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.

Numbers of citations issued between the last quarters of 2013 and 2014. Image: SFPD

Arguing that total traffic citations are increasing misses the point of “Focus on the Five,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Ferrara told Streetsblog. “It’s not a matter of resources. It’s not a matter of prioritizing traffic enforcement,” she said. “The point is to make sure people know it’s not okay to speed, to not yield to people in the crosswalk.”

At the hearing, Police Commission President Suzy Loftus framed the issue by pointing to an “old saying” mentioned in the recent Interim Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: “Organizational culture eats policy for lunch.”

“Often times, you can have a policy that’s the right thing,” said Loftus, “but without the leadership of folks like Chief Suhr, Commander Mannix, and Commander Ali, to actually make change and get the department to really take a different approach to enforcing citations, we really wouldn’t have the results.”

Mannix explained away Richmond Captain Simon Silverman’s ability to meet “Focus on the Five” goals by saying he has fewer crimes like homicides to worry about. “He has the luxury of dedicating officers just to do traffic,” she said. She also pointed out that the Richmond has many stop signs, unlike districts like Tenderloin, even though most of Richmond’s “Five” tickets are issued for speeding. Stop sign violations are the second-most common.

Image: SFPD

“It’s not about enforcing every traffic violation,” said Ferrara. “When you do enforcement, what percentage of it is going to things that are killing people? It’s something that every officer can do when they’re doing traffic enforcement.”

Ferrara said she sees some signs of hope that SFPD’s culture could change. Walk SF recently helped SFPD create a video explaining Vision Zero that all officers are now required to watch. “We hope it makes a difference this year.”

There’s even a glimmer of hope at Tenderloin Station. In the first quarter of this year, Tenderloin’s “Five” tickets increased 80 percent compared to last year.

But Tenderloin Station set the bar low. In 2014, the station issued 3,054 tickets — nearly half of its traffic citations — to pedestrians. That’s more than four times as many as all of its “Five” violations that year, which comprised only 10 percent of tickets.

“The largest shift I’ve seen is from captains who have demonstrated leadership,” said Ferrara. It’s going to take greater effort from SFPD to make that shift permeate through the ranks.

  • Jimbo

    It’s great news that tickets are increasing for those breaking the law, reHard less of mode of transport

  • Easy

    If part of their salary was a bonus for meeting the policy goals I’m sure we’d see fewer excuses.

  • Fran Taylor

    “…police staffing is occupied with non-traffic duties…”

    Like shooting Amilcar Perez-Lopez six times in the back and back of his head and arm.

  • Sad that SF has made national news over this lady refusing to protect citizens from cars.

  • shanand

    It’s sort of like she is saying “Yeah, yeah, but I don’t care” to the Vision Zero thing.

    Where are department leadership and elected officials on this? Why the silence from the Mayor’s office. Does the police chief not serve at the pleasure of the Mayor? Maybe the problem will just get better after the mayor is re-elected with no opposition.

  • RinSF

    Vision zero is a sad joke.
    I’ve been hit by cars in bike lanes as a cyclist and in crosswalks as a pedestrian, as well as countless near misses where the driver was clearly in the wrong. Even with a plate and driver description, SFPD are not interested.

  • boter op mijn hoofd

    If the SFPD brass isn’t going to take Vision Zero seriously, then it is time to get some new brass.

  • Susan

    One of the points that they make is that they don’t have enough cops, or that they are busier doing other things. Why do you need to be a cop to give a ticket?
    SFPD should have a website, where people can upload photos of moving violations. This would give the police department a better idea of where the violations are happening so they can increase enforcement. Of course, you would not want to encourage the DRIVER of a vehicle to take a photo, but a passenger or a pedestrian could.
    Also, why aren’t they enforcing double parking? I see this more & more; cars block the bike lane which forces the bicyclist further into traffic & other cars get pissed off & speed around them which is a recipe for disaster. Why can’t meter maids give tickets for double parking?

  • RinSF

    There are few things more galling than a near head-on collision with a meter maid who has decided go around a double parked car by driving into oncoming traffic.

  • Guffie

    i saw a car make a dangerous and illegal u-turn right near the glen park bart, nearly hitting 2 people (myself included). there was an sfpd car right there, and the fat cop was just sitting in his car watching. i asked him what he was going to do about it and he said “about what?” i said “that car that just made an illegal u-turn right in front of you and nearly hit me.” he shrugged, said he didn’t see it and drove off. thanks, sfpd!

