SFPD Park Station Begins Pointless Harassment of Bike Commuters

SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford has made good on his promise: Officers were out this morning ticketing bike commuters who failed to comply with a strict application of the stop sign law on Page Street and the Wiggle. One bike rider said police justified her ticket by adding their own fictional flourish to the law.

Laura Kiniry, 41, said she canceled a doctor appointment she was biking to after receiving a $234 ticket (plus court fees) because she didn’t put her foot down after climbing uphill on Central Street to make a left onto Page.

Kiniry, who has biked in the city for 18 years, said she saw two people on bikes already pulled over by police at Page and Baker. She assumed she wouldn’t receive a traffic citation for making a safe, practical near-stop after pedaling uphill at single-digit speeds.

“Maybe I didn’t come to a complete stop. I looked both ways,” said Kiniry. She said the officer told her, “‘You have to have at least one of your feet down.'” That supposed requirement appears nowhere in the California Vehicle Code.

Kiniry says she told the officer, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to bike. I’m not going downtown anymore. I’m terrified, I don’t know if I’m allowed to pull up next to a car, I don’t know what I’m allowed to do anymore. I can’t afford this.”

Today’s ticket blitz came a week after the Wiggle “stop-in” demonstration highlighting the absurdity of strictly enforcing the stop sign law. The law makes no distinction between bikes and cars, and expects bicycle riders to make a full stop, rather than the normal practice of slowing and yielding to others.

Demonstrators on bikes lined up on Steiner Street before each, in turn, came to a full stop at Waller Street and turned left, moving the queue at a snail’s pace. While no uniformed SFPD officers stuck around at the demonstration, one officer drove past the queue and said on his loudspeaker, “Thank you for obeying the law.”

SFPD was right back at the same intersection this morning handing out tickets to bike commuters who didn’t come to a full stop.

An SFPD driver thanks bike commuters for obeying the letter of the stop sign law at last week's demonstration. Screenshot from The Wigg Party via Uptown Almanac
An SFPD driver thanks bike commuters for obeying the letter of the stop sign law at last week’s demonstration. Screenshot from The Wigg Party via Uptown Almanac

After receiving her ticket on Page, Kiniry said she walked her bike home, a few blocks away on Oak Street. But first, she stayed at the scene to warn approaching bike commuters that police would ticket them if they didn’t put a foot down, which doesn’t make anyone safer.

“At least six cops” were posted on Page, noted Kiniry. “Really? Shouldn’t you be doing something else?”

Last week, Supervisor London Breed came out in support of letting people on bikes yield at stop signs, which has been the legal standard in Idaho for 32 years. When reached for comment, staff from Breed’s office reiterated her stance and said she urges SFPD to comply with its data-driven “Focus on the Five” campaign.

In an email exchange shared with Streetsblog, Inner Sunset resident Sean Rea told Park Captain Sanford that he is “willfully disregarding statistical evidence that proves the majority of injury accidents are caused by motorists — not by pedestrians or cyclists.”

Sanford has said the bike crackdown is a response to complaints rather than data. So Rea wrote multiple emails to report run-ins he’d had with reckless drivers while bicycling. Here’s one example:

Twice this week I was cut off by drivers who failed to yield to me. In both cases, [an] SFPD patrol car was behind me and had complete visibility of the situation. I was able to talk to each patrol car at the next red light and when I asked why they didn’t cite the driver, both said something to the extent of “well, you’re OK, right?”.

This seems like a stark double standard to me. Drivers can put me at risk but as long as they don’t hurt me they won’t get cited. Yet when cyclists make small infractions that don’t result in injury the response from you is a crackdown.

Here’s Sanford’s response to Rea’s complaints:

It appears that you have already made your mind up and you clearly do not understand our obligation to address all issues within the district.  I respect your opinion, but we obviously disagree with each other.  Again, I have noted your concerns and admit we have many issues with motorist, but I have not heard you admit that some cyclist our violating the law. Despite them not being able to cause as much damage as vehicles, it is still the capability of someone getting seriously hurt.  Again, sorry we disagree.

