Bicycle commuters on the Wiggle continue to be confronted by SFPD officers posted at intersections issuing warnings and tickets for what police deem to be dangerous violations of stop sign laws
. Police claim they’re obligated to respond to complaints from neighbors who apparently see the behavior as a threat to public safety.
But there have been no known crashes on the Wiggle recently. Posting officers there to ticket and chastise bike commuters who slow down and yield to others while not coming to a complete stop is a waste of precious enforcement resources and doesn’t make streets any safer.
“Everybody wants to eliminate the about five percent of cyclists who violate other people’s right-of-way,” said Morgan Fitzgibbons of the Wigg Party, which advocates for environmentally sustainable practices in the neighborhoods around the Wiggle. “Nobody wants to defend those people, but trying to put a constant police presence on the Wiggle to make people follow a law that really doesn’t make any sense is not the right way to go about it.”
“It will never solve the problem — it’s patently absurd.”
As in every state except Idaho, in California, the letter of the law calls for people on bicycles to come to a complete stop at stop signs, just like people operating multi-ton motor vehicles. The application of that law to bikes is so impractical, however, that most people who bike — including police officers — treat stop signs by slowing, checking for traffic, and proceeding. Idaho changed its stop sign law 30 years ago to legitimize normal bicycling behavior, and it’s not hurting anyone.
To address the issue of bicycle riders who actually violate others’ right-of-way, the SF Bicycle Coalition has recently posted up at spots along the Wiggle holding signs encouraging commuters to “bike politely.”
“We urge the police to prioritize their limited enforcement resources on the known, dangerous problem areas and behaviors, which means the high-injury collision areas and actions,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “The Wiggle is not one of those areas.”
Last Wednesday evening, I was bicycling home on the Wiggle when I spotted two officers standing next to their motorcycles on Waller at Steiner Streets, an intersection busy with drivers, pedestrians, and westbound bicycle riders who mostly make a left turn to follow the flattest route. I parked my bicycle and stood between two parked cars to record the scene on video, when officer L. Henderson (who declined to give his first name) told me to get on the sidewalk.
I complied, and then introduced myself and asked the officer for an interview, which he granted. The entire audio recording of the interview is below.