making a donation, I think that it is only ethical to correct that misrepresentation.

    If somebody mentioned that they bought a bike and I knew that the company was selling defective brakes, it would be my responsibility to mention it even if it’s completely off-topic. No need to stick to such a narrow injunction of what can and can not be discussed based on the original topic.

    I wasn’t inserting SFBC politics by providing this information, but if it develops into a discussion on SFBC politics, I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s the internet, comments often lead to discussions other than what
    the original topic was about. It’s ok to
    have multiple threads on multiple topics.

  • murphstahoe

    This is one of those “district issues”

  • murphstahoe

    I give it 2 weeks before you lose your mind. Once you’ve invested enough mental effort to be able to bike around, you can’t go back to eloi lane

  • Black n Pink Fixed Gear

    Ol’ Capt Sanford won’t even last as long as his predecessor Capt. Raj if he keeps this up. I doubt Chief Suhr will get behind this nonsense. Kiss his sorry ass goodbye.

  • LHT

    So, the SFBC spends years and countless time and energy advocating for the Wiggle to become a sanctioned bike route. The SFMTA finally agrees and paints some boxes and sharrows, and even puts in a few blocks of protected bike lanes. It’s wildly successful and everyone uses it. The logical result is that the SFPD tries to shoo us away….sounds a tremendous waste of tax dollars to me. Who’s running this clown show?

  • the_greasybear

    I was knocked off my bike at 16th and Valencia by a motorist who fled the scene. I couldn’t walk. When my partner found a motorcycle cop, he refused to give chase and offered nothing except advice: “Take a taxi to the emergency room.” Bias, bias, bias.

  • p_chazz

    So bicyclists are morlocks. That’s always been my impression.

  • p_chazz

    Agreed. Aaron should start a thread about the SFBC coup.

  • Nicasio Nakamine

    It’s not a bad idea – any big change with the SFBC seems like a story that belongs on sf.streetsblog. There are certainly lots of other SFBC related stories.

  • Sean Rea

    Problem is changing CVC is a statewide issue. Good luck there.

    You could possibly get the BOS to order the SFPD to deprioritize enforcement, as they did in 2006 with marijuana-related laws:

    http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2006/11/san-francisco-board-supervisors-vote-overwhelmingly-deprioritize-adult-marijuana-offens

  • bourbon

    Cars don’t follow the rules of the road. So obviously that’s not how the equation goes.

  • This seems to be the relevant section of the CVC. Anybody know of other sections that might apply?

    22450. (a) The driver of any vehicle approaching a stop sign at the entrance to, or within, an intersection shall stop at a limit line, if marked, otherwise before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c8/22450


    Think I’ll keep a screenshot of this one one my phone. For Sanford’s sake.

  • City Resident

    sounds like another day in San Francisco, where the car is king

  • To be clear… relevant to the supposed requirement to put a foot down when stopping.

  • David

    I agree… they are effectively intimidating cyclists into using other routes that may be less safe and/or convenient. I know personally that I’ve changed habits because of the SFPD sh*tshow. I’m now heading downtown via Golden Gate rather than Page. While the new route has its own merits, I definitely resent this whole PR stunt being put on by Sanford.

  • David

    I agree with you, but I will share the one great anecdote I have that is the exception to what otherwise seems to be a poor track record by the SFPD of anti-cycling bias:

    About two months ago I was cycling west on Market as a part of the evening bicycle commute masses. Embedded in the group was an SFBD bike patrol officer who really seemed there to ride *with* the group, not against it.

    As we reached Van Ness, some knucklehead in a convertible (relevant to what follows) decides to make some aggressive, ill-advised maneuvers (with no signals, etc.) to make a right from Market onto Van Ness. He basically bullies himself in front of all the bikes heading across Van Ness and wedges himself in the middle of the cross walk with bikes/peds forced to swing around him. The officer immediately turns north on Van Ness and yells to the driver to pull over. The driver, clearly seeing and hearing the bike officer decides to then evade him by making another aggressive move (some strange U-Turn like action) through the crosswalk (and more peds) and speeds west on Market and makes the first right onto Franklin.

    I was pissed, as this person nearly hit me during this whole mess, so I decided to sprint after him and try to get a plate number. Anyway, I turn down Franklin and yes, he’s caught in traffic. I stay back (I’m not looking for a confrontation) to get his licence when, bless his soul, that bicycle patrol officer comes sprinting down the road. Long story short, the dude in the car did get pulled over and it didn’t look like he was going to get a warning.

    Anyway, it was nice, for a change, to see a driver pull one of those moves and not just get busted, but busted by a cop on a bike who thankfully witnessed the whole thing.

