SFPD Tickets Bike Commuters Trying to Get By Car Queue on Page Street

Photo: Noah Budnick/Twitter

Here’s today’s edition of egregious waste of SFPD resources used to harass people on bikes.

SFPD officers were posted at the bottom of the hill on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard this morning ticketing bike commuters who squeezed to the left of stopped cars. Freeway-bound drivers routinely queue up to turn right, occupying several blocks of Page’s only eastbound traffic lane.

Tickets were issued to people headed downtown who are essentially given no safe, legal, or practical alternative to use this official bike route. It’s one more sign that the department has no plans to stop targeting innocuous, common-sense behaviors by people on bikes while violations that hurt people remain under-enforced.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” said Jason Henderson, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

“Bicyclists don’t want to be doing that,” Henderson said. “It’s because the city has shirked its moral responsibility and left bicyclists to fend for themselves at that intersection.”

Squeezing to the left on Page, where the oncoming westbound traffic lane is mostly empty, has been normal for years and hasn’t been known to cause any crashes. The SFMTA has actually proposed a partial center-running bike lane on Page to legitimize the behavior as part of street improvements on and around Octavia.

A typical queue of cars on Page Street at Octavia Boulevard. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFPD officials haven’t responded to an inquiry asking how anyone could avoid the citations issued on Page this morning. It could be that police expect people biking to work to use a different route entirely, or to wait in line behind several blocks of motorists waiting to turn on to the Central Freeway.

Passing to the right, in the dooring zone between stopped cars and parked cars, is perilous if not impossible, since there’s not always room. The other streets within a few blocks of Page hardly serve as safe or direct alternatives. As a result, some resort to illegally riding on the sidewalk.

A few blocks away at Octavia and Market Street, SFPD conducted another sting in March at an intersection that’s so poorly designed the only rider spotted using it correctly in a “People Behaving Badly” segment was the city planner who’s managing the effort to redesign it.

“Getting police out there to ticket” at those kinds of spots, said Henderson, “reflects a really broad problem in the police department acting in a really unenlightened and obstructive way. We want to encourage people to use the least-impactful forms of transportation. We need to make it safe to bike. From a public policy perspective, this is a huge fail.”

Meanwhile, almost every SFPD station has failed to fulfill its pledge to prioritize enforcement against the five most dangerous driving behaviors.

When asked for comment on the operation, SFPD media relations staff directed us to Park Station’s new captain, John Sanford, though Page and Octavia is located well within SFPD’s Northern District. Sanford hasn’t responded to our inquiry.

Sanford has called for a crackdown on bike violations, justifying it with a backward interpretation of crash statistics. (In protest, a demonstration is planned tomorrow in which bike commuters will fully comply with the impractical stop sign law.)

Henderson said Mayor Ed Lee “needs to call” Police Chief Greg Suhr and say “‘What the hell are you doing? Call your people in. Don’t harass people who are making the right choice.'”

  • In fact here’s comment from last week where I did: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/streetsblogsf/new_sfpd_park_station_captain8217s_bike_crackdown_won8217t_make_streets_safer/#comment-2153957575
    Though I also notice that one woman who wasn’t pulled over and technically may have not been doing anything illegal since the light changed before she got to the intersection was by far the most dangerous person nearby because she didn’t know or care…

  • p_chazz

    But the law does. And that’s what counts.

  • p_chazz

    I see it as a pro-pedestrian agenda myself.

  • @hailfromsf – Octavia & Market. Plenty of complaints, but also there are those pesky statistics showing it to be the most dangerous intersection in the city. So naturally they called up Stanley Roberts, ticketed bicyclists for non-offenses, and called it “Vision Zero.”

  • @SF Guest – The prohibition of bicyclists on the sidewalk is a local ordinance (San Francisco), not state law. It is in fact illegal in most of the state. Also, there’s nothing about bicyclists on the sidewalk in this article, so your entire comment is off-topic.

