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SFPD’s Selective Enforcement of Bike Commuters at Caltrain Station

A number of Streetsblog readers are reporting that officers from the San Francisco Police Department were ticketing bicyclists riding on the sidewalk near the Caltrain station at 4th and King this morning. But they were not ticketing any of the drivers blocking the bike lane, which forces many bicyclists onto the sidewalk.

Bike commuter Jean Fraser, who happens to be the director of the San Mateo County Public Health Department, sent us this word about the sting:

This morning at the Caltrain station I discovered two officers ticketing bicyclists for riding on the sidewalk as they approached the Caltrain station. When I asked if the officers were also enforcing the traffic laws against the taxis and private cars that double park and block the bike lanes leading to the station, forcing people who ride bikes to have to move into the traffic lanes, the officers stated they had been given instructions only to focus on bicyclists.

Given the limited resources of the SFPD, the small risk that bicyclists pose compared to the risks of vehicles, as well as the fact that virtually every person who rides a bike to Caltrain represents one less car on our streets, this choice to enforce only one law against only one group seems to be a very poor one. Not only does it not promote public safety much, but it diminishes the credibility of the police department as a neutral enforcer of our laws. People who ride bikes and people who drive cars should all be required to obey the laws, with enforcement actions focused on the areas that pose the greatest risk to the public's safety.

A spokesperson for the SFPD, Sgt. Michael Andraychak, claims the enforcement was based on "some complaints" from pedestrians about people on bikes and scooters riding on the sidewalk. The enforcement started yesterday morning with education and warnings "that it's against the law and unsafe to ride bicycles on the sidewalk."

"They returned out there today and I'm told that at least one repeat offender was issued a citation. I don't have any specific citation numbers," he said.

When I pointed out to Andraychak that his comments contradict the standard SFPD line that the agency is not conducting targeted enforcement against bicyclists, maintaining that it's enforcement for all road users, he gave this response:

"We received complaints from citizens about bicyclists and motor scooters on the sidewalk that were compromising pedestrian safety. Now, if someone had raised concerns about motor vehicles double parking or blocking the bike lane, if the officers weren't aware of it, then that's something that they can, in turn, address. I don't appreciate your characterization there that we're targeting, and only going after bicyclists. That's not the case."

Next time, SFPD might want to consider encouraging cyclists to ride in the street by keeping the bike lane clear of obstructions.

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