Pedestrian Safety group says ‘yes’ to bike yield law — twice

Despite efforts otherwise, plans to improve bicycling conditions on Masonic Avenue have stalled for the past five years. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Last month, The City’s Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee — the voice of San Francisco citizens on street safety — unanimously endorsed the controversial Bike Yield Law.

But at last Tuesday’s meeting of the committee, opposition arose to lessen the impact of that endorsement.

The Bike Yield Law, proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, would task the San Francisco Police Department with de-prioritizing ticketing cyclists who treat stop signs as yield signs.

It has drawn fire from many quarters, including motorists, the disability community and most notably Mayor Ed Lee, who has promised to veto the legislation.

With that in mind, the under–the–radar committee found itself amid a broiling controversy. Their most recent meeting was attended by the high–profile Cmdr. Ann Mannix, SFPD’s head of traffic company, as well as Ben Matranga, Vision Zero liaison for the Mayor’s Office.

“We’ve never had any input from the mayor, ever, in any real way,” said Morgan Fitzgibbons, a member of the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee who supports the bike law.

Yet, Matranga was there Tuesday. During that meeting, committee member Howard Strassner introduced a motion to reaffirm the Bike Yield Law endorsement vote and send it on to the Board of Supervisors, mayor and SFPD, committee members told the San Francisco Examiner.

A vote to not “reaffirm” would signal less confidence in their previous unanimous endorsement of the Bike Yield Law, committee members said.

Fitzgibbons speculated this was a way to potentially circumvent the earlier endorsement.

“They were all there last month, they all voted for it, but this month it was different,” Fitzgibbons said of his fellow committee members. “Somebody must’ve talked to them.”

Indeed, someone did, at least to one member. Committee member John Alex Lowell told the Examiner that Matranga spoke with him to argue the mayor’s view.

“He reached out to me yesterday preceding the meeting,” Lowell said of Matranga.

Lowell also heard from disability advocates who expressed disappointment with his vote supporting the Bike Yield Law in September.

Subsequently, when the pedestrian safety committee took a vote to reaffirm their endorsement, Lowell counted himself among the four “nay” votes, ostensibly siding with the mayor.

Still, that vote passed, 6–4. The endorsement of the Bike Yield Law will be sent to the supervisors and the mayor.

Mannix told the Examiner she spoke to the committee to inform them of the potential consequences of the Bike Yield Law. Nearly 97 percent of SFPD’s ticket violations issued in 2014 were to motorists, she said, two percent of violations were to pedestrians and one percent to cyclists.

Notably, Avalos’ Bike Yield Law calls for ticketing cyclists to be a low SFPD priority.

The SFPD and Mayor’s Office said the Bike Yield Law would make The City’s streets less safe. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, The Wigg Party, six members of the Board of Supervisors and others say the law will make the streets more safe.

“We’re opposed to it because it’s insane,” Mannix told the Examiner. “Any more chaos on our streets is not a good idea.”

Cyclists disagree.

“At the end of the day, we ask ourselves, ‘Will this make The City safer or not?’” Fitzgibbons said.

“The answer is yes.”

The Bike Yield Law is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors in November.

In Other News