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Wiggle Riders to Show Folly of Stop Sign Law By Complying With It

Demonstrators plan to muck up the flow of traffic on the Wiggle by daring to follow the letter of the stop sign law on bikes. Photo: Aaron Bialick
At Steiner and Waller Streets, demonstrators plan to muck up the flow traffic by following the letter of the law. Photo: Aaron Bialick

What if everyone on a bike followed the letter of the law and made a complete stop at every stop sign, as if they were driving a car?

"It would have disastrous effects to traffic patterns," say the organizers of a "Wiggle Stop-In" demonstration planned for Wednesday evening. "That's what we intend to show."

Organizers at the Wigg Party hope to demonstrate the absurdity of the state stop sign law, which fails to account for the way people negotiate stop signs on bikes. It's a response to plans by SFPD's new Park Station captain to institute a crackdown on bike behavior (particularly at stop signs), diverting enforcement resources from violations that actually hurt people.

The group "want[s] to gather 50-100 cyclists to ride around the Wiggle/Lower Haight and stop at every stop sign in single file order," the Wigg Party wrote on its Facebook event page. "We want to make the point that, in fact, requiring cyclists to come to full stops at every stop sign is a really terrible idea for everyone on the road."

On the average day on the Wiggle, people walking, biking, and driving move mostly without incident. Reports of injuries involving bicycles are rare. The vast majority of bike commuters practice typical common-sense behavior at stop signs: slowing down, looking, and being prepared to yield to others with the right-of-way.

When bicycle riders who clearly have the right-of-way avoid unnecessary stops that kill their momentum, drivers and pedestrians can get moving faster, too.

The practice, which officers in Park District follow too, was legitimized by Idaho more than 30 years ago.

But Captain John Sanford, fixated on compliance with unrealistic expectations, wants riders to follow the letter of the stop sign law even if they're clearly not violating anyone's right-of-way. Sanford has justified his decision by misconstruing the statistics behind the SFPD's "Focus on the Five" campaign to target the most dangerous driver violations, transposing it to people on bikes.

Sanford, who joined Park Station in April, is poised to repeat the mistakes of former Park Station Captain Greg Corrales, who attemped a Wiggle bike crackdown in 2013. Both captains have said their efforts are a response to complaints, not data.

The Wigg Party's Morgan Fitzgibbons told Streetsblog at the time:

Everybody wants to eliminate the about five percent of cyclists who violate other people’s right-of-way. 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.

The "stop-in" is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., and will be centered at Waller and Steiner Streets.

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