  • @gneiss – Doesn’t count if he didn’t notice it. Remember, he never sees cars running STOP signs or red lights on Page either. Amazing but true!

  • @billdav – Hmm, CVC § 21752(d) appears to be the problem.

  • bassguitarhero

    i am 100% for bicyclists being given safe infrastructure but so long as you’re riding on the same streets as cars and bicycles are vehicles then you have to follow the same vehicle laws, such as stopping at stop signs, stopping at crosswalks/red lights, and not riding in the wrong lane across double yellow lines

    so long as your responses are “b-b-b-but CARS!!!” and “well you can get out of the way” and “well if you get hit it won’t hurt as much as a car” then you aren’t gonna make much progress

  • @Kyle Huey – My reading is that (e) applies because the lanes on page are substandard width per CVC § 21656, but a lawyer could sort that out.

    I wrote another comment about (f) and how it means the cars should be off to the right. A bit puckish, but overall a failed joke, and I withdraw it.

  • @Brant – This happens to me on Page all the time.

  • @Mother – You’ve got it backwards. Use of the streets are a right per the California Civil Code, a very ancient right that goes back to the Magna Carta. Putting a motor vehicle on the street is a privilege, one that requires licensing, specifically because of the burden it imposes on the rights of all others using the streets.

  • Vijay

    “Blowing through” eh? To me it looks like that bicyclist knows when to stop more than you do. Let me help you here a bit… Just stop!!!

  • Nathan Hyatt

    Jim, he means cars turning to the right FROM Octavia onto Page. And I bet BassGuitarHero knows this the same way I do…we have sat in that traffic many many times. I have also biked down Page.

  • Nathan Hyatt

    Thank you, bassguitarhero. As a cyclist myself who actually obeys the traffic laws, seeing the vast majority who make a mockery of traffic laws is really frustrating.

  • darelldd

    Interesting quote and interpretation. However, that is not state law. And it is wrong. Cyclists are not subject to all provisions applicable to drivers. Otherwise we certainly wouldn’t need specific CVC sections for cyclists. Heck it is legal to talk on a phone while cycling. And about 100 other differences.

    I do like the “generally prohibited” bit. But alas. There’s nothing in the CVC that says so. At least not that I’ve found in 10 years of searching.

  • darelldd

    Following the law and safety are not synonymous. Neither is courtesy. Keep repeating that too, please.

    Our laws are primarily tools used to increase convenience and consistency of travel. Secondarily, they are to keep us safe. Traffic laws in different states and in different jurisdictions are… different! So how can abiding by these different laws be the safest thing to do in all situations?

    Bottom line – we all need to do what’s safe, regardless of what the law might say.

  • darelldd

    The law does not. And aren’t we more interested in safety than in following laws? Especially ones that are created for one type of road user, and applied to others?

  • darelldd

    And how many cars keep the crosswalk clear?

  • darelldd

    But… that car broke the law! I thought THAT was your thing. The all-important law. No? So it’s safety that we’re more concerned with now? Great! So… how many pedestrians in SF have been killed by cars? And by bikes? Clearly we need to crack down on the bikes for our safety.

    got it.

  • p_chazz

    Yes, it counts because we are a nation of laws. If you feel that the law is unjust or inequitable, work to change it. Don’t go around saying you shouldn’t have to comply with it because of what a special snowflake you are.

  • darelldd

    Man. Great vid.

    Yeah. So the lead-footed driver was watching out for pedestrians, right? And the right hook at the end? Classic.

    Yes cyclists do stupid, dangerous things. They’re people. Just like drivers. In fact most ARE drivers. But when drivers do these stupid things in two or three-ton vehicles… how do we even compare the danger?

  • darelldd

    You mean like when drivers stop speeding temporarily when they see a cop. Huh. amazing.

