Stanley Roberts’ last hurrah: Catching red-light running cyclists at Market and Powell

On one Thursday weekday more than 210 bicyclists blew through a red light on Market and Powell Streets, weaving through pedestrians at lightning speed.

Though those cyclists mostly obeyed traffic laws at nearby Fifth and Market, the next closest intersection which sees oncoming auto traffic, cyclists disobeyed red lights consistently between 8:05 a.m. and 9:05 a.m. at Market and Powell streets, which is a midblock two-way intersection without cross-traffic.

With only pedestrians to fear, and not cars, at least one cyclist ran every red light in the hour observed. At some red lights as many as 20 cyclists blew through the intersection at once. At the end of the count, the reporters observed 217 cyclists running the red light at Market and Powell Streets in just one hour.

The tally was conducted by the San Francisco Examiner and KRON-4 reporter Stanley Roberts of the popular “People Behaving Badly” TV segment, in what may be his last-ever bike sting. Roberts will end his 12-year Bay Area career calling out the misbehavior of drivers, cyclists, and everyone else, and leave for Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.

Roberts has drawn the ire of the cyclist community for highlighting violations, but he said that goes with the territory.

“I once had a $100,000 bounty on me” for catching law-breaking cyclists, he said. “THERE IS A WAR OUTSIDE. STANLEY ROBERTS = CYCLIST ENEMY #1,” the ad read, according to our sister publication SF Weekly.

When Roberts covered a bicycle contest at the east-west bike route known as The Wiggle, “the referee just quit,” he said. Thursday, he went for one last hurrah with the Examiner on Market and Powell streets.

The intersection was relatively safe until recent years, data shows.

While nearby Fifth and Market saw 35 injury collisions between Jan. 2013 and December 2017, Market and Powell only saw five. It should also be noted that the majority of injury and fatal collisions in San Francisco are made by drivers striking pedestrians and cyclists — and one cyclist, 65-year-old Gregory Blackman, was struck and killed by a driver on Turk Street Tuesday, as the Examiner previously reported.

However, nearby parts of Market Street have seen cyclist-related collisions. At Fifth and Market streets, four crashes involved cyclists striking pedestrians between 2012 and 2015, according to SFMTA data, and this year alone Market and Powell Streets has seen two collisions where cyclists injured pedestrians, the Examiner has previously reported.

The first of those occurred in May, when a bicyclist struck pedestrians at Market and Powell leading to four people hospitalized with minor injuries, according to the San Francisco Police Department. In July, a cyclist struck and injured a pedestrian at the same intersection.

Thursday morning, one pedestrian, a man with gray hair and a blue jacket who declined to be identified, saw three bikes fly past him as he legally crossed Market during a green light. Roberts asked the man in blue if he saw how close the cyclist came to hitting him.

“Did I see him?” the man asked, angrily. “The question is not if I saw him, but if he saw me!”

Roberts and the Examiner watched as a cyclist whizzed by downtown worker Maria Alfaro as she crossed Market Street, inches from her face. The cyclist threaded a needle between Alfaro and another pedestrian.

“They don’t stop. It happens every day,” Alfaro said.

Though some cyclists ran red lights quickly, others nudged through slowly, akin to what cyclists call an “Idaho Stop,” where cyclists can legally treat red lights like stop signs and proceed cautiously if they see no oncoming traffic.

At about 8:40 a.m., Roberts flagged a nearby San Francisco Police Department officers as they drove by.

When alerted to the issue, the officers stayed to pull over a cyclist. That cyclist was issued a red light violation citation worth $100 up front, and more than $400 after associate penalties. He declined to be identified.

“This is frustrating,” the cyclist told Roberts and the Examiner, because “this was a dangerous spot to be,” which he said prompts him to roll through quickly.

Not every cyclist believed running a red was the right thing to do. Cyclist Paul Valdez stopped to talk, and told the reporters “I always stop. Safety first.” Roberts quipped back, “Well, where’s your helmet?” To which Valdez simply replied, that’s “another debate.”

It’ll “probably” be the last time Roberts catches cyclists behaving badly in the Bay Area, barring any urgent, breaking news stories, he said.

Looking back on his career in The City with KRON-4, and his notoriety in the cycling community, Roberts had one last finger-wag for the scofflaw bicyclists.

“If I had one message I guess it would be, ‘think about more than yourself when you’re riding,’” he said.

Because behaving badly, he pointed out — that’s a choice.

Cyclists rolled through a red light repeatedly at Market and Powell streets on Thursday. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

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