SFPD Captain Justifies Bike Crackdown By Misconstruing “Focus on the Five”

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford is misconstruing the premise of his department’s “Focus on the Five” campaign to justify diverting precious traffic enforcement resources for his own campaign: getting people on bikes to always stop at stop signs, once and for all.
SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford. Photo: SFPD

Here’s a refresher on Focus on the Five, for those, like Sanford, who need it…

As many as 900 pedestrians are injured each year by drivers. The SFPD has used its data to identify the five most common causes of those injuries, as well as the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. By making the five most dangerous violations the top priority, the SFPD can use its limited traffic enforcement resources to have the greatest impact on reducing traffic violence.

Those five top crash factors are all driver violations: drivers violating of pedestrian right-of-way, drivers speeding, drivers running stop signs, drivers running red lights, and drivers making illegal turns.

But Captain Sanford doesn’t see it that way. “‘Focus on the Five’ depicts that Red lights and Stop signs are two of the most deadly behaviors that contribute to these tragic accidents,” he wrote in an email response to a constituent. “There is no exemption for cyclist [sic].”

Captain Sanford has his own rogue interpretation of statistics to justify his quest to control the “cyclist.” In this version of reality, data about driver behavior can simply be transposed to people who ride bikes. As such, people on bikes are assumed to be just as culpable for the vast majority of injuries on San Francisco streets as drivers are.

Rolling a stop sign on a bike, as the SFPD officers seen here are doing on Haight Street, is now one of the five most deadly violations, according to Captain Sanford. Screenshot from sugarfortea/Youtube

“Twisting the facts to divert resources away from enforcing the deadliest traffic violations is cynical and dangerous,” said SF Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Chris Cassidy. “People who walk, bike and drive around the Panhandle, Inner Sunset and the Haight are scared of the effects this approach is going to have on the safety of their streets.”

Other SFPD officials seem to get it. Just last week, Traffic Company Commander Ann Mannix explained at a Park Station meeting that “the injury that a car inflicts, of course, is far greater than what a pedestrian could do to a car, or what a bicyclist could do.” She noted, however, that “we get the most complaints about bicyclists.”

This is the real problem: Complaints — not data — still dominate traffic enforcement priorities at stations like Park.

Park Station residents and commuters would be safer if Sanford took a cue from his neighbor to the north, Richmond Station Captain Simon Silverman. Richmond Station is the only one to meet the SFPD’s goal of issuing 50 percent of traffic citations towards “the five.”

“You always have competing demands on officer time,” Silverman told Streetsblog in December. “The collisions we want most to stop are the injury collisions, and they are usually caused by” the top five violations. “Some of the other violations don’t lead to as much conflict.”

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SFPD Park Station’s Most Dangerous Intersections: Not on the Wiggle

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New SFPD data indicates that the Park District’s most dangerous intersections have nothing to do with the Wiggle, where Captain Greg Corrales has devoted his station’s limited traffic enforcement staff to ticketing bike commuters who roll stop signs. Under SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, captains have pledged to target the five most dangerous intersections […]