Majority of Supes Back the “Bike Yield Law” to Be Introduced Tomorrow

The “Bike Yield Law” proposed by Supervisor John Avalos is poised to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors Avalos, Breed, Wiener, Kim, Mar, and Campos have all signed on as sponsors of the "Bike Yield Law." Photos: SF Board of Supervisors
Supervisors Avalos, Breed, Wiener, Kim, Mar, and Campos have all signed on as sponsors of the “Bike Yield Law.” Photos: SF Board of Supervisors

The ordinance urges the SFPD to let bicycle riders safely treat stop signs as yield signs. Avalos plans to introduce the ordinance tomorrow, and it has support from six supervisors — the majority needed to vote it into law. It’s unclear if it has support from SFPD officials.

The latest endorsements come from Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar, joining early sponsors London Breed and Scott WienerThe six co-sponsors plan to hold a press conference at City Hall before tomorrow’s board meeting.

At the event, SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick will speak about “the need to provide SFPD the direction and clarity that they deserve in order to achieve Vision Zero and safer streets overall,” according to an SFBC press release.

While local legislation cannot supersede the state’s stop sign law, Avalos’s ordinance would set a “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy” that would “make citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority.” In essence, it would legitimize the safe, practical way that people on bikes normally treat stop signs, which has been legal in Idaho for 32 years.

Avalos announced his plans to introduce the legislation last month after SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford called off his letter-of-the-law crackdown on bike commuters rolling stop signs. In an interview with Streetsblog, Sanford seemed hesitant to support the bill, saying that police already use discretion in prioritizing limited enforcement resources.

Support from the SFPD will be crucial for the non-binding ordinance to hold sway over police traffic enforcement priorities. The SFPD’s lagging compliance with its own “Focus on the Five” campaign against the most dangerous driving violations is evidence of how difficult it is to change police practices, even when it’s official department policy. Most SFPD stations have only begun to move toward the enforcement target set in January 2014.

The press conference announcing the “Bike Yield Law” ordinance will be held tomorrow on the steps of City Hall at 12:30 p.m.

  • SFnative74

    The law makes sense and I’m glad there is support for passing it, but what people need to realize – especially people on bikes – is that you have to yield to whoever has the right of way! This law doesn’t condone blowing through stops or signals, which needs happens too often and needs to stop. Even if it is just 5% of bike riders who blow through stops, it is way too much. Drivers aren’t off the hook either…too many roll through stops at high speeds, run red lights, and don’t yield to pedestrians.

  • Morgan Fitzgibbons

    This is great news. The Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee that advises the Board of Supervisors on pedestrian safety matters has unanimously endorsed this ordinance which should carry heavy weight with the Supervisors who haven’t weighed in.

    The Bicycle Advisory Committee will be considering a similar resolution next Monday.

  • mx

    This law makes no sense. The “lowest law enforcement priority” kludge (taken from our city’s marijuana policy, where getting actual change from the state and federal legislature is impossible) just creates uncertainly and ambiguity. It leaves the door open for officers to cite people anyway and provides little clarity to all road users as to what to expect at stop sign controlled intersections.

    And if you want to look to our marijuana policy for guidance of how the “lowest law enforcement priority” turns out, check out SF Weekly’s May report, in which we find major racial disparities in who gets cited.

    The right way forward would be to get the state legislature to authorize a pilot program whereby San Francisco could write its own ordinance. In the meantime, this just creates chaos.

  • djconnel

    Is there precedent for the state to authorize pilot programs? I agree a true legal solution rests with the state but with the entrenched California car culture (even something as trivial as the 3-foot passing rule was vetoed twice by Brown) the only way this will happen is either if a majority of other states do it first or if San Francisco can establish an example that this policy works. And as Sanford points out there is already police discretion, and therefore bias, unfairness, and racism, in the enforcement of law — this changes little.

  • A great step in the right direction, but if the BOS doesn’t actually have sway over SFPD priorities, that would imply only Mayor Lee does?

  • mx

    Is the actual text of the proposed measure available anywhere? I realize it may change of course, but the devil is in the details with something like this.

  • Matty Cakes

    I think that most cyclists (including myself), would have no problem with SFPD citing the most egregious offenders. It was the fact that they went completely overboard and started enforcing the letter of the law and not the spirit of it that really riled people up.

  • Darksoul SF

    Great step in the right direction for danger. Allowing bikers to run stop signs. This is some great Vision Zero Plan.

  • Rebecca Gardner

    It’s worked in Idaho for 33 years.

  • Darksoul SF

    Public should determinate if the law is safe or not.

  • Greeniesf

    I somehow think that driving in traffic in San Francisco is a bit different than that in Idaho. When it works, great. I think it is more the mentality of the bike rider/car driver deciding how they will negotiate in a nano second, whether to stop for safety or be combative. I have seen both applied and personally see accidents continuing. Fell/Oak Streets are the worst in my opinion.

  • pablo_skils

    “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”
    -Abraham Lincoln

  • my_username_already_exists

    Good. There are many better ways for cops to use their time in SF.

  • Tim Covington

    A balanced story would have gone into why those not supporting this law/policy are not doing so. Without balance, this story is unpersuasive bias.

  • Mountain Viewer

    Maybe there should an additional measure calling for stronger enforcement for bikes not yielding at a stop and not stopping at a red light? In fact wasn’t it part of the Idaho Stop law?

  • Spifford

    The lowest priority is still a priority and all this legislation could still have no results.

  • deniselb

    Should a car be able to go through the stop sign as long as it yields to whoever has the right of way? If you let bikes do it I don’t really see why cars won’t demand the same right – and just start doing it, since willfully ignoring the law seems to be working for the cyclists.

    Everyone thinks he’s a good driver and that he knows when it’s safe to ignore the traffic laws. That’s what they’ll claim – there was no one at the intersection and no risk to anyone, so why should I have to stop?

  • SFnative74

    I’m not sure what you’re asking for since drivers constantly roll through stops and I’ve NEVER seen or heard of a driver pulled over for doing that. I have seen people on bikes given tickets for rolling through stops. And yes, I think it’s ok for drivers to roll through stops at low speeds as long as they yield correctly and are able to stop if needed. Many cities around the world have very few stop signs, because the drivers are capable of doing this safely. Drivers here…they don’t see a stop sign and they just hit the gas. If you need examples, go out to the Sunset or Richmond at the few intersections that don’t have stops in all directions.