While pedestrian injuries involving bicyclists do happen, rarely, SFPD’s literal application of the law is sweeping up safe cyclists instead of targeting the problematic locations or bicycling behaviors.

This morning on the Panhandle, a man riding a bike hit a woman on the narrow Panhandle path, which is often crowded with bike and foot traffic. The woman was sent to the hospital, according to a tweet from KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts, who is expected to run a “People Behaving Badly” segment on bike enforcement today.

Kiniry and Rea both said they see bike violations that range from annoying to dangerous, but that SFPD’s indiscriminate dragnet isn’t making streets safer.

“I always thought what I was doing was the law,” said Kiniry. “I get upset when I see cyclists blow through stop signs. I think that’s dangerous. I would never do that.”

“The people that put people in danger, that put pedestrians in danger — I’m not one of them. And they’re not giving them tickets. They’re giving someone like me a ticket.”

The next SFPD Park Station community meeting will be held next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

  • gneiss

    By the way, there is no “bicycle lobby”. There are several organizations in the city that work to promote cycling, but to call it a unified lobby really is a bit of stretch.

    As to what I think should be done, it’s what many advocates are already doing – encouraging more people to ride bicycles so it becomes a more normalized activity rather than something only risk takers do. I honestly don’t believe you would be quite so biased against people riding bicycles if you also rode a bicycle for transportation in the city. Two other changes would be to create better infrastructure so people riding bicycles are not in conflict with those in cars or on foot, and finally, I’d change the stop sign/light law to better reflect the difference in risk and use, so only the more dangerous behaviors (not yielding to traffic) get ticketed rather than a strict adherence to a law that does nothing to help public safety.

  • City Resident

    not to be disagreeable, but I believe that Fell and Oak together have a total of EIGHT traffic lanes (plus two parking lanes each) along the majority of the Panhandle;

    meanwhile all bicyclists, many peds, dogs, strollers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, unicyclists, tricyclists, etc. must share a path that’s perhaps as wide as ONE car lane!

  • murphstahoe

    racing is a hyperbolic word in this case – if you were in marriage counseling we would call that “violent communication”.

  • the_greasybear

    Anyone and everyone getting one of these tickets should fight it in court. If Sanford is determined to divert four or six officers away from targeting the most harmful behaviors by the most harmful road users and toward harassing harmless bicyclists, then he can clearly afford to have them spend their days in traffic court.

  • djconnel

    First, there’s a pedestrian-only path on the opposite side of the panhandle. I always use that side when I run. I never understood why so many walk on the mixed use side. This isn’t “blame the victim” — I am just always surprised that people would make that choice.

    But saying that, there’s reckless behavior by both modes there. Pedestrians walking multi-abreast where there obviously isn’t room or even cutting without warning across the path is common. So I don’t think we can say anything about who was the primary at-fault party in any collision. Even the vehicle code notes pedestrians must still exercice “due care”.

    And it’s an excellent suggestion to give Fell and Oak a road diet there.

  • jd_x

    “Do you really want to escalate this on a day when a cyclist sent a pedestrian to hospital?”

    Stop with the anecdotes. For every one of these your so proud of conjuring up, we can find 100 caused by motorists.

  • Volker Neumann

    I would love a dedicated bike path on Oak or Fell. Maybe something like this little job in vancouver: https://www.flickr.com/photos/prawnpie/20310790856/

    I would be all for riding on Page if the hill to get there was flattened, cars were diverted, and stop signs were removed. Then it would be just about as attractive as the Panhandle path.

  • Dave Moore

    Did this happen this morning? The block of Baker between Oak and Page has been torn up for weeks for sewer work. When I went by there this morning at 8:30 or so it was totally blocked by large equipment. I didn’t notice any cops. It’s been closed entirely to traffic during the week. Was it open today? It seems like an odd place to place a trap. It also seems like a really difficult street to navigate on a bike in its current state.

