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Tomorrow: Weigh in on SFPD’s Bike Crackdown With Captain Sanford

As a new video illustrates, SFPD seems to hold drivers to a different standard when they roll stop signs at Page and Scott Streets. Image: Kristin Tieche/Vimeo

A new video illustrates how SFPD holds drivers who roll through stop signs to a different standard than cyclists. Image: Kristin Tieche/Vimeo

SFPD Park Station’s monthly community meeting tomorrow evening is your chance to weigh in on the ongoing harassment of bike commuters led by new captain John Sanford.

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

On the ride there, you can join a second Wiggle “stop-in” to demonstrate the folly of holding bicycle riders to the letter of the stop sign law.

Sanford’s decision to devote police resources to these tickets is now opposed by at least three supervisors: London BreedJohn Avalos, and Scott Wiener.

“Enforcement against minor bike violations won’t make our streets safer but will make it a heck of a lot harder for people to bike,” Wiener wrote in a post on Medium today:

In my view, traffic enforcement should focus on dangerous traffic behaviors — which are largely by motorists – that lead to deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Regarding bikes, police absolutely should enforce against cyclists engaging in dangerous and reckless behavior , for example, blowing through stop signs without slowing down, violating the rights-of-way of other road users, biking on sidewalks, and speeding . However, enforcing against cyclists for minor violations  —  such as slowing down at a stop sign, cautiously and safely entering the intersection, and not violating anyone’s right-of-way  —  is not a productive use of scarce traffic enforcement resources.

While Sanford fixates on holding cyclists to a strict interpretation of the stop sign law, SFPD still seems to ignore “rolling stops” committed by car drivers at the same locations.

A new video produced by Volker Neumann and Kristin Tieche (below) shows traffic on a normal night at the intersection of Page and Scott Streets on the Wiggle, where most bicyclists and drivers don’t come to a complete stop when there’s no cross traffic.

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Help Streetsblog Shine a Light on SFPD’s Bike Crackdown — Submit Your Video

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SFPD was spotted ticketing bike commuters on the Wiggle as late as 11:30 p.m. last night. Help by filming the crackdown on your commute. Photo: Kristin Tieche

SFPD was ticketing bike commuters on the Wiggle as late as 11:30 p.m. last night. Help by filming the crackdown on your commute. Photo: Kristin Tieche

Streetsblog needs you and your devices to provide eyes and ears on the Wiggle, Page Street, and wherever the SFPD is lurking to ticket bicycle riders who harmlessly roll stop signs.

It’s been clear from the start that Park Station’s bike crackdown is a huge waste of resources. But there are things that video can help us understand better. What are bike riders doing that triggers a ticket? Are tickets going to people who actually violate others’ right-of-way? Are police accurately enforcing laws?

So, the next time you head out in the Park Station district, if you’ve got a few minutes and you come across officers staked out at an intersection, get some video footage. Let’s see if we can get a look at this bike enforcement in action.

Although no SFPD bike stings were reported this morning on social media, it’s a good bet they’ll be back soon — and not just during rush hour. Police were issuing citations to people on bikes between 10 p.m. and midnight last night, according to posts on Twitter and Facebook.

If you get something on video, send your file or link to abialick@streetsblog.org.

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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.”

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Full Bike Compliance With the Stop Sign Law: An Effective Spectacle

At yesterday's "stop-in" on the Wiggle, bike commuters queued up for over a block to make a full stop at Steiner and Waller Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

At yesterday’s “stop-in” on the Wiggle, bike commuters queued up for over a block to make a full stop at Steiner and Waller Streets. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Countless bike commuters queued up for over a block yesterday to make a completely legal left turn on the Wiggle. As predicted, the demonstration showed the absurdity of how full compliance with the impractical stop sign law — which makes no distinction between bikes and cars — would actually play out.

The Wiggle “stop-in” was a response to calls for a crackdown on bike violations at stop signs from the new captain at SFPD’s Park Station, John Sanford. Sanford insists that the vast majority of bicycle riders who safely slow down and yield to others’ right-of-way should be ticketed, even as the most dangerous behaviors go under-enforced.

Cheryl Brinkman, a member of the SFMTA Board of Directors, was among the roster of city officials, bike advocates, and everyday people who turned out to take part in the exceptionally legal event.

“This is fun. This is civil obedience. This is street theater,” said Brinkman. “And it’s what San Francisco’s good at.”

“There’s a big question of, ‘does [the law] make sense?'” she said. “I firmly believe we should enforce dangerous behaviors. But I don’t think enforcing behaviors that aren’t hurting anybody is a good use of resources.”

The message seemed to come across clearly to the news crews and bystanders. While the demonstration angered a few motorists, few people could be found voicing strong criticisms of the message of the protest.

John Shambre was out on the corner, holding up two signs that espoused contradictory messages. One supported adoption of the stop sign law used in Idaho, and the other supported Sanford’s crackdown.

John Shambre. Image: ABC 7

John Shambre. Image: ABC 7

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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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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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Wiggle Safety Upgrades Delayed Over Turn Bans to Reduce Thru Traffic

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The Wiggle would become safer and calmer with upgrades like a traffic diverter at southbound Scott and Fell streets. But Lower Haight neighbors oppose left-turn bans aimed at attracting cross-town drivers to Divisadero Street. Image: SFMTA

Improvements that would make the Wiggle calmer and safer have been delayed after continued driver protests against three left turn bans on Divisadero Street proposed as part of the project. Approval of the project was removed from the SFMTA Board of Directors’ Tuesday agenda and postponed until June.

