Cyclists Make Allegations Of SFPD Anti-Bike Bias And Misconduct In City Hall Hearing

San Francisco’s burgeoning bicyclist community is often the victim of bias from police who are investigating collisions, dozens of cyclists said at a hearing at City Hall today.

The hearing of the Board of Supervisors’ neighborhood services and safety committee was prompted by the death of cyclist Amelie Le Moullac, who was struck and killed by a truck at Sixth and Folsom streets in the city’s South of Market neighborhood on Aug. 14.

Police initially did not cite the truck driver, but later found him at fault after a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition found surveillance video of the collision that had been captured from a business at the intersection.

Members of the coalition criticized police for not finding the video, as well as for the actions of a sergeant who confronted Le Moullac’s family and friends at a memorial event held at the site a week later and told them the cyclist was at fault.

Police Chief Greg Suhr later apologized for the sergeant’s actions and said the incident would be investigated by the city’s Office of Citizen Complaints.

Despite being found at fault for the collision, the truck driver who struck Le Moullac has not been arrested or charged in the case.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the bike coalition, said the circumstances of Le Moullac’s case are not rare in San Francisco.

“The evidence we’re seeing, there is indeed a problem within the rank-and-file” of the Police Department, Shahum said. “We regularly receive accounts of people treated at best unprofessionally and at worst unjustly.”

Sarah Harling was one of dozens of cyclists who spoke at today’s hearing about their bad experiences with San Francisco police.

Harling was struck by a van making a turn at an intersection in the Bayview District in December 2011 and suffered serious injuries.

She said police falsified a statement in their report saying she told them that she ran through the stop sign at the intersection, and refused to cooperate when she presented statements from witnesses contradicting the report.

“I got the message again and again that because I was riding a bike, I was at fault,” Harling said.

The driver’s insurance company eventually paid the maximum claim amount to Harling, but she had to give a third of it to the attorney who assisted her and said she is still recovering financially and physically from the incident.

Police Deputy Chief Mike Biel acknowledged mistakes were made in the Le Moullac case and its aftermath.
“I myself am pissed that the video wasn’t found” by police, Biel said, adding that the sergeant “used poor judgment” in confronting people at the memorial.

“We could have been better and should have been better,” he said.

However, Biel said police “are not picking on any bicyclists” and train all officers on proper traffic accident investigation procedures.

Police Cmdr. Mikail Ali noted that in September, motorcycle officers in San Francisco issued 1,563 citations citywide but only 20 were to bicyclists or pedestrians.

Ali said the department is also developing a video that will be used to educate the public on traffic laws in the city.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who had requested today’s hearing, said more safety measures are needed to reduce the number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the city.

In 2010, 14 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed in collisions, while 17 pedestrians and one cyclist were killed in 2011. In 2012, 19 pedestrians and one cyclist were killed, while 10 pedestrians and three cyclists have already been killed in 2013, Kim said.

She said along with increasing safety, “we want to make sure when people die that we have the best investigations to our ability.”

Supervisor Eric Mar said the many stories told about alleged bias by police toward bicyclists were “hard to listen to” and “horrifying.”

Mar said the city has ambitious goals for increasing bicycle use in the city but will not reach them unless bicyclist safety improves.

Supervisor David Campos said he plans to request another committee hearing on the issue as a joint meeting with the city’s Police Commission to see whether any police procedures should be changed.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • danboyd3

    Screw the bicyclists, they have ruined this town with their obnoxious behavior and entitlement…

    • street_equity

      One could easily say the same thing about motorists, pedestrians, gays and asian transexuals…

  • Breather

    There is something cyclists should acknowledge regarding ignoring traffic rules & laws. They do not always obey them either. No excuse here for what happened in this unfortunate incident, but it is very easy to see cyclist scofflaws in SF. Go East on Page St. any weekday morning around 8:00am to 9:00am and behold the STOP sign cruisers who ignore the signs completely and simply fly through the intersections. I approximate 25 to 30% of them. Most cyclists are observant but what are these people thinking apart from “I am invincible”? I had a very close call with one of them who did not see me or ignored me as I was turning right at a STOP sign. Yes, my signal was on to turn. I almost had a guy sprawled on the hood of my car because of his carelessness.
    Message to all drivers and cyclists. Be careful, don’t ignore the STOP in stop signs. You could be the next one written about here.
    Thanks for thinking and for doing the right thing.

    • street_equity

      Yes, cyclists, motorists and pedestrians all behave badly at times.

      This is a completely separate issue from police bias.

      Everyone has the right to fair and equal treatment by the police. Even scofflaw motorists and republicans.

      • Breather

        Not being a republican I wouldn’t know how to respond to this oblique inference.
        My comment had to do with careful action by anyone on a public thoroughfare.
        A car can cause more damage to a bicycle or pedestrian. Therefore that must be considered before jaywalking with attitude or cycling with a raised middle finger to adjacent automobile drivers.
        Street equity does not mean a bike can stop a car. It’s about fairness to others on the street.

        • street_equity

          It sounds like we agree on your first point. Lots of cyclists ride dangerously. Lots of pedestrians jaywalk dangerously. Lots of cars drive dangerously. Everyone should use the roads more carefully.

          And, yes, cars are much more likely to injure cyclists and pedestrians than the other way around. The California vehicle code agrees with you as well, which is why all road users are required to yield to more vulnerable road users — cars to cyclists, cyclists to pedestrians, etc. And yes, everyone must still follow the law.

