Bike Yield Law Passes Transportation Committee

SF Supes John Avalos, Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen listened to comment on the Bike-Yield Law
Supes John Avalos, Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen listened to comment on the Bike-Yield Law. Photo: SFBC

Yesterday the Land Use & Transportation Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to instruct SFPD to, in effect, allow cyclists in San Francisco to treat stop signs as yields. The proposal will now go before the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Dec. 15.

Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener voted “aye” on the proposal, with Malia Cohen voting “no.” However, Cohen suggested she could support the ordinance if it were amended to become a pilot program, applying perhaps only to the Wiggle, a popular route for San Francisco cycling commuters. The law was written in part as a response to a crackdown on cyclists along the route.

Mayor Ed Lee has vowed to veto the law and Supervisor Norman Yee is opposed. Six supervisors are co-sponsors. So the support of two more of the 11 supervisors is still needed. Cohen’s “no” vote in committee suggests that won’t be an easy lift, at least not without modifying the bill.

  • PaleoBruce

    I wonder what Darksoul SF thinks of this?

  • jd_x

    “Supervisors John Avalos and Scott Wiener voted “aye” on the proposal, with Malia Cohen voting “no.” However, Cohen suggested she could support the ordinance if it were amended to become a pilot program, applying perhaps only to the Wiggle, a popular route for San Francisco cycling commuters. The law was written in part as a response to a crackdown on cyclists along the route.”

    Hmmmm. On one hand, better is often the enemy of good and so maybe asking for too much at once is risky and won’t pass. On the other hand, a pilot program only on the Wiggle obviously is inadequate since there are many more crackdowns (like the T-intersection at 5th & Townsend), and this ordinance may encourage the cops to “make up” the difference (or enact their vendetta against bicyclists) elsewhere. But at the same time, I successful pilot may indeed be necessary to show people that such crackdowns don’t affect safety.

    So thinking about it more, if I was a supervisor, I would be inclined to accept Cohen’s compromise and push for a 1-year pilot with the option to make it permanent if it shows that it doesn’t make the roads any less safe (and it will show this).

  • murphstahoe

    Pilot program? Or a non-binding policy position. Limited area?

    This makes no sense. “OK, there’s a requirement to stop at all stop signs. But if I am on the wiggle, it’s a low priority enforcement area, so I can probably roll the intersection if clear, but only in the wiggle. Once I get out of the wiggle, I am legally required to stop just like in the wiggle, and cops might be prioritizing ticketing that”. Shaking my head.

    As for pilot program, it’s not like this requires any infrastructure or anything, it just requires Suhr telling his captains to tell his officers not to prioritize enforcement of cyclists at stop signs. And if he wanted to, he could probably just ignore it, since he reports to Ed Lee who has promised to veto the law and who could ignore it even if the board overrides it.

    This is just so dumb.

  • murphstahoe

    There is already a pilot. When the cops aren’t around, cyclists generally roll stop signs. We have data on collisions showing that there isn’t a large absolute number of issues with this. Putting this policy in place will not give us any new, useful data.

  • Jimbo

    i would like to propose a 1 yr pilot program that we increase the # of tickets on cyclists plowing through stop signs and see if that actually has an impact on them learning to obey the law. right now, i beleive we are ticketing <0.0000001% of all cycling trips, and could greatly increase revenue and adherence to the law.

  • Prinzrob

    I agree that a “pilot program” is pointless, but if that’s what it takes to get this thing through then I’m for it. The pilot should include specific data collection requirements, so that the experience in SF can be used to justify similar enforcement priorities in other cities or a state code change, which is what this should all be leading to.

  • murphstahoe
  • PaleoBruce

    It seems more important to prioritize scarce SFPD resources on enforcing laws against behaviour that actually causes injury and death. The data is clear from Idaho’s law, a bicyclist treating a stop as a yield causes no harm. While, behavior like exceeding a speed limit, distracted driving due to cell phone use actually kills people. Enforcing pointless laws doesn’t make sense.

  • jd_x

    Of course. But this isn’t (as you know) about the facts, but about convincing people. If it was about the facts, we wouldn’t even need to tell the fool Sanford that he’s squandering precious resources ….

    So by going with the pilot option, we make people happy and get their buy-in. The very likely end result: after one-year of a “worthless” pilot and there are no more accidents on the Wiggle than before, we have “proved” that ticketing bicyclists for rolling stop signs while yielding is not improving safety and thus we make the yield law official. Sure, we have to wait a year, but is that a fair compromise over getting nothing? Because I’m skeptical we’re going to get 8 supervisors to override Lee’s veto. But maybe you feel confident that we can get 8? If so, then yes, I can see how you don’t want to go for the pilot option.

  • murphstahoe

    I want to force those supes to go on record with a NO vote, and see how it affects them. Then again all the potential NOs are termed out – except Peskin, and I don’t see a long political future for any of them so they’ll just line up for their patronage job courtesy Ed Lee

  • Darksoul SF

    That law shouldnt have pass.. I hoping the Mayor actually bans that law. Now this “Bikers are allow to rolls stop” will cause further harm.