    I know that corner well. Bikes going up Baker are never a problem. Bikes going down Baker on the other hand frequently run the stop sign without slowing. It’s perpendicular parking so bikes have little visibility of pedestrians crossing on the south side. It’s pretty hairy. Cars are a problem as well, rolling through the stop, although they rarely go through it at the speed of the bikes. Bikes on Page frequently play chicken with cars on Baker, pushing into the wide intersection without stopping to see if they can get through it before cars which had gotten there first can accelerate from their stop. If there was a trap there perhaps it was about that behavior.

  • StrixNoctis .

    I’d definitely fight it if the SFPD ever cites me for not putting a foot down when I stop. I always stop at stop signs, but I don’t always put a foot down because trying to keep my balance while stopped on my bicycle is a habitual exercise of mine for improving balance. I’ve been doing this ever since I was a kid. The exercises of balancing while stopped on a bicycle (and balancing on one of each foot at a time while extending my foot in various directions when at home) has helped me keep my ability to balance excellent all these decades of my life.

  • StrixNoctis .

    I wouldn’t encourage him to. Haven’t you seen the reports & videos of excessive force of the SFPD? They might beat him up and/or arrest him on false charges. These days it seems like the NYC PD relocated to SF.

  • BBnet3000

    Do you actually not “jaywalk” across a narrow street with no cars or bikes approaching?

  • Laura Kiniry

    I actually rode up Central to Page, Dave, then turned left.

  • Laura Kiniry

    I’m fighting it.

  • Dave Moore

    Ah, that makes more sense (btw, it looks like they’ve just opened Baker on that block, but it’s still paved like a war zone).

  • dat

    Tuesday the 11th there’s a meeting at the Park District Station yes? Perhaps we go make our voices heard? The new captain seems to have dangerously misguided priorities.

  • murphstahoe

    For what it’s worth – @SFPDPark let out a tweetstorm last night saying the did not do any ticketing for putting a foot down.

    SFPD Park Station @SFPDPark

    @CPbike @sfbike, none, of the officers ticketed for not putting your foot down. Social media seems to have a mind of its own….

  • Vitaly Gashpar

    If I was in her position, I would first fight this ticket in court and beat it. Then having won that battle, I would sue the SFPD for malicious prosecution. Normally to make a case for MP, you have to show scienter (knowledge of wrongdoing). I think that trying to enforce a non-existing law reaches that standard. Maybe Dolan Law would take this on.

  • Can we adopt the Idaho stop law already!

  • Sabbie

    The SFPD could stand on any street corner in SF and easily write 100 TICKETS PER HOUR to motorists who are texting and driving. Which seems like the more dangerous practice to me.

  • Sabbie

    There is a ped-only path on the south side of the Panhandle, about 25 yards away. I use that one when I’m walking, and I use the north side path I’m biking. It’s not that inconvenient, really.

  • Sabbie

    I just renewed by lapsed membership to the SFBC and gave them some extra to boot.

  • Willie D

    If SFPD wants to solve the issue, make bike lanes in the center of the road, and put stop lights at every intersection, a biker can’t go forward, turn left or right without a signal or stop that way. Also a car can’t go forward or turn left. Simple. I mean if we can pay officers to sit and issue tickets, that budget can go to building lights and lanes right? Wanna play hard ball Sanford, well, we can demand lane changes and lights you know, just to make things safer.. Let’s see how clogged Streets become andbhow much more hard it is to crackdown on bikers when we make it simple to catch a car right turning while not fully stopping, putting the Ebrake on and putting gears in park.

  • Sabbie
  • murphstahoe

    Never attribute to maliciousness that which is more likely explained by stupidity. The cops will beat back the lawsuit by saying they didn’t know the law.

  • Vitaly Gashpar

    Heh, the law doesn’t care about your pedestrian definitions. 🙂 Giving someone a ticket for a violation of a statute which does not exist is a violation of 14th and likely 4th Amendments due to lack of probable cause. That in itself satisfies the scienter requirement.

  • The “already made your mind up” reply is, to be blunt, a mindless schoolyard retort. He’s doubled down on anecdote-driven foolishness with ad hominem nonsense.

