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Mayor Lee on Bike Demo: “I Won’t Bend to Interests Who Disregard Safety”

Contrasting with Supervisor London Breed’s sensible position on the demonstration planned in response to the SFPD’s impending bike crackdown, we bring you a dispatch from the hidebound side of City Hall — Room 200.

Mayor Ed Lee weighed in today on the plan from bike commuters on the Wiggle to fully comply with the stop sign law en masse this evening, to highlight its absurdity.

Mayor Lee on Bike to Work Day. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Lee told reporters that he’s “not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety”:

We’re a great city for first amendment voices. I’m willing to listen to them. But I’m going to always say everybody’s safety has to be the number one priority. I’m not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety. That’s not what our city should be doing.

We’re investing a lot of money in bike lanes. A lot of money in dedicated lanes. A lot of money in making sure that people can get to work without driving more cars. We have environmental goals for that to happen. But you’re talking to a mayor, and I think a very strong Board of Supervisors, who will not compromise safety for the sake of other interests.

Mayor Lee is, of course, missing the point of the demonstration entirely: SFPD’s Park Station captain is disregarding safety data and wasting precious enforcement resources on compliance with an impractical stop sign law, which won’t make anyone safer. Meanwhile, the driver violations that hurt the most people go under-enforced.

The “interests” Lee referred to — bike commuters rallied by the Wigg Party — say they “intend to show” that the unrealistic prospect of not practicing rolling stops on bikes (which Idaho legalized 32 years ago) would “have disastrous effects to traffic patterns” by disrupting the existing expectation of efficient turn-taking.

“That may be their point of view,” Lee said to a reporter. “Is it shared by everybody else?”

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Sup. Breed Backs Idaho’s Common-Sense Law: Let Bikes Yield at Stop Signs

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Updated at 1:04 p.m. with comments from Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition.

Supervisor London Breed has come out as the first known elected official in San Francisco to publicly support a sensible change to California traffic law: allowing people on bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs.

Supervisor Breed rides the Wiggle with the SF Bicycle Coalition's Noah Budnick (right) and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin after a recent celebration of the Fell and Oak bike lanes. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Supervisor Breed rides the Wiggle with the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Noah Budnick (right) and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin after a recent celebration of the Fell and Oak bike lanes. Photo: SFBC/Flickr

Breed voiced her position today in today’s deftly-crafted article by SF Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on changing the stop sign law:

“I think that’s how it should be,” she said, when asked if she supported San Francisco introducing Idaho-style rolling stops. “A bicycle is not a car, and they should be handled differently.”

Of rolling stops, she said, “On my bicycle, that’s what I do.”

“She’s speaking common sense,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, and former head of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Breed’s District 5 includes some of the city’s busiest bike routes like the Wiggle and Page Street, where two recent captains at SFPD’s Park Station have called for letter-of-the-law crackdowns on bike violations at stop signs. They aren’t a major cause of injuries, and the practice is even followed by officers biking in the district.

Breed’s views on bicycling issues have evolved since 2013, when she tweeted that “the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling” was “the bad behavior of some bicyclist” [sic]. She later clarified that she meant that the perception of bad bicycling behavior made it “harder to win public and political support” for bike safety improvements on the streets.

The complaints that drive SFPD’s bike crackdowns largely result from unrealistic expectations set by a strict interpretation of the state stop sign law, which treats 30-pound bikes the same as three-ton motor vehicles. The vast majority of people on bikes already negotiate stop signs safely by slowing, looking, and being prepared to yield when others have the right of way.

Allowing rolling stops on bikes “would normalize, and legalize, behavior people are doing safely anyway,” Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party told the Examiner. The Wigg Party plans to hold a “Wiggle stop-in” this evening to demonstrate the absurdity of the current stop sign law by rallying riders to make full stops at every sign.

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

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

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Wiggle Riders to Show Folly of Stop Sign Law By Complying With It

Demonstrators plan to muck up the flow of traffic on the Wiggle by daring to follow the letter of the stop sign law on bikes. Photo: Aaron Bialick

What if everyone on a bike followed the letter of the law and made a complete stop at every stop sign, as if they were driving a car?

“It would have disastrous effects to traffic patterns,” say the organizers of a “Wiggle Stop-In” demonstration planned for Wednesday evening. “That’s what we intend to show.”

Organizers at the Wigg Party hope to demonstrate the absurdity of the state stop sign law, which fails to account for the way people negotiate stop signs on bikes. It’s a response to plans by SFPD’s new Park Station captain to institute a crackdown on bike behavior (particularly at stop signs), diverting enforcement resources from violations that actually hurt people.

The group “want[s] to gather 50-100 cyclists to ride around the Wiggle/Lower Haight and stop at every stop sign in single file order,” the Wigg Party wrote on its Facebook event page. “We want to make the point that, in fact, requiring cyclists to come to full stops at every stop sign is a really terrible idea for everyone on the road.”

On the average day on the Wiggle, people walking, biking, and driving move mostly without incident. Reports of injuries involving bicycles are rare. The vast majority of bike commuters practice typical common-sense behavior at stop signs: slowing down, looking, and being prepared to yield to others with the right-of-way.

