In the past, we’ve written about California’s unbalanced bike laws, which too often hold cyclists more responsible than motorists following bike-car accidents. Last year, Bicycle Times Magazine reported that even in the case of fatal bike accidents, police officers were more likely to blame cyclists than motorists for the accidents. And new information from the San Francisco Police Department indicates that targeting cyclists could be common practice, especially on Market Street, the city’s main artery.
To cut down on San Francisco’s troubling rising numbers of pedestrian and bicycle accidents, the SFPD has implemented a traffic safety campaign. This is a promising campaign, and I hope it achieves its stated goals of cutting down on dangerous traffic conditions and saving lives. But Streetsblog reports that looking at the citations the SFPD has issued so far, it may be placing disproportionate blame on cyclists for past collisions. During increased enforcement on Market Street last week, for example, the SFPD issued 83 citations, mostly to cyclists, and none to motorists.
Vehicle drivers were not given tickets “because the drivers actually followed the rules of the road during the period that the officers were out there that day,” said SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza. San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr didn’t offer much more clarity. “It’s just vehicle code violations, generally. It’s actually the pedestrians too,” he said. “If everybody’s a little bit mad at me, but it’s safer, then that’s okay. It’s basically who raises their hand that’s going to get called on.”
San Francisco has already witnessed 8 tragic pedestrian accidents this year and cyclists are put in danger every day, since they are not protected by the same metal and glass frame that vehicle drivers enjoy. Between 2005 and 2009 there were more than 2,200 bike accidents in San Francisco alone, reports The Bay Citizen’s Bike Accident Tracker. And a look at California traffic death statistics indicates that cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists are most vulnerable to dangerous San Francisco streets.
So while everyone who uses the roads, pedestrians and cyclists alike, need to do more to assure street safety, the city should not put undue legal pressure on cyclists to make up for traffic violations across the board.
Photo Credit: velobry