Frightening 65 MPH Police Chase in the City Leaves a Bicyclist Hurt

Picture_1.pngAn unmarked unit and officers chase a suspect up Frank Norris, off Polk Street between Bush and Pine. Photos by Bryan Goebel.

A high-speed police chase of a stolen black SUV began in Tiburon and ended on Polk Street in San Francisco this afternoon, a frightening scene that sent pedestrians running and bicyclists scurrying to the sidewalk. A witness on the scene said a bicyclist traveling down Pine Street near Polk was injured and transported to a nearby hospital.

The witness, who would only identify himself as Stearn, was standing outside Kimo’s bar when he saw the bicyclist riding down Pine Street, just as a convoy of CHP, SFPD and unmarked units were thundering to the scene. 

"He made the corner and three CHP cars were coming down the street. I saw the guy swerve to miss the CHP car, and about that time, a Federal Expresss truck drove by so I couldn’t see whether the cop car hit him or not. But the guy went down and another CHP car, this one across the street, pulled over and got the bicyclist out of the way by the time the third one passed through. And then once the CHP helicopter and everything was out of the way then an ambulance came and got him." 

CHP Officer Mary Ziegenbein of the Marin County division confirmed a bicyclist was injured "trying to move out of the way" and transported but was not hit by a CHP unit. She claimed his injuries were minor, mostly to his chin. Witnesses described the bicyclist as a man in his 20s riding a red mountain bike.

More pics and details below the break.


The chase angered many pedestrians in the area, who questioned why police need to be racing through city streets at speeds that sometimes reached 65 mph (according to a KCBS reporter on the scene) for a stolen vehicle. "I wish they would respond to stabbings in the alley like that," said a merchant who didn’t want to be identified.

Ziegenbein said the maximum speed reached on Polk was 35 mph "due to the heavy traffic there."

The stolen SUV was recovered, but the suspect was not arrested. According to Bay City News:

The vehicle had been reported stolen in San Francisco, and was located at about 3 p.m. because of LoJack, an electronic device attached to the vehicle, a CHP dispatcher said. The CHP pursued the vehicle across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco where it was recovered.

Updated 6:49 p.m.

polk_chase_4.jpgThe ambulance you see in the distance is arriving to pick up an injured bicyclist, unbeknowst to me at the time.
polk_chase_5.jpgA CBS5 news van blocks the sidewalk to cover the action.

  • Someone will spin this and end up blaming it on the Tenderloin. Fantastic!

  • Michael Baehr

    How nice that they recovered the car! I’m sure its owner is very happy.

    In typical SFPD fashion, No Arrests Were Made, and only cyclists were injured in the pursuance of this grievous property crime.

    I’d like to see them dedicate 1/10th of the zeal they spent chasing after a stolen piece of property to pursuing the lady who hit a father and son on Valencia St., but apparently their hands are tied there.


  • Peter Smith

    we need to figure out what SFPD policy is on high-speed chases and get it changed to something human.

  • Joe Smith

    Sounds like the SFPD were merely assisting the other agencies in this instance since the pursuit ended up in SF. It’s easy to blame SFPD when you dont have all the facts and let some past incident cloud your judgement of the current situation.

    SFPD’s current policy states that its officers can actively pursue vehicles when the occupants have committed a violent felony and only when safe to do so.

    Michael do you work for a law enforcement agency? Any experience with law enforcement? Not as easy as it appears on countless TV series. Rest assured that the officers respond with the correct level of urgency to each and every call.

    Michael sounds like you have a skewed point of view. I highly suggest that you apply for a ride-along with one of the city’s SFPD police stations. Bayview, Southern, Tenderloin, and Mission stations have a lot of things going on, especially at night, so you may want to see how it’s actually out there on the street before making such harsh characterizations of the department.

  • Kinda related, an unmarked police car was flying southbound in the F-Market streetcar rail path this afternoon around 6pm when I was about to cross over The Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. Looked like he was going to slam into a driver turning left off of Mission onto The Embarcadero … luckily, no deaf folks walked into the path of the speeding car unexpectedly flying down the F-Market streetcar path.

  • Joe was this a violent felony case? I’ll do a ride-along with a bike cop.

  • tony

    I live right opposite of where this happened and pretty much saw the whole thing unfold – I looked out my window to see the bloke who was knocked off his bike rolling around on the ground in front of the cop car, who edged forwards and drove around him. The stolen Honda SUV drove into a driveway behind the famous Grub Steak, I saw over a dozen cop cars and even more unmarked cop cars, some of whom took off on foot. Cop cars were driving in all directions at high speed, in directions towards and away from where the stolen car was parked, there was a CHP Helicopter flying overhead, it was really chaotic.

    I was talking to friends about it yesterday evening and a buddy of mine who lives in earshot of the Mission District Valencia St Cop Station heard a bunch of cop cars all piling out sirens blazing around that time. The amount of disruption and unnecessary danger caused probably stretched into every surrounding neighborhood. I understand why we have a heavy fire emergency response in a city made out of so many wooden buildings, but did they really think yesterdays song and dance was justified? Who allocates how much police response is necessary or is it just like the movies and do cops respond blindly to radio emergency calls, and the thought of a highspeed chase across town on a friday afternoon was just too good to resist?

    Oh, and the stolen Honda SUV was equipped with a GPS recovery tracking device, so i dont see the urgency, unless there was more going on than simply a stolen car…

  • Rob Valk

    Was the bicyclist riding the wrong way on a one way street, or did the bicyclist not yield to emergency vehicle traffic? It’s so easy to point the finger of blame…

  • Unbelievable. This guy almost hit me as I was standing on the corner yesterday afternoon about to step into the street. The SUV turned onto Octavia from Haight Street, almost hit several cars, jumped the median, ran over a tree, and kept going. I could have been smashed like a pancake. Thank goodness nobody was seriously hurt. In any case, after seeing the train wreck this afternoon at West Portal Station while I was standing on the platform, I think I’m going to play it safe and lay low for a while.

  • Sue

    I would like a serious, professional investigation of car chases — unless there is a kidnap victim inside, it seems to me that they present more danger than they are worth. Any investigation should evaluate the danger of the participants to the rest of society, the percentage of times car chases involve kidnap victims, and the success rate of car chases. The value of the stolen vehicles should be the least relevant factor involved in deciding to commence a car chase.

    Sorry, but a black SUV just would not rate real high on my on personal scale of importance in terms of the risks imposed to other life.

  • Dan

    Well the guy almost killed me and my infant daughter as we drove down Tiburon Blvd. I wouldn’t have blamed the police if they shot the guy to kill. He was running from the police in a stolen car! He almost killed us trying to squeeze between me and another car on the overpass. When the police passed me, they were chasing him at a reasonable speed and distance. What do you want the police to do? Smile and wave?

  • Randy

    On Friday, February 11, 2011, I witnessed a blue Camaro zoom past me heading south on 280, I was also traveling South. The Camaro was going 100+ MPH. Next to come was about 5 SFPD cars. None of them were traveling faster than 85-90 MPH. I know that guy got away. After that I heard, but never saw, a helicopter. Saw Colma police cruise slowly past the parking lots @ 280 Metro Center. I was going to Home Depot. So I am pretty sure they were still looking for the Suspect. Why does that not make the news? SFPD does not breathe a word about it on their Facebook page. So it never happened because they can’t hold the “Blue Camaro” fish over their heads and smile for ‘Eyewitness’ news?! WTF? Somebody knows who that driver was, but may not even know he is wanted! Really pisses me off I can’t find out any info about this…


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