When bicycle riders who clearly have the right-of-way avoid unnecessary stops that kill their momentum, drivers and pedestrians can get moving faster, too.

The practice, which officers in Park District follow too, was legitimized by Idaho more than 30 years ago.

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SFPD Captain Justifies Bike Crackdown By Misconstruing “Focus on the Five”

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SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford is misconstruing the premise of his department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign to justify diverting precious traffic enforcement resources for his own campaign: getting people on bikes to always stop at stop signs, once and for all.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

Here’s a refresher on Focus on the Five, for those, like Sanford, who need it…

As many as 900 pedestrians are injured each year by drivers. The SFPD has used its data to identify the five most common causes of those injuries, as well as the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. By making the five most dangerous violations the top priority, the SFPD can use its limited traffic enforcement resources to have the greatest impact on reducing traffic violence.

Those five top crash factors are all driver violations: drivers violating of pedestrian right-of-way, drivers speeding, drivers running stop signs, drivers running red lights, and drivers making illegal turns.

But Captain Sanford doesn’t see it that way. “‘Focus on the Five’ depicts that Red lights and Stop signs are two of the most deadly behaviors that contribute to these tragic accidents,” he wrote in an email response to a constituent. “There is no exemption for cyclist [sic].”

Captain Sanford has his own rogue interpretation of statistics to justify his quest to control the “cyclist.” In this version of reality, data about driver behavior can simply be transposed to people who ride bikes. As such, people on bikes are assumed to be just as culpable for the vast majority of injuries on San Francisco streets as drivers are.

Rolling a stop sign on a bike, as the SFPD officers seen here are doing on Haight Street, is now one of the five most deadly violations, according to Captain Sanford. Screenshot from sugarfortea/Youtube

“Twisting the facts to divert resources away from enforcing the deadliest traffic violations is cynical and dangerous,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Chris Cassidy. “People who walk, bike and drive around the Panhandle, Inner Sunset and the Haight are scared of the effects this approach is going to have on the safety of their streets.”

Other SFPD officials seem to get it. Just last week, Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix explained at a Park Station meeting that “the injury that a car inflicts, of course, is far greater than what a pedestrian could do to a car, or what a bicyclist could do.” She noted, however, that “we get the most complaints about bicyclists.”

This is the real problem: Complaints — not data — still dominate traffic enforcement priorities at stations like Park.

Park Station residents and commuters would be safer if Sanford took a cue from his neighbor to the north, Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman. Richmond Station is the only one to meet the SFPD’s goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations towards “the five.”

“You always have competing demands on officer time,” Silverman told Streetsblog in December. “The collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

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SFPD Charges Trucker Who Killed Rose Kelly, 61, in Richmond Crosswalk

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

33rd Avenue at Cabrillo Street in the Outer Richmond. Photo: Google Street View

Updated 6/22 with the name of the driver.

The SFPD has filed misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the truck driver who killed 61-year-old Rose Kelly in a crosswalk in the Outer Richmond yesterday afternoon. It’s now up to District Attorney George Gascón to follow through with the prosecution.

Kelly was walking east in a crosswalk on Cabrillo Street at 33rd Avenue when she was hit by a GMC truck driver at 1:21 p.m, SFPD told the SF Chronicle and Bay City NewsKelly died from chest and head injuries at SF General Hospital.

Kelly was killed at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way in a crosswalk. [Update] SFPD officials confirmed that the charges were filed against the driver, Bing Zuo Wu, a 62-year-old SF resident.

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara said the organization “sends our regards to the family and friends who are mourning the loss of Rose Kelly, who was killed by a large vehicle driver who failed to yield.”

“It’s a stark reminder that large vehicles result in more severe crashes than smaller vehicles,” Ferrara noted, pointing out that the SFMTA is in “the final stages of developing a large vehicle training curriculum” announced in February. “It’s in the best interest of companies that use large vehicles to require that all employees take this training.”

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New SFPD Park Station Captain’s Bike Crackdown Won’t Make Streets Safer

In the name of “protecting life,” SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has promised a crackdown on people on bikes rolling through stop signs.

The SF Bicycle Coalition and some neighborhood leaders are calling on Sanford not to divert precious enforcement resources away from the most deadly traffic violations in the district, none of which are bicycle violations.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

The SFPD has committed to Vision Zero, an end to traffic deaths. Its ostensible strategy is called “Focus on the Five” — the idea being that most citations should be for the five top causes of traffic injuries in the city, which are all driver violations. All stations but one have failed to meet that goal. The share of tickets issued to people walking and biking is actually growing faster than “the five.”

“This crackdown is a significant departure from the SFPD’s Vision Zero Commitment and risks lives by diverting resources away from the deadliest traffic violations,” the SFBC wrote in a blog post today announcing a petition. “This program at Park Station ignores the SFPD’s Vision Zero goal and their own data… which show that the behaviors most likely to result in someone being hit or killed in the Park Station area are failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and sudden left or right turns.”

