Mayor Lee on Bike Demo: “I Won’t Bend to Interests Who Disregard Safety”

Contrasting with Supervisor London Breed’s sensible position on the demonstration planned in response to the SFPD’s impending bike crackdown, we bring you a dispatch from the hidebound side of City Hall — Room 200.

Mayor Ed Lee weighed in today on the plan from bike commuters on the Wiggle to fully comply with the stop sign law en masse this evening, to highlight its absurdity.

Mayor Lee on Bike to Work Day. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Lee told reporters that he’s “not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety”:

We’re a great city for first amendment voices. I’m willing to listen to them. But I’m going to always say everybody’s safety has to be the number one priority. I’m not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety. That’s not what our city should be doing.

We’re investing a lot of money in bike lanes. A lot of money in dedicated lanes. A lot of money in making sure that people can get to work without driving more cars. We have environmental goals for that to happen. But you’re talking to a mayor, and I think a very strong Board of Supervisors, who will not compromise safety for the sake of other interests.

Mayor Lee is, of course, missing the point of the demonstration entirely: SFPD’s Park Station captain is disregarding safety data and wasting precious enforcement resources on compliance with an impractical stop sign law, which won’t make anyone safer. Meanwhile, the driver violations that hurt the most people go under-enforced.

The “interests” Lee referred to — bike commuters rallied by the Wigg Party — say they “intend to show” that the unrealistic prospect of not practicing rolling stops on bikes (which Idaho legalized 32 years ago) would “have disastrous effects to traffic patterns” by disrupting the existing expectation of efficient turn-taking.

“That may be their point of view,” Lee said to a reporter. “Is it shared by everybody else?”

He continued:

I’m willing to have conversations about the highest level of safety. But I cannot accept just one entity’s point of view about what that safety is if it’s all self-centered. I want to make sure that that safety is also shared by our police officers, our traffic control officers, people that drive — if they don’t have an assumption of what’s going to happen, tragic mistakes will be made.

That’s precisely the point of the Idaho stop sign law: setting legitimate, realistic expectations for everybody’s behavior. Supervisor Breed gets that.

Mayor Lee has still yet to call upon the SFPD to comply with its “Focus on the Five” goal, which the department hasn’t met since it was announced 19 months ago. The point of that campaign is to target the five most dangerous violations based on data rather than complaints.

And about that claim of “investing a lot of money in bike lanes.” Lee has, on multiple occasions, undermined efforts to increase the city’s level of paltry funding for bike lanes, and refused to say that safe streets for bicycling are more important than car parking.

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