An Open Letter to City Hall in Support of the Bike Yield Law
Dear Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors,
We ride bikes in San Francisco as our main form of transportation, and we write to you as constituents who care about making San Francisco a livable city for everyone. This is why we support the Bike Yield Law proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, and we hope you will, too.
We agree with you — nothing should jeopardize the safety of anyone on our streets. To achieve safer streets, we need to ticket cyclists who demonstrate dangerous behavior. We think everyone agrees that behaviors like blowing through stop signs without looking, cutting off pedestrians, and running red lights are extremely dangerous. However, slowly rolling through an intersection after safely yielding the right of way to pedestrians and other individuals present is simply not a dangerous action.
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The Bike Yield Law helps by clarifying that cyclists must always yield to pedestrians and other individuals with the right of way. This law would allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to focus their limited resources on giving citations to cyclists who commit violations that actually put people in danger. It will also allow the SFPD to concentrate on intersections and streets that the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority has found to be the most dangerous, like Octavia and Market. If the SFPD is encouraged to focus on the five most dangerous traffic behaviors then we can actually achieve Vision Zero.
This law also would address the ongoing police crackdown on cyclists rolling through stops signs in areas like The Wiggle, which is one of the most used bicycle routes in the entire city. We believe the Wiggle crackdown unfairly targets cyclists because it is based on anecdotal neighborhood complaints, and not based on the data which shows that The Wiggle is not part of a high injury corridor. The SFPD applies a double standard when they target cyclists rolling through stop signs safely without a similar crackdown against motorists who exhibit the same behavior in the same intersections every day. The Bike Yield Law would eliminate this double standard by discouraging the SFPD from ticketing easy targets like slow moving cyclists in favor of the more important task of ticketing truly dangerous traffic behaviors.
SFPD’s ongoing crackdown on cyclists also discourages people from using a bike for transportation. In a city dominated by cars, we believe it’s time to prioritize safer, slower transportation. When 24 pedestrians and 5 cyclists were killed on San Francisco streets in 2015 alone, we are clearly still not addressing the real problem. The problem is not cyclists rolling safely through stop signs at empty intersections. If we want safer streets, we simply need to enforce slower speeds and recommit to our goal of a multi-modal city.
On the heels of the COP21 agreement, we need to move beyond the criminalization of cycling, and instead encourage cycling as a normal mode of transportation for everyone. In 2010, the Mayor signed legislation presented by the Board of Supervisors making it official city policy to increase bicycle mode share to 20% of all trips by 2020. The Bike Yield Law would help San Francisco to achieve this goal, while reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion.
Furthermore, the Bike Yield Law has international precedent. After demonstrating that a bike yield law actually resulted in a decrease in the number of collisions between bikes and cars in cities like Bordeaux, Nantes and Strasbourg, France amended its national vehicle code to allow all cities to adopt this policy. Paris adopted a bike yield policy in 2015 and it averages between three to five cyclist deaths per year, despite being almost three times as dense as San Francisco. For 30 years, Idaho has proved for San Francisco what the Bordeaux, Nantes and Strasbourg trials proved for Paris: that the Bike Yield Law is safe and effective.
The Bike Yield Law is a win-win for San Francisco. It will help the City achieve Vision Zero by redirecting the SFPD’s efforts to the most dangerous intersections, and also achieve its transit mode and climate change goals. Passing the Bike Yield Law in 2016 would make San Francisco a global leader in visionary, innovative urban transportation and climate policy.
We, the undersigned, urge you to pass the Bike Yield Law. Please join us in paving the way for San Francisco to become the most livable city in the United States of America.
Anonymous Constituent, District 10
Mary Kay Chin, District 6
Reed Martin, District 8
Melyssa Mendoza, District 5
Kristin Tieche, District 1
Amy Farah Weiss, District 3
Nathan Woody, District 1