Park Station has a history of targeting people on bikes on the Wiggle and streets in the North of Panhandle and Upper Haight neighborhoods, often at intersections that are nowhere close to being the district’s most dangerous.

But Sanford, who became captain of the station in April, seems less convinced by data than by his personal perceptions. He explained his reasons for the crackdown at a community meeting in June, reports Hoodline:

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Driver Kills Ai You Zhou, 77, at Clay and Kearny; Christensen Calls for Action

Photo: Parker Day

Yesterday at about 6 p.m., Tim Pak Wong, 59, ran over and killed Ai You Zhou, 77, in the crosswalk at the notoriously dangerous intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets near Chinatown. Safety improvements have been planned for the location, and today Supervisor Julie Christensen called for swifter action on pedestrian safety from the SFMTA and SFPD.

SFPD issued Wong a citation on suspicion of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and misdemeanor manslaughter, reports the SF Chronicle.

Zhou appeared to have the walk signal, according to Parker Day, who witnessed the crash from about a block away as he biked toward the intersection. He said Wong was turning left onto Kearny from Clay.

When Day took the photo of the scene above, Zhou “had just stopped breathing and [Wong] was about to pull her out from under the car.”

“It was a terrible thing to witness,” Day added. “I hope I don’t ever see something like it again.”

D3 Supervisor Christensen held a press conference at the site of the crash today to call on the SFMTA to expedite pedestrian safety improvements and the SFPD “to step up enforcement at our problem intersections along our high injury corridors.”

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SFPD Increasing Tickets for Pedestrians Faster Than Tickets for Drivers

SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” tickets for dangerous driving violations dropped 6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to that of last year. Image: SFPD

First, the good news: In the last quarter of 2014, SFPD increased speeding enforcement 91 percent, from 933 to 1,781 citywide.

The bad news? Tickets to pedestrians more than doubled, from 436 to 1,110, continuing a recent trend of increasing tickets for people walking and biking faster than those for dangerous driving. All told, pedestrian fines accounted for 3.6 of total traffic citations in San Francisco, up from 1.7 percent over the same period the year before.

More than two years into the SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, the department still shows no signs of changing an agency culture that seems unable to prioritize enforcement of motorist behavior that endangers life and limb.

SFPD Traffic Commander Ann Mannix. Image: SFGovTV

At a supervisors committee hearing yesterday, SFPD Traffic Commander Ann Mannix, who took her post in January, expressed no intention of meeting the department’s official goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations to the top five most dangerous violations, which are all driver violations.

Mannix presented SFPD’s latest enforcement stats [PDF], showing dismal progress. The share of “Focus on the Five” tickets increased just two percent last year compared to 2013, from 22 percent to 24 percent. The trend is looking worse so far in 2015: In the first quarter of the year, the share of “Five” tickets dropped by 6 percent compared to the year before.

“We won’t change much from 2014 to 15,” Mannix told the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee. “I believe that you’ll see the numbers rise. Will we be at 50 percent? I don’t think so. Richmond District will be at 50 percent.”

Richmond Station continues to be the only station to meet the 50 percent goal. Mannix asserts that SFPD can’t meet its self-imposed Focus on the Five goal because officers can’t be choosy about what they enforce, and that police staffing is occupied with non-traffic duties.

Mannix repeated the argument of her predecessor, Mikail Ali, that the SFPD is increasing traffic enforcement overall, with a 54 percent increase in total traffic citations between 2013 and 2014.

But that statistic masks troubling enforcement trends. For instance, tickets for failure-to-yield, a leading cause of pedestrian fatalities, actually declined in the last quarter of 2014 compared to the last quarter of 2013, from 104 to 81.

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SFPD: Car Was Reported Stolen After Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Caught on Video

The car used in a pedestrian hit-and-run caught on video was reported stolen by its registered owner the morning after the crash, according to the SFPD.

Screenshot from ColdFire/Youtube

As we reported this week, video was posted online after a crash that occurred at Second and Howard Streets in the early morning hours of April 18. The driver was seen making a left turn from a right-hand lane, hitting a second vehicle and striking a man in a crosswalk. The driver has not been found.

Although SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan initially said the crash wasn’t reported, information on the case was uncovered after she was given the case number provided by the YouTube user who posted the video. Details from police were consistent with the comments posted by the YouTube user, who said he was driving the car with the camera and that he’d reported the crash to Northern Station the next day. The pedestrian has not reported the crash to the police.

​The Infiniti SUV was reported stolen by the owner at 10:52 a.m., the morning after the crash, said Gatpandan. The owner told police her car could have been stolen between 6 p.m. April 17 and 10 a.m. April 18, when she discovered it was missing. The crash was reported to police, apparently by the driver who took the video, at about 7:10 p.m.

“The pedestrian victim is vital for further investigation, as that victim will have to identify the driver of the suspect vehicle,” said Gatpandan. “The registered owner, especially in this case since the car was stolen, is not always the person driving the car. The case is being investigated by the Hit-and-Run Collision Investigations unit, but again there’s only so far the investigators can go without that victim ped information.”