  • Laura Kiniry

    I specifically asked the cop who gave me my ticket, ‘Can I ask you something? What does a full stop entail?’ And he answered, ‘You have to put at least one foot on the ground.’ I then sat there and watched 18 out of 20 cyclists stop the way I did: by slowing to less a snail’s pace, balancing on the bike, and then moving through the intersection, as he wrote my ticket. The only difference is that I looked both ways.

    If they feel that they are being falsely represented the SFPD is *more* than welcome to contact me. I obviously know the name of the officer: it’s on my ticket.

  • Your “experiences,” i.e. anecdotes, are at variance with SWITRS data.

  • There really aren’t any good donuts in the area. Maybe that’s why they’re so grumpy. (This sort of thing never happens in front of Bob’s.)

  • murphstahoe

    It’s hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but always try to remember to turn on your cellphone video if you have one.

  • aynsavoy

    This was actually a factor in how the original Idaho Stop legislation got going–traffic court judges were sick of these infractions clogging up their schedules.

  • and if things get extra heated: https://www.mobilejusticeca.org/

  • Laura Kiniry

    You are so right! I didn’t think of my cell phone but as a journalist I was thinking about a recorder. Honestly, though, I really didn’t think I was getting a ticket because I really didn’t think I’d done anything wrong.

  • bourbon

    They are pointedly choosing to ignore drivers who don’t stop at intersections before turning right, who block the crosswalk, who fail to pass cyclists with 3 feet, who park in bike lanes, who text while driving, and much more. Instead, they divert their resources to “crack down” on cyclists who don’t come to a complete stop, with foot down, at stop signs. Not only are the former behaviors more dangerous, they are far more frequent as well.

    This paints a plain picture of discrimination. As SF cyclists, we should sue.

    Seems unlikely the main bike advocacy org will do anything, they’re too busy alternating between usurping the organization built by their members and sucking up to SFPD.

  • AlexWithAK

    Yesterday morning a former colleague of mine who is not a bike commuter made note of the stupidity of these ticket traps. She described seeing a bike slowly roll through a stop sign and proceed where upon a police car tore up on the rider, lights ablaze. Three cops got out and surrounded the cyclist, shoving a video camera into his face to show record of his infraction. She said what those of us who ride regularly say all the time: This is a waste of police resources and tax dollars and is absolutely ridiculous considering the banality of the offense. It’s heartening to see that this is apparent to the broader public. Hopefully that sentiment makes its way to the SFPD.

  • AlexWithAK

    I’m always puzzled when I see this kind of response to heavy-handed ticket blitzes on cyclists. Drivers on Long Island whined so badly after speed cams in SCHOOL ZONES were installed that the county actually removed them. A guy got a parking ticket for parking in a clearly marked no parking zone in my neighborhood and complained to the media that the sign was “confusing” and the city removed the sign.

    Forget drivers actually following traffic laws. They complain when they
    don’t and get caught to the extent that municipalities withdraw
    enforcement and change the rules for them.

  • Wes

    Useless police. When I lived in SF I got hit by a car because the car went into the bike lane. Cops could care less and threatened to give me a ticket for what they could not say. Took them to arbitration and they wouldn’t speak or look at me and said nothing but I was in the wrong. Turned out to be a waste of time.

  • bourbon

    It looks like I have to break you the news since SFBC has been hush hush about their coup: There are no more SFBC members. It is a category of people that no longer exist.

    The SFBC Board and management deceived members into voting for a different structure in which people like you are supporters – no longer members in a legal sense. They packaged it as “protecting privacy” when it was in fact about changing governance.

    So anyway, you can support SFBC (though they don’t do jack about police harassment), and they’ll gladly take your money without telling you that “renewing membership” is an expired concept.

    More info: http://savesfbike.org/

  • Roy

    Just emailed my supervisor (Wiener) to find out if he supports the Idaho stop and if he would introduce a resolution supporting it to end the SFPD bullying of cyclists. CC’d Park Station email.

