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Old 11-07-09, 01:14 PM   #1
johnny99
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San Francisco’s Cyclists Facing Backlash for Flouting Rules of the Road

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/us/06sfmetro.html

November 6, 2009
San Francisco’s Cyclists Facing Backlash for Flouting Rules of the Road
By SCOTT JAMES

With his lean frame topped by a shock of thick graying hair, 42-year-old Alan Kayser is the epitome of a seasoned cyclist. He does not look like a criminal, but recently he was pulled over on his bike and fingerprinted by a sheriff’s officer.

“He fingerprinted everybody,” Mr. Kayser said. “That’s how they ID people.”

His crime? Running a stop sign on his bike.

As a growing number of people in the Bay Area take to bicycles — to be green, healthy or thrifty — there are signs of an emerging backlash against those who fail to follow the rules of the road.

Mr. Kayser was stopped in Portola Valley, an idyllic suburb of gently sloping, tree-lined roads. On weekend afternoons, cyclists are as ubiquitous there as smiles, following a route nicknamed The Loop. You will not find a single traffic light, but there is a three-way stop at the one significant intersection of Portola and Alpine Roads.

But those signs seemed invisible to cyclists, especially packs of up to 75 that sometimes fill lanes, preventing residents from driving their own streets. “I can see why that would be irritating,” said Angela Howard, the town manager.

So the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department set up a checkpoint and handed out warnings to errant cyclists. Then a series of dragnets involving 17 officers caught 91 stop-sign scofflaws, fining them up to $120 each.

In Sausalito, another popular cycling destination, as many as a thousand rented tourist bikes go through the city some days, too often ignoring traffic laws, leading locals to refer to them as “locusts.”

Tickets remain rare in San Francisco, although ridership is up 53 percent since 2006, and with that boom has come a fairly rampant disregard for the rules of the road. Stop signs (and sometimes red lights) are routinely ignored.

Videotape a typical intersection and do the math. A scan of 40 minutes of footage shot during morning rush hour at the four-way stop of Duboce and Steiner Streets showed the following:

¶Seven cyclists came to a complete stop.

¶Fifteen cyclists paused.

¶Ninety-one cyclists blew right through the intersection.

“It’s definitely an issue that gets people riled up and that there’s some pushback on,” said Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Ms. Shahum contends that ticketing cyclists misses the real danger. “We’re eager for law enforcement to prioritize dangerous activity on the streets in relationship to the harm that it can cause,” she said.

Cars can kill, Ms. Shahum argues, not bikes. Since it takes so much energy to stop and start, riders figure that if an intersection appears clear, there is no harm running the sign.

Maybe so, but when you speak to some cyclists, a more troubling attitude emerges: this is war, and drivers are enemies.

Just try to talk about obeying traffic laws, and suddenly the loveliest ecofriendly riders are instantly transformed into venom-spewing bike bullies. I was warned several times not to write about this or risk being publicly vilified as an enemy of the bike world.

Where does this battle cry come from? This is, after all, the birthplace of Critical Mass, the anarchist bike advocacy movement famous for monthly protest rides meant to disrupt traffic.

The group made plenty of new enemies a week ago when participants donned costumes and used their bikes to create gridlock in the South of Market district of San Francisco. Streets were already in crisis because of the closing of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for an emergency repair, but cyclists were undeterred from adding to the misery.

“They were rude and impudent and churlish and were taunting the drivers,” said the liberal God of Biscuits blogger Jeff Barbose, who was trapped in his car for 30 minutes. “What were they trying to accomplish?”

Hugh D’Andrade, a Critical Mass rider since it began in 1992, said, “We’re sorry we create any delays, but we’re tired of waiting for social change.”

But the surge in cyclists shows that change is already under way. Ticketing stings, defiant cyclists, and besieged communities reflect a struggle to manage it.

Some see an opening for their agendas. Last week, Critical Mass last week started its first blog, an effort at a public dialog. And according to Ms. Shahum, there is talk of changing California law so cyclists will be required only to yield at stop signs.

In the meantime, managing cyclists is left to the police. Just ask Mr. Kayser. He and his friends were recently caught illegally riding on hiking trails. Their fines totaled $1,204.

Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco.
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Old 11-07-09, 08:32 PM   #2
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Good.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:06 PM   #3
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It'll never last. This is like what they did in NYC. The popo went on a ticket spree in lower Manhattan for a week. They handed out tickets for the lack of bells & lights along with running red lights. That lasted for a week. Then they went back to finding drug dealers, murderers & *******.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:23 PM   #4
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I'd like to see cyclists obey more laws. I'd also like to see cars obey more laws. But even more, I'd like to see a change at the higher levels of government that make both of these changes possible.
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Old 11-07-09, 10:40 PM   #5
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"...there is a three-way stop at the one significant intersection of Portola and Alpine Roads."

I wonder how many motorists came to a complete stop at this intersection? I've had a fair number of cars come up in the straight-through lane and then move to the right and cut me off at this intersection (I'm pretty sure it's only a fogline and shoulder and not a bikelane here.).

I pretty much come to a complete stop here after being ticketed a few years ago. That said, making a right-hand turn when traveling from left-to-right at the top of the "T" ought to be a yield condition rather than a full-fledged stop.
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Old 11-07-09, 11:47 PM   #6
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"...there is a three-way stop at the one significant intersection of Portola and Alpine Roads."

I wonder how many motorists came to a complete stop at this intersection? I've had a fair number of cars come up in the straight-through lane and then move to the right and cut me off at this intersection (I'm pretty sure it's only a fogline and shoulder and not a bikelane here.).

I pretty much come to a complete stop here after being ticketed a few years ago. That said, making a right-hand turn when traveling from left-to-right at the top of the "T" ought to be a yield condition rather than a full-fledged stop.
I went through this intersection with a buddy today-- twice-- and told him that they were enforcing in the area... it was enough to make him stop.
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Old 11-08-09, 05:26 PM   #7
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Too late for some. One guy went up and over the handlebars in front of my van this weekend after running a 4-way stop. He was going a good 20 MPH too...must have hurt because it took him a good minute to get up...no helmet doesn't help him either.
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Old 11-08-09, 11:37 PM   #8
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SFPD doesn't even enforce cars running red lights. Why focus on cyclists...
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Old 11-08-09, 11:58 PM   #9
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If both are disobeying the law, what difference does it make?
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Old 11-09-09, 10:39 AM   #10
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The problem with the whole bike vs. car thing is that most drivers see any cyclist and lump us all together as critical mass types. I'm sure that most of us break the law to some extent, some much more than others. My general rules are:

1) Stop at all red lights
2) Slow for all stop signs, and be prepared to stop for pedestrians and all cars or cyclists who have the right of way. (stop if there is someone to stop for, but roll through if there isn't)
3) At 3 way stops (with no traffic on the right), I ride to the far right and just roll through, but slow down enough that if I see a cop I can stop.
(rules 2 & 3 generally don't apply if I am in the middle of the pack in a group ride as I rely on whoever is leading to use good judgement, which often is not such a great idea)

Many drivers are shocked to see a cyclist stop & wave them through, & it can be real irritating doing a track stand while the driver sits there and doesn't proceed even though he has the right of way.

One last thing, yesterday I was heading through SF to a group ride with a friend. We were stopped at a red light and a couple (looked to be in their 50's, and not racer types), went right through the red light. I yelled "What the F@#$!" at them.
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Old 11-09-09, 01:33 PM   #11
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I can understand if cyclists going through stop lights/signs if they don't impede other traffic, but many times when cyclists blow through intersections, they cut off drivers or even other cyclists who are waiting for their turn at the intersection. I think these cyclists who ignore the rules of the road should have no grounds for complaint if they get hurt taking these kinds of risks. Of course their stupidity is likely applied to us who do follow the rules, so drivers might not respect us as they might.

