Ready or not, the bike yield law is set to roll into the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The proposed ordinance from Supervisor John Avalos would make ticketing cyclists who yield at stop signs, instead of coming to a full stop, the San Francisco Police Department’s lowest enforcement priority.
The idea stems from a law in Idaho with a similar idea, where bikes treating stop signs as yield signs was enshrined in law three decades ago — hence the law’s nickname, the “Idaho stop.”
Avalos said the law codifies behavior many cyclists already practice on the road, mostly because it’s safe.
“The bike yield law affirms and requires responsible and predictable behavior by bicyclists,” Avalos told the Examiner, “while also reaffirming the SFPD’s ability to enforce traffic.”
So far, the resolution will have six co-sponsors, Avalos’ office said: Supervisor Avalos will be joined by supervisors London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and Scott Wiener, though we were not able to confirm them all before press time.
The law was borne from strife between cyclists and the police. In July, SFPD Park Station Capt. John Sanford announced a “crackdown” on red-light running and stop sign-slipping cyclists. Soon a charge was led against Sanford by the politically powerful San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and local bike advocates The Wigg Party — who are named after the popular bike commute route “the Wiggle.”
Since then, Sanford has mended bike chains with the two-wheeled community, but out of that controversy came Avalos’ bike yield law. The Wigg Party and bike coalition, the latter of which boasts more than 10,000 members, are enthusiastically in support of Avalos’ proposal.
Some remain critical, saying the law may endanger pedestrians. The elderly and those with disabilities are especially vulnerable to speeding cyclists, say disability advocates Bob Planthold and Howard Chabner.
“People with mobility disabilities, blind people, seniors, and people with baby strollers would feel less safe. This is difficult to quantify, but it is real,” wrote Chabner, in an email sent to the Board of Supervisors, and was obtained by the Examiner.
He contends the proposed law is too subjective for proper police enforcement, and that little evidence is provided that cyclists often nearly hit him as he crosses city streets.
Chabner was formerly the chair of the Physical Access Committee of the Mayor’s Disability Council.
To these critiques, Avalos said “the legislation requires (cyclists) to yield to pedestrians, and for the SFPD to ticket cyclists who do not.” Notably, it is only when cars and pedestrians are not present that the law would allow cyclists to “roll through” stop signs.