While thousands of supporters have signed the petition calling for San Francisco to adopt the Bike Yield Law, confusion and misinformation are not uncommon among the proposal’s opponents.
Here are some popular questions about SF’s Bike Yield Law and the facts about how its adoption is intended to help eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries in our city.
Shouldn’t we offer people walking as much protection as possible?
Yes. The Bike Yield Law would be the first San Francisco law directing road-users to yield to people walking. That is why the Board of Supervisors-appointed Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee unanimously endorsed SF’s Bike Yield Law.
Under the Bike Yield Law, biking in a way that would make people walking feel unsafe could be grounds for a ticket for failing to yield. It is and always should be everyone’s responsibility to follow the rules and watch out for the most vulnerable road users.
Have similar laws been adopted anywhere else?
Yes. Versions of the Bike Yield Law have been the law in Belgium and the Netherlands for decades, Idaho since 1982 and parts of Colorado since 2011. After three years of pilot programs in other parts of France, Paris recently adopted a similar law as well. Legislation which includes the stop-as-yield concept is also under consideration in Washington, DC and Montreal right now.
Is there any data about how this might make streets safer?
Yes. In every situation in which a Bike Yield Law has been introduced, it is correlated with decreased collision rates for people biking. The most current study performed in the United States shows a 14.5 percent decrease in collision rates for people biking and no significant collision impact for people walking. Studies in France showed a decreased collision rate for people biking, as well.
None of this tells us exactly what the San Francisco Bike Yield law would look like in San Francisco, which is why Supervisor Avalos’ legislation calls for continued study by the Department of Public Health so that we can understand the safety impacts of the law in San Francisco and respond appropriately.
Will this confuse people driving?
No. If there is a car at a stop sign when someone biking arrives at the intersection, the person biking must yield the right of way. Similarly, if there is a pedestrian in the intersection or about to enter the intersection, the person biking must stop. Any person biking who does not come to a stop in these situations is breaking the law and should be ticketed.
Can a city change state law by itself?
No. The San Francisco Bike Yield law will not change state law. Instead, it provides the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) direction to prioritize the most dangerous traffic violations before ticketing people cautiously and slowly biking through stop signs with no one else around.
SF’s Bike Yield Law is similar in its approach to the city’s marijuana ordinance adopted in 2006, which does not change state or federal law, but provides the SFPD the direction they deserve on how best to deploy their limited resources for the safety of our communities.
Does the SFPD still ticket people biking?
Yes. Even after the operation against people biking the Wiggle this summer, SFPD officers are still spending time ticketing people cautiously rolling through stop signs with no one else at the intersection.
We know from the SFPD and the Department of Health that a majority of traffic deaths and severe injuries in San Francisco result from just five traffic violations: when people driving speed, run red lights, run stop signs, fail to yield to people walking and violate turn restrictions. The SFPD has pledged to dedicate at least half of traffic tickets to those most dangerous violations, and streets safety advocates want to help them achieve that goal.
The SFPD deserves that support and SF’s Bike Yield Law will free up SFPD resources to ticket traffic violations most likely to result in someone being hurt or killed.
What is next for SF’s Bike Yield Law?
The proposal is before the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee, which includes Supervisors Katy Tang (firstname.lastname@example.org), Malia Cohen (email@example.com) and John Avalos, who authored the bill. Supervisors Tang and Cohen have not announced their positions on the proposal.
Mayor Ed Lee has threatened to veto SF’s Bike Yield Law. Overcoming a mayoral veto requires the support of eight Supervisors. Six co-sponsored the proposal.
San Francisco can be a model for street safety, if we all pull together and make our voices heard. Help us make the Bike Yield Law a reality for San Francisco: Support common-sense legislation that helps keep our streets safe.