Tim Doyle Crash Demands Faster Fixes for SF Streets

On Bike to Work Day, 48-year-old Tim Doyle nearly died demonstrating, once again, the fundamental flaw of painting bike lanes between fast-moving traffic and parked cars.

There’s no need to watch this horrible wreck again, which was shot from the cell phone of someone driving a few car lengths behind Doyle, if you’ve already seen it. It’s sufficient to say Doyle was riding in the bike lane, doing everything right and legal, when a parked SFPD cruiser suddenly and completely without warning, pulled directly into him, catapulting him through the air. It’s a miracle that Doyle is alive to complain about San Francisco bicycle infrastructure. And it’s sufficient to say, again, that lanes like this don’t work. We’ve seen it again and again.

Streetsblog spoke with Doyle, who is recuperating at home. “To be honest, I was just by chance in the bike lane. I will take whatever I think is the safest lane. It just so happens I was in the technical bike lane when the SFPD hit me,” he said by phone from his home in North Beach where he’s recovering from his injuries. “I would have been in the third lane over if it the bike lane had been filled with cars,” he added, which, as any experienced cyclist knows, is usually the case. Doyle, who’s been cycling the streets of San Francisco since 1991, knows painted markings don’t provide protection. “Half the sharrows wear off and nobody pays attention to them anyway,” he said. But he likes the few protected bike lanes, such as the contraflow lane on Polk just north of Market. “There’s also an element on Market past 9th, that’s a nice bike lane with white cones,” he added, referring to the few short sections of bollard-protected bike lanes on Market.

Doyle’s crash reinforces what any experienced SF cyclist already knows: unprotected lanes are all but useless, unless you’re a truck driver looking for a place to double park. Streetsblog readers have shared their own observations. Here’s a recent one from reader Christopher Kintner:

Streetsblog reader Christopher Kintner shared this photo of yet another government vehicle blocking a bike lane in Oakland.
Streetsblog reader Christopher Kintner shared this photo of yet another government vehicle blocking a bike lane in Oakland.

SFMTA looks at paint as a first, quick step towards permanent improvements, such as on 2nd street, as seen here. But given Doyle’s crash and others, maybe it’s time for SFMTA to stop using paint and start using something solid. Why can’t SFMTA glue down plastic bollards as a quick fix or, better yet, drop down planters to make a quick protected bike lane and really keep cyclists safe, as was done recently in Vancouver as a stop-gap measure?

“The temporary bikeways we have implemented with raised objects have used flexible delineators (Safe-Hit posts), which we did on Oak and Fell before the planted medians went in,” explained Ben Jose, an SFMTA spokesman. “Unless you restrict all loading and parking on the bikeway side of the street, you have to do a parking protected facility, which on a signalized corridor like 2nd, is generally a capital-intensive change, rather than a temporary fix.”

One expert opined that such a dramatic change could trigger an environmental review. If that’s the case, we have to ask ourselves: what are these reviews for? If people are dying, do we really need to shed more blood to study whether a street treatment that’s saving lives all over the world is viable? Why aren’t we studying the status quo, which is breaking bones and cutting lives short right now?

In Vancouver, rather than pain in temporary measures, the put down planters to protect cyclists. Photo: Streetsblog.
In Vancouver, rather than paint in temporary measures, they put down planters. Photo: Streetsblog.

Either way, “It’s blatantly obvious that more and safer bike lanes should be delivered faster in San Francisco. The fact that Second Street is scheduled for raised bike lanes to be added later this year doesn’t help Timothy Doyle, as he sits at home coping with severe pain from being struck by that SFPD squad car,” said Chris Cassidy, spokesman for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “His injuries, and a culture of delays affecting projects like Masonic Avenue, are the direct result of City leaders demonstrating insufficient urgency to deliver safer streets.”

As to Bike to Work day, Doyle isn’t a fan of an event that he sees as an exercise in hypocrisy. “It’s lip service to get votes…especially with Mayor Ed Lee and his veto of the Bike Yield ordinance,” he said, bringing up the measure, vetoed by the mayor earlier this year, that was trying to get SFPD to stop cracking down on cyclists who slow, look both ways, and safely roll through stop signs at empty intersections. Meanwhile, Doyle had a very painful weekend courtesy of the SFPD. “I was like broken; I was in crazy pain–spasms. Hopefully I will come back,” he said, before cutting the call short to take a call from his attorney.

  • Maurice

    This is a great post. I think NYC under Michael Bloomberg’s leadership did more substantive “quick fixes” that actually protected bikers and walkers. Looking at temporary measures in SF, these seem to be half-measures.

    Secondly, this SFPD officeraptly demonstrates lack of commitment to vision zero at every level of SFPD and SFFD. These public safety departments are not genuinely bought into this vision, and it shows in their left turns, and in their disinterest in enforcing bike lanes and speeding restrictions in this town.

