In consecutive community meetings, San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) leadership at Park Station detailed a coming crackdown against people biking. This crackdown is a significant departure from the SFPD’s Vision Zero Commitment and risks lives by diverting resources away from the deadliest traffic violations.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is shocked to see SFPD shifting resources away from enforcing against the deadliest traffic behaviors. SFPD has a long way to go towards fulfilling their own promises to make our roads safer for everyone who bikes, walks and drives. We’ve been excited to see SFPD make gains in their “Focus on the Five” goal over the last six months. This program at Park Station ignores the SFPD’s Vision Zero goal and their own data, however, which show that the behaviors most likely to result in someone being hit or killed in the Park Station area are failing to yield to pedestrians, speeding, and sudden left or right turns. Any shift of SFPD resources away from these deadliest traffic violations is dangerous and unacceptable.
After more than 100 SF Bicycle Coalition members demanded action at a Police Commission / Board of Supervisors’ committee hearing, the SFPD adopted Vision Zero last year. At that hearing, Chief Greg Suhr apologized for past missteps by SFPD in traffic enforcement and investigations, and called Vision Zero “a no-brainer.” The majority of SFPD’s command staff and station captains attended that meeting, and since that date Chief Suhr and Police Commission President Suzy Loftus have been staunch Vision Zero advocates.
As part of SFPD’s commitment to achieving Vision Zero, Chief Suhr announced “Focus on the Five” — a promise that 50 percent of all SFPD citations for traffic violations would be for the five most dangerous traffic behaviors. Looking at San Francisco as a whole, those deadliest traffic behaviors occur when people driving violate pedestrians’ right of way, speed, run red lights, run stop signs and violate turn restrictions.
At the time of Chief Suhr’s commitment to “Focus on the Five,” SFPD citations for those deadly behaviors accounted for only 22 percent of traffic tickets. In the second quarter of this year, that total improved from 25 to 32 percent of SFPD traffic citations. This increase is great, but with the total still far behind the department’s goal of 50 percent, SFPD leadership at Park Station is diverting resources away from enforcing laws most likely to protect people from losing life and limb on San Francisco’s streets.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is committed to all people following the rules of the road. This is something that prior Park Station Captain Raj Vaswani understood and appreciated. Rather than diverting resources away from enforcing the deadliest traffic behaviors, Captain Vaswani would respond to occasional neighbor complaints about traffic violations by people biking by reaching out to the SF Bicycle Coalition and requesting that we ramp up outreach and education efforts.
We happily collaborated with Captain Vaswani’s efforts, as safety education is central to our work. In 2014, we trained over 5,000 people who bike and drive how to do so safely through free classes for people of all ages and experience levels. (Check out our calendar of upcoming classes for a class near you!)
SFPD’s new leadership at Park Station is less interested in enforcing the deadliest traffic behaviors, or communicating with the SF Bicycle Coalition and our 11,000 members. We’ve reached out to Park Station Captain John Sanford about his station’s campaign to undermine data-driven enforcement — most recently around mid-day on Wednesday July 15. As of this statement being published, Captain Sanford has yet to reply to our concerns for the safety of people living and traveling around Park Station.
Please make your voice heard: Sign our petition to keep Park Station moving forward on data-driven enforcement, instead of diverting resources away from preventing further loss of life on our streets.