Supes Introduce Rolling-Stop Legislation for Bicyclists

A police crackdown on bicyclists this summer has inspired new legislation that would legalize the rolling stops many cyclists already use at stop signs so long as they yield to pedestrians and vehicles with the right of way.

Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the legislation with the backing of supervisors London Breed, Scott Wiener, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar, said today that it would still allow police to cite bicyclists who behave dangerously. Similar laws exist in Idaho, but San Francisco would be the first major U.S. city to make the rolling stops legal.

The Bike Yield Law was inspired by an outcry over police enforcement efforts against bicyclists this summer.

Police at San Francisco’s Park Station, which covers the popular bicycling route known as “The Wiggle” connecting Market Street to Golden Gate Park, began targeting bicyclists who failed to come to a complete stop at stop signs.

Park Station Capt. John Sanford said at the time that the enforcement effort was intended to educate cyclists on the “inherent dangers of rolling through red lights and stop signs without stopping, as well as yielding the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks.”

The citations prompted outrage among cyclists, however, who argued that bicyclists can safely judge when to roll through stop signs and police should be focusing on violations by motorists, which are statistically far more likely to result in injury. They staged at least two “wiggle stop-in” protests in July and August, waiting their turns at all stop signs on the route and significantly tying up traffic in the area.

Breed, whose district includes a large part of The Wiggle, said the crackdown upset her and others.

“We have a lot of dangerous intersections that need enforcement and that’s where our police resources should be concentrated,” she said today.

The legislation also includes language making it clear that enforcement on bicyclists rolling through stops should be the lowest priority for police.

Noah Budnick, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the coalition had joined the push for the new legislation in response to calls for change from its members.

“This has been an amazing grassroots development for us,” Budnick said, calling the changes “long overdue” and “common sense.”

“We heard from our 10,000 members that San Francisco needs to do better,” Budnick said.

Avalos said he and other supervisors have consulted with police but have not yet had a response on the proposal. The legislation, introduced to the Board of Supervisors today, is expected to be heard in committee in late October to early November and the full board some time in November, Avalos said.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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  • SantaClarabiker

    I found out about this from a KPIX video. Unfortunately the “news” report from KPIX was idiotic. It didn’t explain the proposal–instead showing repeat footage of a couple of cyclists blowing a stop sign at 12-15 mph around waiting cars. Then it charmingly tried to link errant bicyclists to a illegal immigrant who committed a high profile murder this year and to pot smokers.

    It shouldn’t be forgotten that much of California is literally stop sign crazy and many of them have been placed (improperly in my view) as a means of auto speed control. Bicyclists should have the right and responsibility to prudently roll some stop signs if the intersection is clear–and doing this at a slow speed–ie., < 10 mph.

  • sfparkripoff

    To Mayor Lee, President Breed and Supervisors:

    Please do not adopt the ordinance proposed by Supervisor Avalos to make citations for bicyclists who don’t stop at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority and to permit bicyclists not to stop at stop signs if the intersection is empty.

    If this legislation becomes law bicyclists will go through intersections without stopping when they determine that there is no ‘immediate hazard. This proposed legislation will lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic

    Is it REALLY all that onerous to stop at stop signs and red lights? The “Idaho Stop” runs counter to the principles of vehicular cycling and also violates one of the primary elements of traffic safety which is predictability.

    The extent that stopping is a burden to cyclists is up to the individual. As a longtime cyclist I’ve never considered stopping to be a problem. Cyclists who are not fit enough to start and stop multiple times when riding, perhaps shouldn’t be on a pedal-bike?

    My observation of the “judgment” used by many cyclists when choosing to ignore stop signs or red lights is that they often make very poor and dangerous decisions. Making such behavior “legal” won’t reduce the danger to them or others.

    • SantaClarabiker

      The proposal isn’t to okay running of red lights. It’s for rolling stop signs if a rider deems it safe. I don’t think legally it should interpreted by any cyclist as a “carte blanche” to blow signs at full speed, but rather permission to slow down, scan the intersection and proceed if it’s clear. The “default” for any cyclist s/b to stop. I know the reality is that there are irresponsible cyclists out there, but responsible ones shouldn’t be penalized because of what the scofflaws might do.

      Yes, I think it is onerous to fully stop and each and every stop sign in residential areas on the peninsula. I could be stopping every two hundred yards if I did that (in reality I tend to go to busier roads to avoid the signs, but I’d actually prefer not to do that if I could avoid it). Stop signs are put in frequently because residents complain about the speed of traffic–not because there’s a logical reason for the signs. I’d estimate that 75% of four way stops in my area would be unnecessary if car drivers didn’t speed.