Cyclists fighting Panhandle crackdown

“Ding! Ding Ding!” rings one green-shirted volunteer with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who then shouts “Free bike bells!”

He’s standing along a bike path in the Panhandle on Fulton Street during the Thursday evening commute. Hundreds of bicyclists pass him by, but hundreds more stop at the bike coalition’s “service station,” on the grass.

Wheels are inflated, screws are tightened, and free bells are given if cyclists sign a pledge to obey the rules of the road. The same scene regularly occurs at service stations around The City dozens of times a year.

At tonight’s service station though, the bike coalition had a second goal: Garnering petition signatures against Park Station Capt. John Sanford Jr’s newly announced crackdown on red-light and stop-sign running cyclists.

The coalition has more than 600 signatures against the practice already — a practice the coalition claims draws resources away from SFPD’s stated goal to increase enforcement against cars that endanger cyclists and pedestrians. Park Station is far from reaching that goal, according to SFPD data.

This event wasn’t staged to fight against Park Station, though.“We do the Panhandle all the time,” said bike coalition staffer Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz.

The timing, however, is convenient. One cyclist rolled up to the bike coalition table and asked “What are we doing about this crackdown thing?”

Cyclists opinions range widely on the subject. David Elson, sitting on a tandem bike with his curly-haired toddler, Ben, said “I don’t blow through stop signs regularly like when I was younger,” but, “cars are significantly deadlier.”

Kalie Patterson is a regular bike commuter within Park Station district. She said didn’t sign the bike coalition’s petition because “I haven’t read anything yet” about Sanford’s proposal.

As a bicyclist and a car driver, she feels “There are a lot of bikers being idiots, there are a lot of cars being idiots, and there are a lot of people walking being idiots.”

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