  • darelldd

    So what we have here is infrastructure designed specifically for the size, speed and sight limitations of aubotmobiles… and it is crossed by infrastructure that is designed specifically for the size, speed and vulnerability of pedestrians. Then we tell people on bikes that they’re sort of like cars (way more than pedestrians, I guess, even though they’re much closer in size, weight and speed to a pedestrian), so they need to act just like cars… but only those actions which we like. Not the ones we don’t like. And they should do all this on infrastructure that mostly makes no sense for their size, speed and vulnerability.

    I’m just shocked that a cyclist slowly rolled through that crosswalk while clearly observing his surroundings. Dood should be in jail.

  • darelldd

    Follow it like *who* exactly?

  • darelldd

    Should we also be a nation of morals? One that cares more about humanity than laws? Maybe even just the intent of the laws? Regardless, I DO work to change laws. Not as a hobby, mind you. I also help enforce them. Surprise!

    Where did I say that I shouldn’t have to comply with the laws? I only have trouble with people who equate law-abiding with safety. They are not the same thing. Just like your snowflake and mine.

    My flippant “The law does not” comment was my shorthand way of pointing out that the laws for drivers and cyclists are NOT the same, even though the CVC begins with calling them mostly the same. Drivers may not drive on the shoulder. Cyclists can. Drivers may not ride on sidewalks. Cyclists often can. And on and on and on. Literally hundreds of significant differences.

    Do you follow all the traffic laws? Do you KNOW all the traffic laws?

  • p_chazz

    I don’t drive, so that would be a yes, except when I jaywalk. And if I were hurt or killed doing it, it would be my fault. In fact I have been hit twice by cars–both times I was in the right of way. I hear what you are saying, but I think that there needs to be a push to pass an Idaho stop law in California.

  • darelldd

    I’m genuinely thrilled to be able to say this: I totally agree!

    It may surprise you to find the hurdles in the way of CA adopting the Idaho law. We thought we could do it just in our city… but no way. It has to be done at the state level or we lose state road money. End of story on that.

  • darelldd

    in CA a bicycle is a device, and specifically NOT a vehicle. And the rules for vehicles and bicycles are different in many significant and compelling ways. Meanwhile, should we have motorists walk their cars if they choose not to follow the rules made for vehicles? Like if they speed? Or turn right without coming to a stop, or double-park, or…

  • aj

    If you look closely at the photo, you can see double-yellow lines from the crosswalk to about 3-4 car-lengths back. You can also see the double-yellows near the crosswalk/intersection on Page going in the opposite direction.

    The citations were probably for violating CVC 214600 (a):

    “21460. (a) If double parallel solid yellow lines are in place, a person driving a vehicle shall not drive to the left of the lines…” The purpose of the double-yellow is to prevent conflict with on-coming traffic that cannot be seen due to limited visibility.

    The citations would not be valid if they were written for the portions of Page without the double-yellow.

  • Mother

    Mabey on your planet, but not in SF. Banning bicycles on most streets in SF is inevitable.
    I can’t wait!

  • City Resident

    Clearly bicyclists, like everyone else, must be cognizant of pedestrians and respect their right-of-way (and nearly all bicyclists do so). I hope that you are aware that when the police opt to crack down on bicyclists for petty violations, they end up making bicycling a more cumbersome and expensive mode of transportation (at least for those who are cited). It’s very much in the interest of pedestrians to have the mode share of bicycles continue to increase in San Francisco. More bicycles on the streets inevitably results in fewer cars and safer streets.

  • City Resident

    It’s also in the interest of motorists (and all road users for that matter) to have bicyclists pass through intersections fairly quickly. As noted in today’s Examiner, in the same time it takes a bicycle to pass through an intersection (when starting from a stopped position) two to three cars can pass through. This slows down motorists and increases the exposure of bicyclists to collisions. The design of many automobiles limits a driver’s senses (especially vision/sight lines) and therefore makes the importance of coming (at least close) to a full stop more important. As demonstrated in Idaho, bicyclists can safely treat stop signs as yield signs – and everyone (including pedestrians) stands to benefit.