Hoodline reported that some members of the Lower Haight Neighbors and Merchants Association can’t stomach the all-hours left turn bans from Divisadero on to Haight Street, and peak hour bans for turns on to Hayes and McAllister Streets.

The SFMTA says the bans are intended to complement the Wiggle improvements, which include a traffic diverter on Scott Street. By keeping cut-through drivers moving on Divisadero, the main driving route, that street would become the more attractive driving option. “This will reduce Scott Street’s appeal as a cross-town route, making it a more pleasant place to walk, bike, and live,” says an SFMTA fact sheet [PDF] on the Wiggle improvements.

“We want people to get where they need to go safely while keeping heavier traffic on Divisadero,” Sustainable Streets Director Tom Maguire said in a statement. “The SFMTA’s proposals for Divisadero will improve traffic flow, cut down on congestion and reduce spillover traffic into the neighborhood. We have worked with the community extensively on this project, and we wanted to take a little more time to better understand the concerns of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association.”

A major feature of the planned Wiggle upgrades is a large sidewalk bulb-out which would physically block drivers from entering southbound Scott at Fell Street. That would reduce the car traffic on Scott, which runs one block parallel to Divisadero, that degrades the livability of the neighborhood and congests the intersection at Haight. The improvements also include raised crosswalks, bulb-outs with rain gardens, and textured pavement.

“Thousands of people bike and walk through the Wiggle every day, and they and the neighborhood residents deserve a street that works for them,” said Tyler Frisbee, policy director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. The SFMTA’s project “enhances the residential, family-oriented nature of the community and ensures that everyone is able to walk, bike, and enjoy the area in a safe, inviting place. This project will reduce the amount of water pollution and runoff from these streets, minimize traffic congestion for neighbors, and improve safety for people walking and biking. That is a clear win-win.”

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Eyes on the Street: Idiots Continue to Park in the Oak Street Bike Lane

Looks like some tickets are in order.

Even with planted protective barriers alongside the Oak Street bike lane, some drivers haven’t got the message and continue to park or stop in it. It’s not clear if the violations are happening less often, and it’s still early in the learning curve, but the hope had been that the planters would send a stronger message to drivers to stay out.

The design leaves large gaps in the physical protection around curb cuts and the approaches to intersections, where turning drivers merge into the bike lane. There are no plans to expand the protective islands.

For now, San Franciscans have to rely on the SFMTA and SFPD to provide consistent enforcement against violators. That’s another work in progress.

Photo: Al Sharff

Photo: Al Sharff

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Eyes on the Street: The Oak Street Bike Lane Is Now Protected

The Oak Street bike lane now has protective concrete planters. Photo: Mark Dreger/Twitter

At long last, the Oak Street bike lane has physical protection from motor traffic. Long-awaited concrete planters were completed last week.

“We’re thrilled that the final pieces are finally coming together to make the bike lanes on Oak and Fell achieve the high level of protection San Franciscans were originally promised and that we have advocated strongly for,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick. “Protected bike lanes are one of the most powerful ways to make San Francisco safe and inviting for people of all ages to bike. This critical corridor will now be a safe, attractive route for people biking and local residents, and will make the roadway more predictable for people driving.”

Next up is Fell Street’s three-block counterpart, completing the link between the Panhandle and the Wiggle, the flattest central route between the eastern and western neighborhoods. Fell’s concrete planters and finishing touches are expected to be completed by the end of April.

The first step in the redesign was to create a curbside bike lanes with a painted buffer. In an October 2013 survey, many bike commuters who use the route — currently, roughly 1,800 a day — said those changes made them feel safer and more likely to bike on Fell and Oak. The new concrete planters should make the route even less stressful and send a stronger signal to drivers not to park in the bike lanes.

In related news, the SFMTA Board of Directors last week approved the new residential parking permit Area Q to provide some regulation for car parking in the neighborhood. The idea was developed during planning for the Fell and Oak bike lanes since they required the removal of about 100 parking spaces, with about half added back on nearby streets.

Check out more photos of the Oak bike lane at Hoodline.

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Eyes on the Street: Construction Begins on Fell and Oak Bike Lane Protection

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The Oak bike lane at Divisadero Street, where one of the first protective islands is taking shape. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Crews are at work building the planted concrete islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic. As we reported earlier this month, the long-delayed project is now supposed to wrap by April. The new construction is a sign that city agencies may make good on that.

This week crews carved up the asphalt at several spots along the Oak Street bike lane’s buffer zone, from Baker to Scott Streets, to prepare for the installation of the islands. The construction barriers provide a preview of the better sense of protection along the bike lane once the islands are complete.

According to Department of Public Works spokesperson Dadisi Najib, DPW and the SF Public Utilities Commission expect to finish the islands on Oak by March 20, and work on Fell will be completed between March 2 and April 30.

The protective bike lane islands are the final component of the safety measures going in on Fell and Oak. Pedestrian bulb-outs with rain gardens have been under construction for months.

Hopefully, the islands will also finally send the message to drivers to stop parking in the bike lanes, and the ranks of daily bike commuters who use them will swell from the current level of roughly 1,800.

Oak at Baker Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick