Ride safely: Lawmakers are looking more carefully at bicycle traffic infractions after several high-profile accidents in The City

Law-breaking SF cyclists could avoid fines by taking classes

San Francisco cyclists who break the law could escape paying fines by taking bike education courses.

Following up on recommendations from a 2010 civil grand jury report, The City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee is pushing for a policy change to exempt some cyclists from paying fines for moving violations.

Under the plan, bikers would have to attend an in-depth bicycle education course at the Community Justice Center, The City court system established in 2008 to take on minor violators.

Instead of paying a $154 ticket for failure to use hand signals before turning, or a $114 fine for wearing headphones, cyclists could have their fees waived upon completion of their bike safety and education course.
 
Bert Hill, chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, said there have been renewed calls for the plan following a couple of recent high-profile bike collisions, including one accident in August involving a cyclist and a pedestrian that left the walker dead.

“I think it’s pretty evident that we need to get some of the scofflawing out of cycling,” said Hill.

A 2010 Civil Grand Jury report pointed out that motorists in California can take safety education courses as a way of keeping their driving record clean. The report recommended a similar option for cyclists — a Bicycle Traffic School. However, under Hill’s proposal, the cyclists could escape paying any fines, while motorists under California’s traffic school still have to pay court fees.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said traffic school is a good idea for several reasons — it would allow cyclists to get a better understanding of The City’s traffic rules, and it would provide important safety tips for cyclists.

“The punishment side can only grow so far,” said Shahum, whose organization is providing free bike safety training courses this week.

The San Francisco Police Department is reviewing the plan, according to department spokesman Officer Carlos Manfredi. Hill said his talks with the police about the program have been encouraging.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bicycle bucks

Here is a look at some of the fines cyclists face in San Francisco:

Infraction                                                   Citation*
Not using hand signals while turning …….. $154
Failure to stop at stop sign ………………….. $154
Biking against the flow of traffic ………… ….$114
Biking while carrying a bag in one hand …. $114
Riding doubles ………………………………….. $114
Biking without brakes …………………………. $114

*The citation amount can vary depending on driving record
Source: Judicial Council of California

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