Why We Support a Bike Yield Law for San Francisco

For the first time, today your San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offers its unfettered support for the proposed San Francisco Bike Yield Law.

The proposed law would require people biking to yield to people on foot and others with the right of way, but would otherwise permit people on bikes to cautiously roll through stop signs.

Please add your voice: Urge the Board of Supervisors to pass the SF Bike Yield Law.

Your SF Bicycle Coalition has faced increased questions about the issue from the media and its own membership recently, following support for the change from some members of the Board of Supervisors. Amid San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) operations specifically targeting people biking earlier this month, President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed told the SF Examiner, “A bicycle is not a car, and they should be handled differently.” Of cautious and respectful rolling stops, she said, “On my bicycle, that’s what I do.”

That operation recently ended amid public outcry that SFPD should be prioritizing enforcement against behaviors statistically most likely to result in people dying on our streets. Immediately following the SFPD’s operation targeting people biking being put “on hold,” in the words of SFPD Capt. John Sanford, Sup. John Avalos announced that he would introduce an ordinance directing the SFPD to treat safely rolling through stop signs on bike as the lowest-priority traffic violation. Rather than seeking a change to the California Vehicle Code by state lawmakers, Avalos’ measure follows the model employed in San Francisco to effectively decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Avalos has since announced that Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Supervisor Scott Wiener will co-sponsor the legislation, uniting Supervisors from across the city’s political spectrum. Introduction of the ordinance before the Board of Supervisors is expected on Tuesday, Sept. 8, after supervisors return from their August recess.

The Bike Yield Law clarifies that people biking absolutely have to yield to people walking, but no one should waste time cracking down on people biking safely. The SFPD deserves this clear direction on how best to keep our streets safe, and that is the goal of the Bike Yield Law, which we support. In the meantime, we will continue our safety and outreach efforts, and encourage everyone to follow the rules of the road.

With passage of the Bike Yield Law, San Francisco would become the first major metropolis in the U.S. to adopt such a law, following the state of Idaho. Idaho amended their law for people biking to roll cautiously through stop signs in 1982 to relieve the burden on traffic courts. Last month, Paris, France became the latest region to adopt a law similar to San Francisco’s proposed Bike Yield Law. The law in Paris goes one step further than the San Francisco proposal, permitting red lights to be treated as yield signs by people biking as well. The law in Idaho permits people biking to run red light safely and cautiously, but only after coming to a complete stop.

Update Aug. 26, 2015: See The Examiner’s coverage of our endorsement for the Bike Yield Law.

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