    The mayors office, the police and fire departments basically don’t care.

  • mx

    Get well soon Tim!

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Not drastic enough. Why does anyone need to drive on 2nd between Market and Mission at all? Just close it from Market to Stevenson. Instant sanity.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Will the planned raised bike lane on 2nd street actually have prevented this? Without any plans for any protected bicycle intersections, i’m not sure how the raised un-protected bike lane would’ve made any difference. Intersections are where most collisions take place, and throughout this city they’re still designed only to speed as many cars through as possible with bicycle riders being an afterthought.

  • jd_x

    I like seeing Streetsblog call out the City on the ridiculous second-class infrastructure it provides bicyclists. I would also love to see some follow-up on this with regards to what happens to the officer driving. No media but perhpas Streetsblog will follow this through, so I’m counting on you guys to give them hell and have them either mete out punishment to the officer involved (unlikely) or at least force SFPD to put down in writing another sorry excuse about how unable they are to truly make our streets safer so we can continue to use it as evidence that a massive change in leadership is needed. I would also like to see confirmed or denied the rumor I’ve heard that the cop lied on the incident report that he had his sirens and lights on. Screwing up and hitting a bicyclists is one thing, but then lying about it is an even bigger issue.

  • muttride

    I have been a bicycle commuter for 25 years, on and off, in various american cities and two different countries. While I love to ride in SF, and will continue to do so, I believe bike riding is getting more dangerous here, not less.

    I want to see my elected officials comment on this situation. Better, I want to see them ON THE STREET. How many supervisors rode on Bike To Work Day? I rode in the District 9 convoy, but David Campos was not on the ride. Who else was absent? Did the mayor ride? Any comments from his office?

    If elected officials cannot ride (fear, apathy, health issues) that’s fine. That’s what public transit is for. Last year SF Transit Riders issued a challenge for city supervisors and the mayor to ride public transit in the month of June and document how many times they did so.

    Check out the totals here … speaks for itself.

    http://sftransitriders.org/munichallenge/

  • Michael Morris

    We need an environmental review for the status quo

  • HMM burritos

    The police officer was not parked. There clearly was a right turn signal on when he went left across a solid white line without regard for safety.

  • TimDoyle

    I couldn’t agree more with statement that riding is getting more dangerous not less. I was at the first days of Critical Mass in the early 90’s, a once great movement has been splintered and diluted. (also the early days of The SF Bike Coalition) With a city government that allows and encourages “disruptive” technology companies (uber Lyft) flood the streets with unlimited cars and takes money from their VC’s like Ron Conway we as cyclists are in a fight for our existence. The decline and fall of cycling in this city can be marked with the mayoral election of 2003 between Matt Gonzalez and Gavin Newsom. Had Gonzalez won and been a two term Mayor this city would have been so much better for riding a bike in the city. I know I am getting “political”, but one has too.

  • TimDoyle

    Yeah you’ll have to fault me on that one. I’m the guy who got hit. I was in state of shock in the ambulance so I my interview I said in the SFPD car came out of a curbside parking spot. All I saw was a car that seemed stopped on the right curb suddenly jolt and come right at me. Thank god for the video because it shows everything.

  • TimDoyle

    Will do.

  • murphstahoe

    I think the general sense of riding getting more dangerous here ignores that the control variables are not static.

    I commuted to Caltrain from Noe Valley from 2002-2012. In that period the conditions I saw on a daily basis got substantially better – there is no way you can compare 2002 era Townsend or Cesar Chavez with today, if you only look at the roadway conditions.

    However, the changes in infrastructure have not kept pace with the general growth in the city. Townsend is harder to navigate despite the great bike lanes because Caltrain is now carrying over 2x the passenger load it used to, and other businesses have appeared in the area, meaning that moderately improved infrastructure is handling 3x as many people. Valencia is better designed but overrun. Market? Forgettaboutit.

    If you look at places where the craziness hasn’t taken as much hold – Bayshore, Alemany, Sloat – it’s substantially more pleasant to ride than it used to be.

  • Dre Hund

    Tim didn’t just get a painful weekend. He’s going to be hurting for a long time.

    Amazing this was caught on video. I thought the Russians were the kings of car videos.

  • Althaea

    Why don’t people just go to Europe, watch and see how its done properly, then come back and make it happen???

    Why?

    Not because the abundance of knowledge isn’t there, but because its the agenda here – whether overt or covert – that it doesn’t and never will happen.

    Until then, I don’t want to read or hear about anything. Yes, there’s going to be dozens, hundreds of martyrs and victims every year.

    There’s no mystery here. People need to wake up and understand that what’s going on here is a crime.

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