          I understand that you weren’t making a statement about bias — the thing is, by posting your anti-cyclist rant in response to an article about bias you’ve shown enormous bias — it’s as if you responded to an article about racial profiling by saying that black men should be more responsible fathers.

          • Breather

            I can only surmise that your deep stake in this exchange is in defense of the bias headline. Fine. It’s a bias headline. But the article would not ever have been written without careless behavior on the part of the, let’s say, truck driver,

            My singular & constant point was and is: be careful all of us, when on the street. Beginning and end of point. A simple reminder. Say no more. But I’m rather sure you will.

            The fact that you seem intent on having the last word is almost comical. Most people when reading my initial comment would have said that I am correct in suggesting we all be more careful. You apparently have erroneously or intentionally (for the sake of some odd argument) chosen to misperceive or twist my original intent. There was no second point. There was an example about cyclists on Page Street. That was an example illustrating my singular point, not an additional point, an example.

            Please don’t feel threatened by the truth. And please don’t try to drag me into an argument over some point I never even attempted to make.

            Personal attacks such as inferring that I must be a Republican (wrong); that I must be a racist against black fathers & somehow in favor of racial profiling or police bias against cyclists are way way off target (and also wrong). Those attacks reflect a stunning ignorance from someone with a name which includes the word “equity”. Also, it’s not a very good debate tactic.

            By the way I never ranted. You are incorrect there as well. Look up the word rant and you will see that you certainly made misuse of that word. See definition with synonyms: tirade, diatribe. Those are words which along with rant mean “a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation.” My comment was a portion of a short paragraph, certainly not a rant.

            Why is it that I get the feeling you are overly sensitized to this subject of street driving, cycling, walking. And why do I also get the impression that you are all too familiar with ranting?
            Did you write this article?

            I’m glad that you concede that we agree on my “first” and singular point. It’s odd that you’d like to make more of my comment than was ever there.

          • street_equity

            Haha, I didn’t write the article and I never referred to you as a racist or a republican (or a scofflaw driver for that matter). Take a deep breath and re-read my comments. None of those remarks that you took issue with were meant to be cuts against you. I was simply using analogy to put the conversation in context.

            I’m simply saying that it’s inappropriate to respond to an article about bias by saying that the group which has been discriminated against (in this case cyclists) does lots of things wrong. It’s simply not relevant. Whether or not someone does something else wrong they still deserve equal protection under the law.

            It’s also inappropriate to respond to an article about rape by saying that girls shouldn’t dress so slutty. And no, I’m not calling you a rapist.

          • Breather

            Your contention, your objection, is that my comment was a response to the bias question. Wrong, incorrect, erroneous conclusion after an assumption on your part.

            Nice apology…kudos for that, however for the third time I will point out to you in the clearest way possible that my comment was not, not, a response (a way to respond) to the article’s headline regarding bias.

            Could it possibly be any clearer? You seem so sensitized to the issue of bias that you cannot even entertain another comment within the body of the discussion of street safety.

            And your “haha” seems to be what you were striving for all along. If it actually were a laughable topic I’d laugh too.

            Do at least try to understand the point this third time around.

          • Lego

            Ok you’ve made yourself clear, perhaps three times. I’ll add to that: Your comment was not a response to the article’s headline regarding bias. Got it. Why post here at all? The article is NOT ABOUT STREET SAFETY, though it is brought up (an off-topic distraction, but one hard to object to – the dying should stop) by Supervisor Kim. The article is about psychology of perception. Ingroup/Outgroup bias. The way we look at groups of people as categories, etc. It would be appropriate for you to bring up gay-bashing or some Social Psychology study regarding bias. The fact that you post some off topic boilerplate complaint against cyclists exposes your bias blindness and insensitivity to the ideas.

            street_equity’s examples regarding blacks and carjacking are very very good. If you can’t understand what s/he is saying, you are missing the point. Please try to understand – it might be subtle, but it’s profound and profoundly interesting.

  • Jackson Quick

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a little “bias” shift towards the cyclists on the sidewalk, personally.. (that’s because San Francisco looks at the types of folk riding stolen cycles on walkways and doesn’t see dollar signs)

  • http://opusthepoet.wordpress.com/ Opus the Poet

    What is making cyclists so mad is when a cyclist killed a pedestrian there were 22 detectives combing the route of the cyclist for miles to find footage of the cyclist possibly breaking the law before the wreck, but when this cyclist was killed not one cop could be bothered to cross the street to ask the store on the far corner if their cameras caught the wreck. If the private citizens making the request hadn’t done so when they did the footage would have been recorded over the next day and lost forever, along with the chance to charge the driver of the weapon vehicle.

  • sebra leaves

    We need to have the rules of the road clarified and the SFMTA needs to do that by installing signs that indicate bicycle and right turning vehicles are supposed to merge in the far right lane. The same should be true for left turning lanes. If the rules were clear to everyone, there would be less accidents to investigate.

    • murphstahoe

      Or perhaps there could be something in the CVC and the DMV handbook that all drivers should know before being issued a driver’s license….

  • LHT

    Have the police commented on why, if the driver in Amelie’s case was at fault, he or she has not been charged or even cited? Is it still an “active” investigation (pun intended)?

  • danboyd3

    Just saw a Motorcycle Policemen giving a ticket to a Bicycle Nazi, it’s a Proud day to be a San Franciscan.