  • Jimbo

    this would be great, and we should ahve license plates on bicycles so this type of “enforecement” can be for all users of the streets

  • Jimbo

    are you cycling and walking while intoxicated? ive never felt unsafe

  • jd_x

    I feel unsafe most of the time as a bicyclists and a lot of the time as a pedestrian. There.

    So now what? Do you think we should set policies by anecdotal evidence or by hard statistics?

  • jd_x

    The mayor is a fool beholden to the car-mindset. And he can’t be reasoned out of this thinking, and hence the SFPD (and SFFD) follow his lead … and thus we end up with the ridiculous system we have now where pedestrians and bicyclists are second-class citizens who are expendable so that the motorist is not, god forbid, inconvenienced.

  • gneiss

    You obviously don’t walk in the city much, else you wouldn’t be saying this. For the sake of satisfying your obvious trolling, though, let’s just point out that large numbers of people get injured, and between 20-30 people who walk and ride bicycles are killed annually in the city. If you don’t feel unsafe, then you should.

  • gneiss

    Since people on bikes rarely injure and kill those who walk this is an obvious mis-allocation of scarce police resources. There are five behaviors that cause the most injuries and death of our streets. Until those behaviors are under control, there is no need to go after other enforcement actions, unless your goal is to harass people who don’t pose much of the threat to public safety. Prioritize what actually causes injuries on the streets first before asking for an expensive and rather meaningless registration program.

  • Hernan

    We can not “cite” our way out of this problem. The PD does not have the resources to do so…
    This problem has to be addressed in the macro traffic culture. Pedestrians have to watch for traffic, bicyclists have to adjust for bad drivers
    vehicles have to slow down. Yes it is the police departments duty to write citations and equally it is our duty to inform and restructure our culture.
    Too many individuals take “team” attitude towards traffic. Your neighbor may be “team bicycle” your boss may be “team car” you may be “team pedestrian”.

    This culture has to evolve into a “team everybody”
    navigating streets sidewalks and freeways is easier if we forgt our own needs and consider every component in a vast complicated transit culture

  • RinSF

    I walk around drunk every now and again, but that’s not when I’ve been hit. When I have been hit, or close, I’ve been cautious and obeying the letter and the spirit of the law. Most have involved a driver running a red light or merging / turning while using their cellphone.

  • yermom72

    Uber issued a statement denying all responsibility.

  • gneiss

    This isn’t about evolving into a “team everybody” culture. It’s about targeting scarce police resources on the behaviors that cause the most injury and death, which are: failure to yield to pedestrians, speeding, running red lights, running stop signs, and committing turning violations. Suggesting that people walking and riding bicycles just need to “watch out” for dangerous drivers shows you think that many victims of traffic violence are at fault for their own injuries.

  • gneiss

    The contention that police have to “ticket every violation they see” is ridiculous on it’s face. When police set up an enforcement action on a popular low speed cycling route where there is little death and injury, but many people on bikes roll through intersections, or places where the signal timing and traffic volumes will allow people to jaywalk safely, they are making a choice about who to target for enforcement. Instead, they should be focusing on the places and behaviors which are shown to be statistically dangerous and ticketing for them.

  • “It’s great news that tickets are increasing for some of those breaking the law, some of which are regardless of mode of transport. The numbers look very encouraging in some places.”
    Fixed it for you.

  • neroden

    It’s pretty obvious that Mannix should be fired for insubordination and Silverman shold be promoted to her position.

    That’s how you change organizational culture. You make it very clear what’s going to be rewarded and what’s not.

  • neroden

    It’s looking more and more like some police departments are literally worse than nothing; they refuse to do anything about killers in cars, while actually killing innocent people themselves, and even framing people.

  • @Jimbo – By the same token, we should “ahve” license plates on pedestrians, as well.

  • @shanand – Seems to me that Vision Zero should be trademarked (servicemarked?), and anyone who uses it for pedestrian stings (or for enforcing non-laws against bicyclists at Market and Octavia) should be sued by Disney lawyers.

  • Jimbo

    walkers don’t run over people or graze them on graze cars with their handlebars.

  • Jimbo

    i walked about 20,000 steps per day all over the city. been doing it for 20 yrs. never felt unsafe.

  • jd_x

    Awesome! I didn’t realize that. Well, that settles it then: Jimbo feels safe so everything is all good in the City by the Bay. Nothing more to do here in terms of improving pedestrian safety. Thanks, Jimbo, for not letting us waste more time setting policy by statistics instead of anecdotes, especially with your vast, incredible experience walking (so rare!).