  • Jimbo

    why would it affect them, when only 4% of people are commuting via bike?

  • murphstahoe

    If only 4% of people commute by bike, why are we so worried about this super tiny minority of people causing traffic chaos? Why don’t we focus on reigning in the 96%?

  • SF_Abe

    Poetry

  • CarsRuleBikesDrool

    big suprise, siding with Ed Lee. again.

  • @Jimbo – Enforcement is now disproportionately focusing on harmless STOP sign-rolling in the Wiggle. If you want it to be refocused on “plowing,” clearly you should support this measure.

  • @Darksoul – The proposed Bike Yield Law is not even applicable when Car Drivers/Pedestrians are present at the intersection. You read the text, right?

    “SF Resident Point of View” is reflected in complaints, but complainers are not a representative sample, nor do the complaints accord with actual traffic safety statistics. Enforcement should hew to safety, not to misperceptions.

  • Darksoul SF

    I did see that and i don`t need to mention that. This law encourage them to rolls through stop signs even if they are right of front people that are on the crosswalks.

    The enforcement was being used wisely and fairly against bikers.

  • I’ve seen Cohen on a (SFBC provided) bike on BtWD. I don’t think she’s going to be supporting anything bike related.

  • It’s not a law.

  • djconnel

    There’s a substantial difference of opinion on how optimal the enforcement was at targeting dangerous behavior. All this does is turn stops into yields. Do you deny that yield signs work? Obviously cyclists are in a much better position to safely yield than drivers are, and this simply acknowledges that reality. But reality isn’t the issue here, it’s all about inference, right?

  • djconnel

    A statistically significant data set should take no longer than one week in the Wiggle, and that’s generous to rule out confounders related to DOTW.

  • Darksoul SF

    The Stop Sign did not display as the word “Yield”.
    Simply, display as STOP meaning all vehicles stops.

  • kevin

    Someone needs to set this to some music.

  • Darksoul SF

    The only joke are the bikers supporting something bad. Some of you remember the biker that got killed by the 38-Geary or 38R-Geary Rapid Muni Bus.
    They already determinate that Biker did not follow the rules. … Now they are allowing turn this “roll through stop signs” law to pass. That`s okay , its going be like what happen to that biker.

    The enforcement resource was being used correctly. This also prevent those bikers from getting killed for rolling the stops.

  • I’m confused by this. Even if San Francisco passes this law, it’s only an instruction to SFPD and not a modification of existing state laws. In theory, if a SFPD officer sees a bicyclist breaking state law and let’s also say the officer doesn’t have a more important matter right at that time, don’t they have a duty to pull over the cyclist?

    But I should also note, even if SF’s policy change becomes official, federal and state police agencies that operates in the city could disregard it because the supervisors are not their bosses.

    Wouldn’t it just be more worthwhile to push this through the state lawmakers?

  • Prinzrob

    No, police officers always have discretion on issuing tickets for violations they witness. I personally see violations made by drivers on every single block, every time I’m out in the street. Most of them are indeed not worth bothering with, but taking a robotic approach to traffic enforcement would basically break the system.

    The problem arises when police DON’T use discretion, and start doing pointless and punitive things like ticketing bicyclists for rolling stop signs at slow speeds with no right-of-way violation, for instance. Hence this proposition.

  • So you also think that crackdowns on jaywalkers, pedestrians who refuse to follow the pedestrian crossing signals, and writing tickets for double parking, and other minor law violations is also “pointless and punitive?” Sure, cops have to give highest priority to matters like violent crime, but if that’s all they focus on, then people know they can break less important laws all the time without the risk of getting caught. Law enforcement officers have to also enforce the less important laws too, even if that means using discretion.

  • murphstahoe

    jaywalking isn’t unsafe. Jaywalking in front of oncoming traffic is unsafe. I trust that most people have that one figured out, and we don’t need to remind them with a ticketing blitz.

  • mx

    I mean, I agree, and I’m certainly not a paragon of virtue in this area, but your argument works just as well if you replace jaywalking with “red light running.” There’s also a difference between running across the street when there is truly no oncoming traffic and randomly sauntering wherever you please without regard for traffic, and the former has become all too common in SF. A crackdown is unlikely to make much of a difference there I think though.

  • Prinzrob

    More to the point, do you think it is a good use of police resources to systematically ticket people on bikes who roll stop signs at less than 6 mph with no right of way violation? Because that’s what has been happening, and what the SF supes’ proposal is trying to stop.

    If SFPD wasn’t acting like ticket-issuing robots and was able to distinguish between illegal-and-hazardous violations as opposed to illegal-but-NBD violations then this debate wouldn’t be happening. As it is, they’ve brought this upon themselves, and in direct opposition to the Focus on the Five mandate.

    Regardless of one’s opinion of bicyclist behavior, how anyone thinks that this kind of enforcement is appropriate and useful while people continue to be killed on our streets by drunk, distracted, speeding, and hit-run drivers is mind boggling.

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