And I don't know why the City doesn't crack down on Critical Mas.? I can understand advocacy for sharing the road...but the message from Critical Mass is definitely NOT about sharing the road, as they take up all the roads, not following traffic signals and causing traffic gridlock!
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Old 11-09-09, 01:47 PM   #12
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^^Well that would the "activism" aspect of CM. You NEED to inconvenience some people.^^

I wholeheartedly agree, if there is nobody to complain about the cycling infraction, did it occur? I'll rip a red light but ONLY if it's not going to cause a foot to be applied to brakes or hands to horns. Peds never feel threatened, I apologize if I come up and stop too fast at an intersection and scare a ped. The ability to kill and cause carnage is a bit of the litmus test as to if they are going to enforce such and such a law, public safety and all that. Blind enforcement as well as blind adherence are the last things our society needs now. A more reasonable approach all around is the better idea. When you get MASSES of people filling lanes and such , it IS time to do something.
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Old 11-10-09, 12:31 AM   #13
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^ You don't know what's it's like in San Francisco and especially not in front of my office. I have yet to see a single bicycle stop at red lights, let alone slow down, regardless if pedestrians are crossing the street. My office by the ferry terminal and it's not uncommon to see a cyclists ring their bells and blast air horns while approaching the 300 pedestrians crossing the street after debarking the ferry.

I have seen bicyclist run a red light, hit a pedestrian, and after the pedestrian brushed it off and proceeded to walk across the street, the bicyclist hit the pedestrian in the back of the head with his bicycle. If you say a bicycle is heavy and unwieldy, a bicycle raised with the front wheel in the air is perfect striking height for back of the head.
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Old 11-10-09, 02:32 AM   #14
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ekincam are you a troll or just ignorant?

Your office is in a spot where hipster/commuter (both of who are notorious for riding like ****) riders frequent. All of the roadies I know here avoid it like the plague.

as for the guy who ran into a pedestrian and then rammed them with the bike after the fact, there was already a thread on that, everyone agreed he was a ******.

apparently you don't know who does and does not have their heads up their asses.
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Old 11-10-09, 03:29 AM   #15
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What is a hipster?

Most of the people I see in SF on bicycles are in front of my office. I seldom see them elsewhere aside from SFSU so what would you have me base my judgement on? I see people on bicycles on bicycles causing harm and endangering pedestrians. Having spent time in Davis, SF is bicycling is chaos.

It's not like SFSU is any better than the area in front of my office. I see people riding 20 MPH down pedestrian pathways and sidewalks in addition to making wheel chair ramps completely useless. There are always bicycles locked to the railings on wheel chair ramps making it difficult if not impossible to use for people who actually need them.

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Old 11-10-09, 10:11 AM   #16
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Your office is in a spot where hipster/commuter (both of who are notorious for riding like ****) riders frequent. All of the roadies I know here avoid it like the plague.
To the general public, a person on a bike is a cyclist. Hipster, roadie, hooligan on a bmx, all the same to the general populace.
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Old 11-10-09, 11:45 AM   #17
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A hipster cyclist is someone who's first adult sized bike was a fixed gear and was purchased not to get into a sport but to keep up with fashion trends. They have no clue about bike riding or advocacy and fancy themselves as urban traffic guerrillas. Basically they give cyclists a bad name, as does critical mass but that another issue in itself.

Where do you see people at SFSU doing this stuff I spend 25+ hours a week on campus and ever since the massive influx of bike racks, which is/was awesome, I haven't seen anything like that.

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Old 11-10-09, 12:05 PM   #18
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Then they went back to finding drug dealers, murderers & *******.
Yeah because Portola Valley is filled with them
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Old 11-10-09, 12:10 PM   #19
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Yeah because Portola Valley is filled with them
There have recently been a bunch of pot farm busts in the area between Alpine Road and Page Mill Road.
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Old 11-10-09, 12:34 PM   #20
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Where do you see people at SFSU doing this stuff I spend 25+ hours a week on campus and ever since the massive influx of bike racks, which is/was awesome, I haven't seen anything like that.
There are bicycle locked to many of the various wheel chair ramps around campus. I don't know how you can miss them since there isn't one without one or more bicycle locked to the rail. Same goes for stairways at the Science building.

As far as bicyclist riding 20 MPH, try walking on the sidewalk on 19th or any of the pathways around campus in the pathways between Casesar Chavez and Hensil Hall and see how many bicyclist speed by you. Not sure what happened last week, but a bunch of bicyclist had roped off one of the pathways clogged it with bicycles.
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Old 11-10-09, 05:33 PM   #21
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I'm not sure what cyclists in Portola Valley have to do with Critical Mass or San Francisco.

You won't find many of the vicious anti-car rants coming from those of us in the 'burbs because we drive too.
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