Mayor Lee Vows to Veto Bike Yield Law

Updated at 6:46 p.m. with image of Mayor’s veto letter at the bottom.

Mayor Ed Lee has vowed to veto the “Bike Yield Law” put forward by six supervisors. Assuming the mayor follows through, it will take a vote from eight of the 11 supervisors to override him.

Mayor Lee and SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, seen here riding Bay Area Bike Share in 2013, have missed the point of the Bike Yield Law. Photo: Aaron Bialick

In a comment to the SF Chronicle, Lee showed that the point of the ordinance remains beyond him:

I’m not willing to trade away safety for convenience, and any new law that reaches my desk has to enhance public safety, not create potential conflicts that can harm our residents.

So the mayor’s spin is that the majority of supervisors want to “trade away safety for convenience.” How tone-deaf.

The Bike Yield Law, of course, is all about safer streets through the efficient allocation of law enforcement resources. By legitimizing the normal practice of bicyclists yielding at stop signs — even the SFPD captain who cracked down on rolling stops does it! — the ordinance would help urge police to focus enforcement on violations that actually hurt people.

Supervisor Scott Wiener explained it to the Chronicle:

When you have a cyclist that is approaching an intersection at a slow speed, cautiously and not violating anyone’s right of way, it doesn’t make sense to be ticketing them. That’s not creating any kind of danger. That’s not hurting anyone. That should not be the focus of law enforcement…

If the cyclist is blowing through the intersection and not entering slowly and cautiously, they absolutely should get a ticket. But when you look at what is causing injury and death on our streets, it’s not a cyclist entering an intersection at a few miles an hour.

So far, Lee’s legacy on safe streets and sustainable transportation is mainly one of obstruction, and this case is shaping up no differently. But if the experience with Prop B is any guide, Lee might come around to the Bike Yield Law after everyone else has already embraced it.

There’s growing recognition at City Hall that San Francisco will make streets safer by acknowledging the need to update a flawed law. As Wiener told KPIX, the Bike Yield Law is an example of how “San Francisco frequently lead[s] the way and lead the nation in terms of smart, progressive, forward-thinking policies.”

If Mayor Lee really cares about safer streets, he won’t stand in the way of an effort to bring traffic law into the 21st century.

Updated 6:46 p.m.: Supervisor John Avalos tweeted this photo of Mayor Lee’s letter explaining his opposition to the board:

Photo: John Avalos/Twitter
Photo: John Avalos/Twitter

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