SFPD captain behind bike crackdown to host group ride

San Francisco Police Department Capt. John Sanford enraged the local cyclist community two months ago when he announced a bike crackdown. He promised increased enforcement on bicyclists who were slipping through stop signs and running red lights.

At an emotionally charged Park Station meeting last week, however, Sanford extended his first olive branch to the community and announced an end to the “crackdown.”

Now, he’s extending that olive branch a little further.

Sanford is inviting the community out for a Thursday group bike ride. He’ll even hop on a bike himself, all in the name of safety.

“The purpose of this ride is for various reasons,” Sanford told the San Francisco Examiner. “To hear concerns of cyclists, discuss safety on the roadways,” and to “discuss the importance of sharing the road.”

Sanford’s officers will also offer tips on bike safety and how to register a bike with the SFPD, in case it’s stolen.

Bike advocates and the cycling community were mainly up in arms because they believed Sanford’s promise to increase bicycle enforcement would take resources away from enforcement against cars.

Notably, the SFPD has publicly committed to San Francisco’s Vision Zero goals, which task The City with reducing traffic collision deaths to zero by 2024. The City aims to do this by increasing traffic education, engineering the streets to be safer and tasking the SFPD with increasing enforcement against scofflaw drivers.

According to the SFPD, 28 percent of Park Station’s citations are now in “Focus on Five” categories: speeding, red light running, failing to yield, unsafe turns and failing to stop at stop signs. This falls short of its goal of 50 percent.

Since the last meeting, Sanford has hopped on a bike for his traditional duties around the neighborhood.

How Sanford’s olive branch will be received is still an open question.

Morgan Fitzgibbons, an organizer with The Wigg Party, which protested Sanford’s crackdown, said he hopes the group bike ride is educational.

“I applaud Captain Sanford’s efforts to begin to understand the experience of riding a bicycle, and I hope it reveals to him the dangerous conditions our bicyclists face every day.”

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition met with Sanford last week, and a spokesman for the group said scheduling conflicts prevented them from joining Sanford on Thursday.

“We have members joining the ride,” bike coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy said in an email. “While we couldn’t make this one, we look forward to our next opportunity to join Captain Sanford.”

Cassidy also reiterated the need to focus on safety. “Working with our members to restore smart enforcement around the Wiggle freed up precious enforcement resources for the most dangerous traffic behaviors,” he wrote. “We are excited for the recent opportunity to collaborate with Capt. Sanford towards [sic] safer streets for everyone who walks, bikes and drives near Park Station.”

The community ride is one of the first goals of Sanford’s newly formed “Community Advisory Bike Board.”

Ultimately, Sanford said, “This is a collaboration.”

To join Capt. Sanford on a ride through Park district, join him Thursday at noon on 1899 Waller St. at Park Station, near the Panhandle. You can follow Park Station on Twitter @SFPDPark.

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