  • SuperQ

    SFBC/Supervisors can’t change the law, that’s a state issue.
    We can’t get the police to stop

    We’re left with one solution, get the SFBC/Supervisors to get SFMTA to replace the stop signs with yield signs. The first step in eliminating SF’s stop sign infestation.

    Once there’s no stop sign, there’s no infraction, and traffic can flow smoothly, slowly, through “uncontrolled” intersections.

  • Sabbie

    SFPDparkstation@sfgov.org Send them an email and let them know what you think about this mis-appropriation of limited police resources towards bicyclists putting their foot down at stop signs.

  • joshsusser
  • Ed Llorca

    The cyclists admit to not stopping so right there that law, dumb as anyone may feel it is, was broken and the cyclists are at risk of being cited. Anything beyond that is whining and crying. If cyclists are going so slow as claimed, is it really a big deal to throw down a foot which acts as proof they stopped? This problem is not just found in SF. Cyclists make a ruckus about their safety claiming motorists break the law and thus they draw attention to themselves and guess hat? We dont hold up to the scrutiny and most of us cyclists break laws right and left. So its time to grow up and make a choice: follow the law so we can complain about others or shut up and leave things lie. Can’t have it both ways.

  • ubrayj02

    So simple.

    (1) Create small legal defense fund.
    (2) Position NGO employees at the scene to gather contact info, citation #’s
    (3) Get everyone to contest their citations in court, use legal fund to cover costs
    (4) Create chaos in court, self-report using legal fund money, to lobby for a better law.

    Once you know the cops are out doing this you need to get a large number of people to come and get ticketed. It only works if you have a number big enough to become a problem for the system on a larger scale.

    We did this with bike licenses in LA on a much smaller scale and it worked wonderfully in city hall.

    I think it was dubbed “the zergling rush” after a similar tactic in the video game StarCraft.

  • Russell Kurson

    Three cheers to SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford ! It’s about time to keep the “Bicycle Brigade” in line.

  • Sabbie

    I was caught in a “pedestrian sting” on my motorcyle. The plainclothes cop was just standing on the corner and let about 25 cars go by, so why would I think he was trying to cross the street… but then suddenly jumped off the curb to cross right in front of me. I could either slam on the brakes, and lose control or get rear-ended, or swerve to go around him. I did the latter and got a big fat ticket. The cops in the car knew it was BS, I could tell they were embarrassed when they wrote it.

  • I live in Duboce Triangle, walk my dog by the Wiggle every morning.

    I don’t believe I have seen a single SFPD officer on a bike since Captain Vaswani was transferred from Park Station to fix the Bayview. Has Captain Sanford completely eliminated bike patrols?

  • @jd_x – I agree that the SFBC has gotten excessively cozy with the City, the biggest lurch being the organization’s endorsement of Ed Lee in 2011 (against the wishes of their membership), and cheerleading just about anything the SFMTA does, regardless of quality.

    They have, however, taken the right position on this issue and challenged the SFPD’s wrongheaded priorities. The question remains, though, how hard they will push.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Have you ever actually ridden a bike? Going from 3mph to zero and back takes a huge amount of energy. Unclipping and reclipping your pedal takes concentration, which means while we’re clipping back into our pedal that’s mental energy we aren’t spending assessing the situation around us. There is no law requiring people biking to put a foot on the ground at stop signs. Some more experienced cyclists are able to stop and remain balanced without unclipping, but again this requires focus and concentration. Our lives are in danger at every intersection from drivers who don’t pay attention. Requiring people on their bikes to come to a complete stop and tap their foot on the ground at every stop sign is not only useless, it jeopardizes our safety. That action just added at least 5 seconds of time we’re in the middle of the intersection in harms way, impeding traffic around us.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    The foot down requirement is something made up by non-bicycle riders who falsely believe that in order to stop a bike than a foot must be on the ground to remain balanced.

  • leetramp

    I’m wondering if there hals been an increase in vehicle and pedestrian citations at this location. If the police are ‘cracking down,’ they should be enforcing all laws, and as such there should be significant number of citations for, e.g. vehicles that don’t stop before the crosswalk. I bet way more than half of all drivers don’t come to a full stop before the crosswalk.

  • Hobo
  • Hobo

    It’s old data but here are some statistics:
    http://www.city-data.com/accidents/acc-San-Francisco-California.html

  • Roy

    I saw that. Thanks for following up. He stopped short of proposing any legislation or coming out in support for the Idaho stop, but it is good to have his support in this matter.

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