Saturday, July 16, 2011

SF Bike Coalition:
No Push for Rider Rules, Public Meetings?

My biggest problems and fears when riding my bike on the streets of San Francisco, are the other bikers, especially the ones who obey as few safety rules as possible. I've experienced too many near-mishaps when a biker violates the unwritten pass on the left rule of the road for all vehicles and passes me on the right, of course, without any "on your right" warning.

Then there are the occasions when I'm passing a major intersection, with the right of way, and a biker comes whizzing down the cross street and totally ignores the red light, almost running into me. Fear of getting knocked over by a car on the road or a driver exiting his or her parked car, rank low on my list of biking safety concerns.

This introduction is necessary before mentioning this story from the Bay City News yesterday, penned by Sara Gaiser:

A bicyclist struck a pedestrian at Embarcadero and Mission Street in San Francisco this morning, causing life-threatening injuries, police said. Police were called to the scene of an accident at 8:33 a.m., police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Officers found a bicyclist had struck a woman in her 40s (3:40 PM: Police are now saying the woman is in her late 60s) who was crossing in the crosswalk, causing a life-threatening head injury. Preliminary information suggests the woman was crossing legally with the light, Esparza said.

The bicyclist remained at the scene and was being interviewed by investigators. ...

I checked the influential San Francisco Bike Coalition's web page, to see if they said anything about the situation, safe biking guidelines for their members and all cyclists, or open meetings with the group's leaders. Found nothing relevant to those issues, so I called Neal Patel, SFBC's community planner, for some answers.

The gist was that they hold workshops for new bikers addressing many tips including ones on safety, do not have safety rules they promote nor do they hold public meetings, and Patel said the main body responsible for everyone's safety on the streets was the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, and that Mike Sallaberry was the person there to contact with my concerns. Left him a voice mail message.

Patel said the closest they come to safety rules info on their site is the Riding Predictably page and video. While the video does promote safe riding and address some of the responsibilities of bikers, in the broader context of road security for everyone - bikers, walkers, cars, etc - it's not nearly enough promotion of rules bikers should be following. Good luck finding info regarding the wisdom of always wearing a helmet on the SFBC site.

I told Patel there was a lot of room for improvement at his web site and through other methods for the SFBC to frankly address safety rules for bikers, starting renaming the vid's title, posting written road rules on the Safety and Security page, and not push sole responsibility for proper biking that doesn't endanger other bikers or pedestrians on to the SF MTA.

After bringing up yesterday's serious accident, I talked to Patel about a 90-year-old woman friend from my church who earlier this year suffered a broken hip that forced her to be hospitalized for months with serious and myriad complications, after a biker ran a red light and knocked her so hard she fell to the pavement. Despite bystanders yelling and chasing after the man on the bike, he didn't bother to stop and escaped responsibilities.

My friend has recovered and now walks with a cane, which she didn't need before the accident, and she is just one of too many elderly pedestrians harmed by unsafe bikers.

Responding to my question about public meetings with SFBC leaders, as just one way for them and the larger coalition to hear my idea that they begin campaigns to address the jeopardy I and others feel when bikers don't adhere to acceptable standards of safe urban riding, Patel said they don't hold such meetings.

Oh. That, and other things, need to change at the SFBC, that is, if they are truly interested in being a responsible partner and stakeholder in making San Francisco streets safe for all.

I'm happy to end this post mentioning a blog post at the SF Weekly site written by Erin Sherbert about Friday's biker-caused accident at the waterfront. She also contacted the SFBC yesterday, seeking their comments on many of these same issues and is waiting for them to call her.

Nice to know Sherbert also reached out to the SFBC. They really owe us more communication, safety campaigning and democratic engagement.


Stephen R. Stapleton, Sacramento, CA said...

No offense intended, but the "unwritten rule" about passing on the right is superseded by the written rule on doing so. California Vehicle Code §21754 reads:

Passing on the Right

21754. The driver of a ( ) vehicle may overtake and pass to the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn.

(b) Upon a highway within a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.

(c) Upon any highway outside of a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.

(d) Upon a one-way street.

(e) Upon a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.

The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a slow moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway.

A bicycle counts as a vehicle. Thus, the other bikers may not be aware of an unwritten rule of your own making and are simply following the actual rules of the road.

Unknown said...

hi stephen,

thanks for sharing that info. let's go over it, point by point.

a) i am not making a left turn, or about to make one, when they pass on the right.

b) SF streets are not highways.

c) see above.

d) market and valencia streets, where a lot of the right passing by bikers with me occurs, are not one way streets.

e) see my points B and C above.

i don't think the law you've sited addressed the situation i am too often faced with bikers passing on the right on two-way streets that are not highways and when i'm not making a left.

Anonymous said...

Bikers on Valencia frequently come from behind and pass -- on the right --SIGNALLING motorists making right hand turns. This is mindblowingly stupid. I am sympathetic to the need to keep one's momentum going on a bicycle. I am not sympathetic to playing with one's life in order to do so.