  • Roy

    definitely going.

  • murphstahoe

    See also: Vast majority of red light cameras.

  • murphstahoe

    We should send in a cheering section to whoop it up for every dismissal

  • Sean Rea

    Ever since Sanford & Co.’s announced crackdown I bought a Contour 2+ and mounted it to my helmet. The purpose is twofold:

    1. To document the plethora of motorist violations I see
    2. To document any interaction I have with the police

    I hope it is unnecessary.

  • David Hoare

    5 minutes before I biked through the wiggle when this was happening, I witnessed a car swerve into the bike lane and knock a cyclist off their bike (harrison btwn 2nd and 3rd).

    This action at the wiggle is not an effective prioritization of my taxpayers dollars and appears to be more of a petty retaliation for last week’s civil obedience action.

    I see the commenters saying dispute the ticket in court and make the police show up. I support the sentiment. Sadly, this would also not be a good use of my taxpayer dollars.

    Chances of a ballot initiative for implementing the Idaho law?

  • bourbon

    How can it be unnecessary? I have never been able to leave my place for 5 minutes without seeing motorist violations.

    It’s just that nobody says anything because in people’s minds, drivers are so completely entitled to the road that the violations are normal and unnoticed.

    In contrast, cyclists get harassed, honked at, yelled at even when they are following the rules, i.e. taking the lane.

  • jd_x

    This is what pisses me off the most about this whole crackdown: I’ve never heard of SFPD ever cracking down on the sh*t motorists due to jeopardize bicyclists all the time. Nearly every day, when I’m riding my bicycle at best some motorist will honk or yell at me for doing nothing illegal, and at worst I will get buzzed, nearly right-hooked, or nearly-doored. And only my constant vigilance has kept me out of wreck. But one of these days, I’m going to let me guard down, and I have no faith that SFPD will approach the resulting situation with any fairness and instead will immediately find me at fault (as they almost always do in motorist vs bicyclist collisions) and let the motorist off scott-free. So it’s doubly-bad: not only does SFPD never run crackdowns on the much more dangerous behavior of motorists vs bicyclists than bicyclists vs pedestrians, but when a motorist does hit a bicyclist, we can be sure SFPD will harness their anti-bicyclist bias to the fullest to make sure the driver gets, at most, a slap on the wrist and the bicyclist is thoroughly reprimanded if not given a ticket.

    If the cops weren’t biased, we would all the time see them run crackdowns on motorists jeopardizing bicyclist safety. They would go to Market, Valencia, Townsend near Caltrain, Embarcadero, etc and nail those careless motorists who risk bicyclist safety so much more than any bicyclist can ever do to a pedestrian. But no: SFPD is biased and this fact needs to be pointed out to our City leadership so this discrimination is halted.

  • Sabbie

    There IS an alternative. An alternative for pedestrians, that is. A scant 20 yards from the north path in the panhandle is a DEDICATED PEDESTRIAN PATH on the south side. Does that mean bikes should not slow down on the shared path? No. But it does mean that if you’re really concerned about bikes then now you know where to go now.

  • Sean Rea

    Well I mean the police will not do anything about individual infractions from motorists unless they cause injury (and even then it is unlikely.) So I just mean I don’t get hurt / see someone else hurt and need the evidence.

  • jd_x

    Your criticism is too harsh of SFBC, but I agree they have gotten a little too cozy with SFPD and the City (though some of that is necessary if they want the City to work with them). I agree though that the SFBC needs to develop a legal arm and start some discrimination lawsuits against SFPD. This clown Sanford is out of control and we are going to need some City leadership (which seems unlikely) or a lawsuit to reign him in. Well, or maybe when his constituents see the statistics and see how many people are getting killed and injured by cars and not by bicyclists, there will be a uproar that this crap needs to stop and they need to deploy their limited resources way more efficiently.

  • jd_x

    Awesome. I will be doing the same (Wiener is also my supe). I’m actually disappointed Wiener hasn’t said anything about this and yet Breed has when Wiener is normally such a better champion of non-automobile transit.

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