  • City Resident

    I agree that bicyclists should stop in front of crosswalks (as should motorists) when there’s a red light. At this particular location, a bike box is needed and would help to ensure that bicyclists do not enter the crosswalk when the light is red. Unfortunately in San Francisco, it’s very common place for motorists and cyclists to stop in crosswalks (although it’s a far greater obstruction and a greater safety risk when motorists do so).

  • Althaea

    “I fear some lunatic motorist (like those on the videos posted below)
    will get super pissed and floor it through the cyclists or buzz them
    close enough to him them causing injuries.”

    I cannot even count anymore the times that people have committed vehicular assault against me when I was bicycling perfectly legally in San Francisco.

    I am totally disgusted with the rancid way San Francisco is being run with respect to law enforcement and bicycles. Anyone bicycling in San Francisco is subject to death, serious injury, abuse, harassment, and high amounts of theft. And this is how the city shows its appreciation.

    Totally rancid!

    Why can’t we elect good leaders?

    Come on people!

  • Althaea

    I would like to ask where the fuck are all the police when I see DOZENS of cars illegally crossing the double yellow line on my street EVERY DAY as they pass illegally double parked vehicles in front of a school.

    Totally outrageous. This is becoming material for a 14th Amendment (Equal Protection Clause) civil rights lawsuit against the city.

  • jd_x

    I know. I’m totally guilty on this one. I usually avoid this nonsense but since he’s new around here I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he could make some sense. But it’s hopeless and I give up. Need to save my energy. You know, that whole applying finite resources efficiently thing.

  • Here’s my perspective of why tickets are being issued:
    I was looking at CVC 21752(d) which prohibits vehicles from driving on
    the left side of the roadway in certain situations. Subsection D states it’s prohibited: “When approaching within 100 feet of or when traversing any intersection.” (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=21001-22000&file=21750-21760 see the third section)

    Here’s an example of why someone can’t pass any vehicle within 100 feet of an intersection: Some Muni bus lines must travel on two lane roads; prior to the stop sign, they discharge passengers at a bus stop, but is unable to fully pull over. If a car driver is behind the bus, they cannot lawfully pass the bus to the left to get away from the bus (remember, Muni buses are 30 to 60 feet long). One major safety reason for that law is if a Muni passenger is to cross the street perpendicular and in front of the bus, it’s one big blind spot for the car driver attempting to illegally pass and could hit the pedestrian. Even for myself who lives on a two lane street with a bus line, if I cross in front of the bus, I slow down and stick my head out first to see if any impatient drivers are attempting to pass.

    If the law states that bicycle riders must follow the same traffic laws as car drivers, bicyclists can operate their bike in the contraflow lane, but has to return back 100 feet prior to reaching the intersection. It does not matter if there’s a painted double yellow line 100 feet prior to an intersection or not.

  • bourbon

    Of course, SFBC isn’t doing jack to confront SFPD on this harassment. Too busy with their power grab or just not a priority?

  • SF Guest

    You are correct. I did not verify that my source: California
    Active Transportation Safety Information Pages an online resource for improving
    pedestrian and bicycle safety in California, is not the official language of the law from either CVC or S&HC and it appears the language with respect to riding on sidewalks and crosswalks quoted earlier is an unofficial interpretation of those laws.

    Your understanding that there is no vehicle code which makes crosswalk riding illegal is technically correct. But if you were to consider the three-foot rule bicyclists demand from motorists that rule should also apply to pedestrians in crosswalks given that bicyclists are subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

  • SF Guest

    @Jym Dyer — my response was a direct answer to @gneiss’ question: ” Please, find for me the vehicle code that makes crosswalk riding illegal.”

  • C’mon, you’re better at trolling than that. We’re not going to escalate if we can see you’re being lazy.

