Cyclists on city sidewalks
Seniors demand cyclists be kept off sidewalks
Rachel Gordon, SF Chronicle
Jeanne Lynch didn't see or hear the two bicyclists before they rammed into her, leaving her bruised, cut and needing braces on her neck and left arm. Luckily the 77-year-old senior activist didn't become part of the grim statistic of pedestrians killed by bicyclists in San Francisco. "They just plowed into me from behind and knocked me down,'' she said of the crash that happened a couple of years ago on the sidewalk outside her Richmond District home. "They didn't even stop. They just kept going.''
On Thursday, Lynch joined other activists at a South of Market intersection to demand that bicyclists stay off the sidewalk. "For too long the city has allowed illegal and improper use of its sidewalks,'' said David Grant, executive director of Senior Action Network, which organized the event. "For years, pedestrians have been squeezed, shoved, intimidated and injured by bicyclists and motorists. The sidewalk is a designated walkway, not a parking lot for cars or a bike lane for cyclists.''
Authorities responded with a promise to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits people from riding bikes on the sidewalk. The violation, an infraction, comes with a $138 fine.
"It's a serious problem, especially for seniors,'' said San Francisco police Sgt. Bob Guinan, who heads a traffic squad. He said his officers will start citing people who violate the law, and initially will concentrate their efforts on the Market Street corridor, which is well-traveled by cyclists.
An exception to the no-bike rule is made for children 12 and younger who can ride their two-wheelers on the sidewalk. And cyclists of all ages are allowed on the sidewalk along the Embarcadero closest to the bay.
Since 2000, three pedestrians have been killed by bicycles and more than 20 others have sustained injuries requiring hospitalizations, according to Michael Radetsky, injury-prevention coordinator for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
"We believe there have been many more incidents that haven't been reported,'' Radetsky said. Ruth Lawner, 74, uses a wheelchair and has been hit twice by bicycles -- once in December and again in January, she said. Both times, she said, she was on the sidewalk and the culprits sped away without checking to see if she was all right.
Lawner was not seriously hurt, but on one occasion the cyclist rammed into her motorized wheelchair and knocked out the power, making it difficult to get home. "They are putting people in danger. They menace people in wheelchairs and who use canes and walkers,'' she said.
Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, showed up at Thursday's event to support a crackdown on law-breaking cyclists -- and to push city officials for more bike lanes. "There's a perception that riding on the sidewalk is safer than riding on the street, but for the most part riding on the sidewalks is more dangerous for everyone,'' Thornley said. The bike coalition will work with city officials on a new public awareness campaign called "Sidewalks Are for Pedestrians.''
Bike messenger Paul Nolan rode a half-block down a Market Street sidewalk near Sixth Street Thursday afternoon before parking his cycle to make a delivery. He pedaled down the short stretch of sidewalk to avoid a double-parked truck, he said. "It was that or weave into traffic,'' he said. "And I made sure I was careful.''