Saturday, April 14, 2007

San Francisco crackdown on sidewalk bicyclists


The San Francisco Police Department must--must!--have a great handle on serious crime. Having ended the plague of red-light running by motorists--not!--apparently the SFPD now intend to go after the last great remaining threat to public safety: bicyclists on sidewalks.

Combined with other recent developments in San Francisco--the "furor" over Critical Mass, the lawsuit against the city's bike plan--you have to think this "crackdown" on sidewalk bicycling is part of an orchestrated backlash against bicyclists, who have enjoyed great success in recent years. There are many people with grievances in San Francisco; not all of them get extensive media coverage. It wouldn't be surprising that a mayor facing re-election and challenged for his lack of environmental leadership might suggest his media backers wage a campaign to put the most effective advocates (SFBC) on the defensive.

What's interesting to note in this video clip is who the bicyclists pictured actually are. They're not bike commuters during peak rush hour. They're nearly all messengers, transients, or people on vacation. Who else would you expect to see on a bike during a work day? What might have helped this story would have been some context. It was merely suggested by the messenger, who cited the danger of cars as a cause of hopping on the sidewalk. Another factor forcing sidewalk riding is one-way streets.

As always, I strongly discourage sidewalk bicycling. However, sometimes circumstances (or poor street design) force a short traverse of pedestrian space. Cars, for instance, routinely cross sidewalks to access driveways, and too often they park and block walkers. Pedestrians always have the right of way, and bicyclists should absolutely respect that.

However, do I want public safety agencies to shift their focus from the greater and more lethal threat of vehicular crime to deal with minimally threatening sidewalk cycling? Let's get real. I expect this "crackdown" to last until the cameras move on to the next "crisis."

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

12 comments:

Ed W said...

Paul, if riding the sidewalk is against the law, why complain about the police enforcing it? If cyclists run red lights, ride against traffic, or otherwise break the law, shouldn't they be held to the same standards as anyone else? We don't ask for superior rights or special treatment because of our mode of transport. We simply demand the same rights as anyone else on the public way.

Paul Dorn said...

I don't object to law enforcement. (Given the criminality now rampant at the White House these days, the country could use some law enforcement.) What I object to is politically motivated targeted or subjective enforcement.

Fritz said...

Speaking of using sidewalk space, did you see this story in the Examiner?

Paul Dorn said...

Affirmative. Saw the Examiner article. Cars parked on the sidewalk is my biggest peeve in San Francisco. In the last months of my dog's life, when his mobility wasn't so great, it was often extremely challenging getting one--one!--block from our home to Duboce Park because of all the parked cars. And this is a neighborhood of Victorian homes without many driveways.

Cars parked on the sidewalk are a great hazard; in my view larger than the bicycling on sidewalk one. For one thing, there are simply more cars than bikes. And blocked sidewalks cause elderly, disabled, parents with strollers or small children, dog owners, people carrying groceries, and everyone to veer out into traffic to continue their trip. It's shameful that San Francisco treats sidewalk parking so lightly.

There are simply too many cars in San Francisco. (Nearly 10K per square mile.) More vigorous parking enforcement might cause some folks to examine their transportation needs, and re-think vehicle ownership.

People drive because it's convenient. It's convenient because government agencies ignore too much motorist malfeasance. The whole sidewalk biker non-issue is such a politically contrived bunch of diversionary nonsense.

Pedestrians once were be able to enjoy access to the entire width of every street. They've now been "ghettoized" to narrow sidewalks, and even there they are abused.

I'll happily discourage every biker I meet from sidewalk riding. I want an equal effort from city agencies to clear other obstacles, namely vehicles.

A Midnight Rider said...

I am very much against sidewalk biking in general. However I have on a couple of instances moved to the sidewalk, "and" against traffic to get out of potentially bad situations.

There are also many people on sidewalks and riding against traffic because who think they are doing the right thing.

Jym said...

=v= The really unfortunate thing here is that the Senior Action Network, the group behind this crackdown, started with a more reasonable position that included opposition to all those cars on the sidewalk. From all appearances they have dropped this emphasis (and added skateboarding to their list of grievances).

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who has actually be HIT by an idiot riding a bicycle on a sideWALK, I'd have to agree that there should be a crackdown. The punishment should be as severe as when failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

I ride a motorcycle as my primary means of transportation, so I know how crazy car drivers can be. But if you're too afraid of cars to ride your bicycle in the street where it belongs, then walk, drive a car, or stay home. It's against the law for a VERY GOOD reason.

BTW, I guess I'm lucky the moron ran into me. All I got was a couple of bruises. If he had hit my dog instead (I was walking her at the time), she'd probably have been killed.

To the guy who thinks parked cars as a bigger hazard than bikes on the sidewalk, I'd have to say "No.". When was the last time you were walking along and suddenly collided with a parked car?

Mister Sean said...

ss7326In DC: Sometimes the line between sidewalk and bikepath is blurred and the bikepaths and sidewalks are one in the same. It can be tricky to tell.

Anonymous said...

Riding in a street, especially any busy street, is dangerous. To ban bicycles from sidewalks is to technically make the city restricted to foot and motor vehicle traffic only.

Anonymous said...

I was hit by a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk and whined less than you are about he whole issue.

Anonymous said...

I don't ride my bike that much and so I'm still pretty uncomfortable riding on the street. I really don't see the harm of riding on the sidewalk if you are careful and there aren't many people. Sure, during morning commute in downtown SF, this eliminates a lot of areas, but there are other areas and other times when it would be fine.

Anonymous said...

I was hit by a biker just last week, who must not have noticed me fall to the ground behind him as he rode away, and he seriously hurt my back. He was riding thru SFSU, and clipped me as he passed me from behind. He causes me to twist my back, and I have been bedridden in extreme pain snce last wednesday(five days...) I at one time did not care if bikers rode on the sidewalks, if they were careful, but now, I think they should stay in the street. They are not pedestrians, they are moving vehicles. Of course it is dangerous. Wear a helmet.