SFPD Begins Pointless Harassment of Bike Commuters

Let's say I need to get from downtown to Golden Gate Park by bike this weekend. What's my best route that avoids the Wiggle and the Panhandle and Captain Douchenozzle's pointless stake-out? (That isn't, you know, a 30° angle.)

Second question: where's the most effective place I can spend money in order to get this jackass reassigned?

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. [...]

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.

SFPD Captain Justifies Bike Crackdown By Misconstruing "Focus on the Five"

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17 Responses:

  1. Paul Rain says:

    Gotta fight gentrification somehow.

  2. jpancake says:

    The only real way to avoid the majority of dumb cyclist traffic is by staying on Page. I usually do the Steiner-Waller-Pierce shuffle and then take a left on Page from there. The hill after Divis isn't THAT bad, and your reward for climbing is not having to deal with the majority of terrified and screamy bike-riders.

    • Chris says:

      They weren't just staking out the Wiggle. I saw cyclists pulled over at three separate locations on Page between Masonic and Divisadero.

  3. mlis says:

    i would jump up and down and clap my hands with girlish glee if i ever once saw the SFPD pull over someone for not correctly merging into the bike lane (or across it, if required) to make a turn, another violation that also puts bicyclists at risk. but they're gonna do this because they can sit in one spot and print money, just like the carpool lane onramp traps at bryant (don't care) or the gridlocking patrol (actually do care, but only because i live in fucking soma honk central).

    if it's number of complaints that actually got the attention, i am pretty sure we can manufacture some noise.

  4. Jason McHuff says:

    Anyone thought about doing a citizen's arrest on police officer that doesn't fully stop, ala Andy Griffith show?

  5. David Konerding says:

    It would be - in theory if not in practice- straightforward to contest the ticket if the officer cited you for not following the law, and then included an invalid justification and you also had evidence to support you. For example, as pointed out, the CVC doesn't specify the nature of a full stop on a bicycle. However, that's just a fact that was mentioned in the article; it probably wasn't written down on the citation.

    Therefore, when the person goes to court to contest the ticket, they're going to have a hard time. Even if the cop doesn't show, you'd have to provide some sort of evidence that you came to a full stop. If you didn't put your foot down, that implies you probably didn't stand at the stop sign long enough. Now, if you had an auditable log of your journey, which showed that you were at 0mph for 2 seconds, and shared that with the judge, you'd probably have enough evidence to get the citation eliminated. That said, the court isn't really set up to listen to your arguments, most people who try this are amateurs (and the judges and cops aren't).

    • nooj says:

      It's not just theoretically straightforward to contest tickets. It's mind-numbingly straightforward to contest tickets.

      Speaking from experience, when I actually show up at my court hearing and ask to talk to a prosecutor, that prosecutor is more than likely to decide to dismiss the ticket within the first five words out of my mouth.

      Show up in business casual attire with a (practiced) halfway reasonable argument and some sort of paperwork--any paperwork--and you'll find no one gives a shit about quality of evidence in run-of-the-mill cases like this.

      I don't use a lawyer at this early stage. I may be an amateur, but the person I'm talking to at the hearing often spends much of his day processing bogus citations, which are wastes of his time, and he's biased in favor of me in those cases.

      I've seen successful arguments like "You have the 'Click it or Ticket' program, to make people aware of the law; you should do the same here: advertise new enforcement policies so people know." Judge reduces fine by 50%. Next case.

      One time, my argument was "A no parking sign showed up for a week (I show a photo) and we all got parking tickets. But now it's gone and this other sign contradicted it all along (show second photo)! Weird, huh?" Citation dismissed.

      "No, I didn't put my foot down. I can come to a full stop without doing that. I know how to track stand." (If requested, "Here's an iphone video of me track standing for two seconds.")

      It wastes three or four hours of my time, all told (prepare argument, prepare evidence like a photo or drawing of the intersection (just document relevant signage. don't bother to label where the cop was and where you were, that's too complicated, this isn't a trial. you can draw the scene with your fingers if s/he asks.), find the relevant paragraph of law that applies or the ruling in a similar case, possibly multiple trips to courthouse, wait for your turn at courthouse, etc.) and usually works.