  • But you present state law as “As such, bicycles are generally prohibited from riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks.” which isn’t true regarding sidewalks, thus some are beginning to question the integrity of your entire argument.

  • SF Guest

    I just acknowledged and I do apologize for the confusion I’ve caused for using an unofficial interpretation of vehicle codes and Streets and Highway Codes which holds no weight:

    “As such, bicycles are generally prohibited from riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks.”

    I did not verify the accuracy of California Active Transportation Safety Information Pages an online resource for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety in California.

  • SF Guest

    I retract all references from CVC and SHC I previously made. This is the official language of CVC Section 21200 from the DMV site which states cyclists are subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

    I withdraw any references I previously made with respect to riding in crosswalks or sidewalks.

    “CVC 21200. (a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, . . .”

  • User_1

    Wait, it’s illegal to pass slow moving traffic (cars making a right) with a bicycle, as you point out above, but it’s legal for a car to pass a bicycle on neighborhood streets? Am I reading this correctly?

    BTW, I don’t live in SF, so I don’t really know the local ordinance of bicycling in SF.

  • This is a case of demonizing law enforcement where they are not the issue. If we want to change the law, let’s act in our capacity as people of a democratic nation to change said law; until that time, this is neither harassment nor a “egregious waste of SFPD resources,” but people of San Francisco doing their job – don’t shoot the messenger.

  • darelldd

    Please don’t get too excited about 21200 (a) just yet. It is amusing that both pro and anti-cycling folks use this section to make their point. Pro cyclists use it to point out that we have a right to be on the road, and need not cower at the edges. Anti-cycling folks use it to point out that a person on a bike should adhere to every rule that applies to a person driving a car – as if the vehicles are somehow similar in operation, speed, vulnerability, visibility, weight, etc. Of course this view is generally done punitively.

    The CVC is contradictory and often far too vague in its treatment of cycling. It is a never-ending battle to clear up just what is required of a bicycle driver.

    Let’s touch on just a few of the *many* ways that bicycles are treated differently than cars under the CVC. And then I’ll ask you to make the call about how much stock you’d like to put into 21200 (a) making every road user the same.

    Local jurisdictions set the rules for riding bicycles on the sidewalk. In my town, there are only four square blocks where riding on the sidewalk is prohibited. It is both legal and even encouraged by city signage to ride on the sidewalks elsewhere in town. Cars, on the other hand, cannot be driven on the sidewalk. Bicyclists are required to ride in a bike lane if it exists (and when the exceptions are not in play). Cars may not be driven in the bike lane except in preparation for a right turn. Cyclists are required to say as far right as practicable (with exceptions) in the lane. Cars have no such requirement, and typically automobile drivers control the entire lane, and can operate anywhere they wish in it. There are some freeways upon which bicycles are prohibited. Cars, on the other hand, may be driven on all highways and freeways.

    Clearly, a person riding a bicycle on a highway does NOT have all the rights, nor is she subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. There are countless more examples of the differences.

    So yes, you are correct of course. The CVC does say that cars and bikes are equal on the road. And then goes on to give countless examples of the significant differences that contradict that statement.

    Thank you for taking the time to read up on this. Genuinely!

  • jd_x

    It is true that we should be working to change the law since that has to be where the ultimate change occurs. But that process is much too slow for all the people already bicycling (at a minimum it would take years), so there is no reason the cops can’t exercise a little judgement like they do *all* the time in ignoring all kinds of minor infractions by motorists. The cops just need to remind themselves that the letter of the law isn’t as important as the spirit of the law. They need to bust bicyclists who are performing the most egregious spirit of the law violations just like they do for motorists, but there is no reason for these ridiculous crackdowns which do nothing towards making our streets safer and in fact make them more dangerous by pushing people away from wanting to ride a bicycle.

  • jd_x

    What are you talking about? They are doing a ton:

    They have actually been very outspoken about this.

  • jd_x

    Is there anybody out there who got a ticket and can just tell us what it was for?


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