  • Gezellig

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Pedestrian-death-nothing-new-on-perilous-Sunset-5219707.php

    People who live or work near Sunset Boulevard on San Francisco’s western edge were saddened when a 78-year-old man was fatally struck by a car last week while traveling across the street in a crosswalk. But they weren’t surprised.

    Those who have walked along the 2 1/2-mile corridor that runs parallel to the shore are familiar with the dangers that come with negotiating the busy six-lane thoroughfare – where 44 pedestrians have been struck from 2005 to 2011, according to city records.

    Those people need to get over it! After all, it hasn’t happened to me so I don’t see what the problem is.

  • Gezellig
  • murphstahoe

    Ignore this troll

  • Gezellig

    I did enjoy the occasion, though, to look up David Cameron being hit by an errant jogger 😀

  • jd_x

    I agree with you. We should design our cities so that when pedestrians mess up and do something careless like not look before crossing the road, their punishment for that mistake should be death or serious injury. Yep, that’s the kind of city I want. I definitely think that seems fair and we should place equal burden of responsibility on those walking or cycling versus those driving 2-ton machines with 200 hp available at the twitch of a hand or foot. I mean, what kind of precedence is there for making those with the most power have the most responsibility? I can’t think of a single example anywhere in our society. So yep, totally agree with you: pedestrians and motorists are the same and I can’t possible begin to discern the difference between them.

  • Gezellig

    Driver behavior is implicated in pedestrian injuries and deaths in vehicle collisions over two times as much as pedestrian behavior (64 percent vs. 30 percent in 2007-11)

    In from 2005-2011, 41 percent of violations where drivers were found at fault in pedestrian injuries and deaths were by drivers not observing the pedestrian’s right-of-way.

    http://www.sfmta.com/getting-around/walk/pedestrian-safety/safe-streets-sf

    Go to Montgomery Street at noon and watch hundreds of peds walk against a red walk light.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_correlation

    And go to practically any intersection in SF and watch scores of drivers zoom through the crosswalk even when a pedestrian is present.

    Illusory correlation is fun!

  • GingerJudah

    The SFPD are beyond useless.

  • @Jimbo – Ooh, a new menace right up there with “almost hit,” now it’s “grazing.” Moo.

  • @Gezellig – Right around the same time that a very rare bicyclist-caused fatality happened in San Francisco, there was another fatality in which a pedestrian killed a bicyclist. The former got five weeks of daily coverage and was followed up to the bitter end. The latter got no media coverage at all.

  • Gezellig

    Kinda like the ~96 people who die each day in the US due to motor vehicle collisions.

    In 2013 ~35k people in the US died in a motor vehicle collision.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf

    This ongoing and largely preventable massacre gets comparatively little media attention, especially considering its tragic scope.

    By comparison, about ~7k people died of HIV-related complications and about ~41k people died of breast cancer.

    While these of course are also very worthy causes to work on, there are sadly no yogurt cup campaigns with ribbons reminding people about traffic deaths. And as far as I’m aware no annual celebrity galas which raise money to help prevent traffic deaths.

  • *sigh* I had a similar experience whilst in a crosswalk a police cruiser was waiting for me to cross. The driver behind the cop had enough of that waiting-for-others bullstick and gunned it, accelerated around the cop and thankfully slammed on the brakes before running me down. The cop had a front row seat for the whole thing, at least 3 citations worth of violations, yet she did jackdiddly.

    In the sage words of my last SuperShuttle driver, “Management don’t give a s**t whether you live or die!”

  • NoeValleyJim

    Can you point me to details on that incident Jym?

  • @NoeValleyJim – It wasn’t covered anywhere, so I’ve not seen it in print. WalkSF has access to info about fatalities and they announced it at the time. Maybe contact them?

  • RinSF

    Where do you live and work, and are there any vacancies nearby?

  • StrixNoctis .

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention pedestrians graze cars with their broken bones and stain the paint with blood.

  • StrixNoctis .

    I have been walking & cycling here in SF since the 1970s, and I never felt unsafe until around the mid-1990s. The mid-1990s is when the selfish people started invading and making the streets unsafe to cross.

    The street traffic used to be so safe in the 1970s & 80s that kids literally played in the streets in the less-trafficked neighborhoods.

    The mid-1990s is when I first witnessed red light runners. I lost count of the many close calls of me nearly getting hit by stupid drivers who speed around corners and blow through red lights between the mid-90s and today.

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