If you live in a city with stop signs and traffic lights, you’ve almost certainly encountered kamikaze bicyclists. They blast through signals and signs with wanton disregard for their safety, the well being of others, or the law.
Often ignored, bicyclists are subject to the same laws as motorists. Stop signs and red lights mean stop, and speed limit signs aren’t suggestions. And after the death of a pedestrian in San Francisco last week, officials in San Francisco are stepping-up traffic law enforcement for biking commuters and residents.
The increased enforcement will lead to more cyclists being stopped, and the city is hopeful that that will make them more mindful of the laws. Should a bicyclist be cited for violating the law, they will be afforded he same opportunity as motorists under a new program introduced by Board of Supervisors President David Chui. The program called Safe Streets will enhance education for the biking community, and offer an intervention class for bicyclists.
Much like traffic school for motorists, the intervention and education classes will allow bicyclists to pay a reduced fine for the citation. The citations carry the same penalties as they do for motorists, and the city already does enforce traffic laws on bicycles at some of the most trafficked intersections in the city.
However, as part of the new enforcement policy, the city will purchase and issue handheld computers to officers that will allow them expedite the process of issuing the tickets. It will also gather data that will help the city target enforcement.
The computers will capture information on where and when the ticket was given. If a noticeable pattern develops, the city would then be able to augment officers’ deployments during certain times to ensure maximum effectiveness.
These policies came on the heels of the second pedestrian fatality of the year due to a crash with a bicycle. Bicycle enthusiasts and advocates say that the problem is real, but pales in comparison to accidents involving motorists. Last year, 899 people were struck in the city, but only 4 percent of those incidents involved bikes.
Each day, 75,000 San Francisco residents take to the streets on their bikes, an increase of 75 percent in the last decade. In all, bikes account for 3.5 percent of all trips taken in the city.
The most recent incident involved a bicyclist who allegedly ran through a series of red lights before colliding with a 71-year old man who was crossing the street on his green light. He died four days after the accident.
The bicyclist hasn’t yet been charged with a crime, but is facing possible felony charges in the case. Last year, a bicyclist pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter charges stemming from a bicycle-versus-pedestrian accident.