Pulled Over!

I must confess, I was a bit leery of sharing this video on here, what with the slim chance that some anti-bike nuts will stumble across it and brand me history’s greatest monster for my horrible lawlessness and disregard for human life. But, eh – what’re you gonna do?

Anyhoo, a few weeks ago, I was biking home, eastbound on Market St. and I got pulled over by an SFPD officer. My crime? Stopping for a red light at 10th and Market – but doing so after the intersection’s limit line.

Oh, and while you watch, please keep your eye out for the MB SUV in the left lane – I’ll have more to say about him later…

Now, let me state for the record: YES, I AM WELL-AWARE THAT WHAT I DID WAS A VIOLATION OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE CODE. I also certainly appreciated that I was let go with a warning and that the officer was generally courteous (though I thought he belabored the rules about the limit line).

But here’s why I have some issues with this incident:

1. This is a particularly poorly designed stretch of road. As cars and bikes pass Van Ness going eastbound, they are forced to cross paths in a way that is confusing and potentially dangerous for the uninitiated. Vehicles must get into the far right lane as bikes must merge from the right into the center bike lane. Once at 10th, the intersection’s limit line is six car-lengths back from 10th St. Thus, while I did in fact go past the limit line, I was not in the path of any vehicular traffic nor did I interact with any pedestrians, since there were none present at any time during this incident. Also, what about the the two cars in the right lane that had passed the limit line? Why weren’t they busted?

2. What happened to that MB SUV? He was in the transit/taxi only lane in the left yet he never passed the waiting SFPD officer east of 10th St. So, besides having already been illegally traveling in the transit lane, he had to have executed an illegal left- or U-turn – or made a right turn from the left lane onto 10th St. cutting across the bike lane – both illegal and dangerous. And given that he must’ve seen the scooter getting pulled over, the MB driver was pretty clearly aware that he was illegally traveling in the transit lane. Of the bikes, the scooter and the MB, the MB’s actions were, in my view, the most serious and included multiple violations – yet he got away scot-free.

3. What about the first biker guy? He just kept going and thus didn’t get a lecture. That’s a pretty lousy lesson – that I’d be better off ignoring a police officer, since he won’t bother to pursue.

4. Finally – and, really, this is far and away my biggest complaint about this incident – this little stakeout on Market St. was on the afternoon of December 14th – the same day as SantaCon. In other words, someone in command at SFPD decided that, despite the presence in the city that day of thousands of open-container-carrying, public-urinating, projectile-vomiting, “Show us your tits!”-screaming, drunken Santas staggering from bar to bar (several of whom can be seen and heard in the background of my video), this was the ideal day to set up a little trap on Market St. to catch bikers who stopped for a red light but a few feet past the limit line. Excellent setting of priorities, SFPD!

I Love My Commute

Got a cool new Contour helmet cam for my birthday! I’m looking forward to documenting and sharing the various bad behaviors and outrages visited upon me as a pedal my way around the city.

And here’s my maiden voyage. I still need to get something to help cut down on the wind noise, but it’s actually not too bad as-is. My favorite part? The mike picks up quite easily on everything I say – which most typically is “What’s this idiot doing?” or “Jesus, look at this jackass.” This particular ride was uneventful, so no narration. But I’m sure that’ll change!

Not Cool, FedEx Driver, Not Cool…

I was riding my bike home after work on Friday, June 13, using the marked bicycle lane on Howard St. here in SF. And, for the third day in a row, came across a FedEx delivery truck parked in front of 500 Howard thusly:

The white line on the left is the bike lane marker.
The white line on the left is the bike lane marker.
And here one can see that the driver had plenty of room to keep from blocking the bike lane.
And here one can see that the driver had plenty of room to keep from blocking the bike lane.

Now, as a regular recipient of packages from FedEx and UPS, I am not unsympathetic to drivers and their need to park their vehicles and keep to their schedule. But given that this fellow had plenty of room both in front of and behind his truck to park in this marked loading zone, his decision to completely block the bike lane is either rank incompetence or a big “fuck you” to cyclists. Frankly, the motivation doesn’t matter. He has created a situation that is dangerous for every cyclist using this heavily-traveled route – and right at the beginning of rush hour.

Howard St. is a one-way, four-lane artery to both the Bay Bridge and the 101 freeway – plus this location at 500 Howard is immediately after a traffic signal – meaning that this FedEx driver’s blocking of the bike lane virtually guarantees interaction between bikes and cars as the bikes are forced to merge into the traffic lane to go around the FedEx truck.

Unfortunately, the driver of the truck was not near his truck on Friday – but I can assure you the next time I come across this (and yes, I’m sure there’ll be a next time – like I said, this was the third day in a row that he’d parked like this) and he’s around, I’ll address it with him directly. But I certainly hope that someone at FedEx sees this post and takes some steps to ensure their drivers don’t engage in such blatant disregard for bicyclists and the CA vehicle code (section 21211, if you’re interested).