      For this $324 citation, if my free time is worth less than $50/hr, I might give it a try.

      I'm not a lawyer.

  6. Kyle Huff says:

    If she's on a bike, and she didn't have her foot down, then I'd guess she didn't come to a full stop. Because physics. Argue your circus-freak abilities with the judge.

    Around here, cyclists frequently blow through stop signs if it looks like they won't get flattened by cross traffic. They also come flying off sidewalks into intersections in front of left-turning vehicles.

    What I'm saying is, the cyclists are inviting this sort of enforcement crackdown by being knobs.

    • Fyre says:

      Some cyclists invite crackdowns, not all.
      Around here we have the tools on bikes who blow stop signs and lights cutting off motorists with an abandon that can only be called a death wish. Those are the ones that deserve the full smack down of the law. This case however sounds like regular, safe cyclists who are being picked on by idiots with badges on power trips.

    • simon says:

      My rebuttal:

      - Even assuming all bicyclists are being reckless (which I'm not really buying for a few reasons, one being physics; if you're moving slower, you have a longer time to assess the intersection as you approach it. You don't necessarily need to stop for anywhere near as long), the main person whose life they're risking is their own. A bike is a spindly framework of tubes around which the defenseless human is wrapped. A car is about a ton of solid steel with hundreds of horsepower behind it and an insane amount of momentum. Not only that, but if you murder someone with a car, you'll either get a slap on the wrist, or you'll get charged with "vehicular manslaughter", which is essentially "murder lite".

      - The bicyclists are being knobs? Have you seen the drivers in SF? They regularly stop in the middle of crosswalks while pedestrians have the right-of-way. I walk to work. At a 4 way intersection, that means I need to take an extra 10 seconds to walk around the car- and through oncoming traffic or behind the car if there's enough space- to get from one side of the street to the other. Thankfully, I'm not elderly or frail, but the crossing light isn't on for that long; 10 seconds is a non-trivial amount of time. And it's the pedestrians and bicyclists whose lives are being risked in every case.

      - Furthermore, people with cars... have cars. Even with delays, they will get to their destination far faster than the person walking or taking public transport. And if the people using public transport, walking, and bicycling are doing so to save the expense associated with buying / maintaining a car, paying for the insurance, and paying for parking, by focusing on ticketing non-drivers this policy is disproportionately targeting the less economically advantaged. Or, if they aren't driving due to bad vision (be it congenital, disease, or age-related) you are targeting the disabled. Either way, you're disproportionately targeting a disadvantaged population. In other words, being a dick.

    • jwz says:

      What the hell is it with Dungeon Masters like you, who seem to pride yourselves on your ability to say, "Well technically that's against the rules" and yet seem to have absolutely zero capacity for reading comprehension or common sense? Let alone empathy.

      Maybe it is technically against the rules (spoiler alert: it's not) but it certainly shouldn't be, because that's fucking stupid.

      "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." -- Cardinal Richelieu

      Did you even read the article? SFPD has an official mandate to devote resources to the activities that cause the most fatalities. This knob -- the Captain -- has chosen to full-force doublethink that into cracking down on the people in the equation who are least capable of causing a fatality.

  7. I sent the following Letter To The Editor to the Chronicle. Thought you folks would appreciate it too.

    The funny thing is, all the folks complaining about scofflaw bicyclists are themselves lawbreakers. How do I know this? Because every driver breaks the law on every trip. Every driver speeds. Every driver rolls through stop signs. Every driver misuses turn signals, either too late or not at all. You want rigorous enforcement of traffic laws? Bring it on. Within a few days every driver would have their license revoked. The only ones left on the roads would be the few law-abiding cyclists like myself. Ah, bliss.

    Furthermore, even if every cyclist ignored all traffic laws - which we don't - it would have basically zero effect on traffic safety. Collision data shows that cars are approximately ONE THOUSAND TIMES more dangerous than bicycles. Any danger from cyclists is literally lost in the noise. If SFPD Captain Sanford isn't applying a thousand times more resources to cracking down on cars than on bikes, then I have to wonder about his motivation - because it's definitely not safety.

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