YOU’RE WELCOME, SAN FRANCISCO!

Sure, the Giants played an amazing 4 (ha! 4!) games to win the World Series – but credit where credit is due. Without my rally cap, rally shirt, rally underpants and rally cat with rally cape, there’s no  way we could’ve won!

Also, Bye Bye Baby! And hello second championship in three years!

Oh, well, it was a car, not a bike, so no big deal…

Hey, I’m ridin’ here!

So, another pedestrian was killed in San Francisco – the 11th this year. Of these 11 deaths, 10 were caused by motor vehicles and one by a bicycle. The most recent death occurred on Saturday evening in the Tenderloin and was caused when a taxi driver allegedly ran a red light and struck the pedestrian. This story warranted a total of four paragraphs in SFGate – while there are at least seven discrete articles relating to the death of a pedestrian who was struck by a bicyclist in March.

I only learned of the most recent pedestrian death via the news crawl on KTVU this morning. And it’s really infuriating. Pedestrian deaths by automobile receive barely a raised eyebrow, yet when a bicycle is the culprit, the pitchforks and torches are out in an instant.

Don’t get me wrong – Chris Bucchere, the cyclist who is accused of driving recklessly and is facing felony manslaughter charges, appears to be completely culpable in the death of the pedestrian he struck when allegedly running a red light. But why did that particular case warrant such an inordinate amount of coverage? Simply because he was cycling – had he run the red light and killed a pedestrian while driving a motor vehicle, no one would even know Chris Bucchere’s name.

I think people, regardless of mode of transportation, should be held accountable  when their negligent behavior causes death or injury. But there also needs to be acknowledgement – both legally and culturally – that bicycles and automobiles are very different. Bicycles are statistically and demonstrably less of a danger to pedestrians. Being hit by a 2000 lb. automobile traveling at 30 MPH is more likely to cause severe injury or death than being bit by 30 lb. bicycle – this is not my opinion, it is a fact, based on the laws of physics. Yet the anti-bike folks in SF continue to trot out anecdotal evidence of how terrible bike riders in the City are and the level of risk they present.

This is why cyclists like me tend to roll our eyes when we hear the breathless accounts of the rampant lawlessness of the biking community in SF, of our constant and intentional menacing of all pedestrians – these complaints are not based on reality. “Oh, well, just this morning I was nearly run over by a guy on a bike who didn’t stop!” That may very well be true – but it’s likely that 1o people had the exact same experience this morning with a motor vehicle, but since cars remain king (and more ubiquitous than bikes), it’s not even remarked upon.

Frankly, those who shout loudest about the exaggerated “danger” of bicycles should also be shouting the loudest about more and better dedicated bike infrastructure, which would keep bikes separated from cars and more effectively manage interaction with peds. However, the anti-bike crowd seems to care only about issuing more citations to cyclists or blocking the creation of new bike lanes that might result in fewer parking spaces or travel lanes for motor vehicles. So, as a biker, I am  left to conclude  that anti-bike sentiment is purely visceral, not based on facts and simply a reflection of the complainers’ bias.

Of course, that’s just a long-winded way of saying I think the anti-bike folks are, in fact, stupid.

The Idaho Stop

Probably one of the most challenging parts of being a bicyclist in SF (besides dodging potholes, jaywalking peds and inattentive drivers) is that we are typically portrayed as a singular entity. That is, people rely on their own anecdotal evidence of a-hole cyclists to reach the conclusion that all cyclists are a-holes. In fact, most cyclists ride in a safe and generally law-abiding manner.

Of course, to some degree, “law-abiding” can be in the eye of the beholder. Check out this crackdown by the SFPD on cyclists on the Wiggle, all being sited for failure to come to a complete stop at stop sign. N.B.: Pay close attention to traffic behind the irate dogwalker.

Why are bikes being singled out for enforcement here? Those cars coming to a rolling stop should be getting ticketed as well.

Of course, the larger issue is that it simply doesn’t make sense for bikes to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. In the report above, the guys who didn’t slow down or check the intersection? They deserved to be cited.  But it is actually completely possible for a cyclist to obey the premise of a stop sign, yielding to peds and cars, without coming to a two-wheel stop. Here’s a great piece on the Idaho Stop, something the state of Oregon is attempting to introduce.

Of course, I hold out little hope of such a logical and appropriate law to ever be implemented (or even considered) in Cali. The cultures of “zero-tolerance” and self-entitlement (and this applies to everybody – drivers, bikers, peds… especially in SF. Well, everybody except me of course, since I am a paragon of virtue in all that I do. But I digress…) pretty much guarantee that any change in traffic laws that required people to be reasonable, attentive and patient would never be tolerated.