Monday, December 21, 2015

Howard Chabner, Supervisor Kim on the Idaho Stop

Jane Kim

From: Howard Chabner 
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 2015 5:05 PM 
To: 'Kim, Jane (BOS)' 
Subject: RE: Board of Supervisors Land and Transportation Committee - Monday December 7, 2015 - Do not deprioritize stop sign running by bicyclists - no "Idaho stop" law 

Hi Jane:

Thank you for your reply. I've already heard and considered the arguments in your email. Besides the arguments against this legislation that you have already heard, please consider the following:
· The genesis of this legislation was that the Police Captain of Park Station initiated a crackdown on bicyclists disobeying the law, the SF Bike Coalition got pissed off and not only (in large part via some Supervisors) caused the captain to back off, but got Supervisor Avalos and other Supervisors to sponsor this legislation. Had the police department not enforced the existing law that treats everyone equally by requiring everyone to stop at stop signs, this legislation never would have been introduced. Passing this legislation has sent a message to the police, and to elected officials and the general public, that you'd better not mess with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition or it will flex its political muscles. Do you really want to send that message?
· What evidence is there that giving bicyclists special privileges, as this legislation does, will encourage bicycling?
· Consider if the law prohibiting motorists from occupying the "bus only" traffic lanes were amended to permit motorists to use those lanes when no bus was present. There would, appropriately, be much opposition to such an amendment, even though in practice many motorists do use those lanes when there is no bus present. Although such an amendment could specify ostensibly objective parameters defining what constitutes no bus being present (for example, there being no bus within 200 feet of any car), in practice it would be impossible to prove these facts, making it a judgment call for the motorist, encouraging motorists to fudge, and making it difficult to enforce the law. Something that could be defined objectively in words would, in practice, end up being very subjective. Similarly, the Idaho Stop legislation (whether an actual change in the law or merely a policy de-prioritization) may appear objective if one looks only at the words, but in practice would be subjective, difficult to enforce and would further enable, if not encourage, dangerous behavior by that subset of cyclists who already cycle recklessly with impunity.

The statement toward the end of your email about encouraging people to get off the Muni buses and onto bikes is quite far afield from the issues involved in this legislation. But regarding Muni buses, I believe it's much more important to improve Muni than to encourage anyone not to take the bus.

Consider also the professional opinion of Police Chief Suhr and the attached letter from the Mayor's Disability Council. If the Board of Supervisors reconsiders this legislation after Mayor Lee vetoes it, please rethink your vote, and vote not to override the veto. 

On a lighter note, by a separate email I will send you something about the difference between stopping and slowing down.


From: Kim, Jane (BOS) [] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 12:12 PM
Subject: RE: Board of Supervisors Land and Transportation Committee - Monday December 7, 2015 - Do not deprioritize stop sign running by bicyclists - no "Idaho stop" law 

Hi Howard,

Thank you for reaching out to our office about the bike yield legislation. This legislation clarifies that bicyclists must yield to pedestrians and motor vehicles at intersections, and everyone must yield to emergency vehicles. Bicyclists must slow down to no more than 6 mph when yielding and must provide a 6-foot buffer between themselves and pedestrians. This legislation also instructs SFPD to deprioritize ticketing bicyclists who roll cautiously through a stop sign when there are no pedestrians or motor vehicles present. However, it does not stop SFPD from citing a bicyclist for failing to yield at a stop sign if the bicyclist fails to slow to 6 mph, fails to yield the right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrian, or otherwise endangers the safety of another vehicle or pedestrian. And SFMTA is encouraged to develop a program to educate the public about the Bicycle Yield Enforcement Policy, and the program shall prioritize promoting pedestrian safety and educating bicyclists about their responsibility to safely yield to others at intersections

The easier we can make it for people to get out of our crowded MUNI buses and off our congested streets and onto bikes, the better our transportation system is for EVERYONE, including motorists. This is safe practice that prioritizes pedestrians and safety for everyone and has been proven to work in Idaho. We don't tolerate any bad or unsafe behavior by anyone on our streets, including bicyclists — however we need to make it easier for individuals to get out of their cars and onto bikes. This benefits everyone.

This legislation was passed at the Board of Supervisors meeting today. 6 Ayes 5 Noes

I appreciate hearing from you.


Sent: Monday, December 07, 2015 11:03 AM 
Subject: Board of Supervisors Land and Transportation Committee - Monday December 7, 2015 - Do not deprioritize stop sign running by bicyclists - no "Idaho stop" law 

Dear President Breed and Supervisors:

Please do not adopt the proposed ordinance to make citations for bicyclists who don't stop at stop signs the lowest law enforcement priority and to permit bicyclists not to stop at stop signs if the intersection is empty. Consider the following:

· The analysis, studies and factors from experienced pedestrian safety advocate and expert Bob Planthold, in his communications with you, are compelling reasons not to adopt this ordinance.

· Two things are proposed: 1- enforcement would be de-prioritized; and 2- the "San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy" would permit bicyclists to "slowly proceed without fully stopping at stop signs if the intersection is empty." With regard to #2, it has long been California law that bicyclists are subject to traffic laws applicable to other vehicles, including the requirement to stop at stop signs. Changing this should not be done through the back door of a local policy ordinance. If you believe that the law should be changed, find a sponsor in the state legislature and engage in a full, statewide debate about such a major change. Moreover, purporting to exempt San Francisco from state law by means of a "policy" ordinance may well be illegal.

· The proposed ordinance would deprioritize failure to stop by cyclists who, in the words of Supervisor Avalos’s press release, "safely yield at stop signs." Whether or not a cyclist’s failure to stop constitutes safe yielding is extremely subjective. Also subjective is whether the intersection is empty. For example, if a pedestrian is at the curb just getting ready to lift their leg onto the street, is the intersection empty? (This gets to Bob Planthold's points about poor visibility, fast-moving bicyclists, etc.) In practice these subjective rules would mean that the police department would err on the side of non-enforcement even if the failure to stop was not safe or the intersection was not completely empty, for fear of being criticized by the Board of Supervisors and the powerful SF bike lobby. This in turn would encourage unsafe behavior by cyclists.

· People with mobility disabilities, blind people, seniors, and people with baby strollers would feel less safe. This is difficult to quantify, but it is real. I've used a wheelchair since 1990, and before that I walked for many years with increasing difficulty, and decreasing speed and confidence. Falling became an increasing problem, as it is for many people who walk with difficulty. In recent years I've had several near misses from bicyclists who have run red lights, run stop signs and ridden on the sidewalk. From time to time when I am crossing at a crosswalk where there is a stop sign and a motor vehicle is stopped, a cyclist has blown past the stop sign. I wasn't able to see the cyclist until I've been past the motor vehicle. This is stressful and unsafe. Knowing that cyclists wouldn't be required to stop at stop signs, and that the police would be under great pressure not to issue citations, would make this even worse. My feeling of safety as a pedestrian would significantly decline. In my experience (among other things, for five years I was Chair of the Physical Access Committee of the Mayor's Disability Council), many others feel the same way.

· Many times cyclists going fast have come close to me and other pedestrians. The cyclist may sincerely believe they are far enough to be safe, and they may avoid hitting the pedestrian by turning or swerving at the last moment. While I might not classify these situations as full near misses, still, as a pedestrian, this is unnerving. To add subjectivity to the law would increase these situations.

· Supervisor Avalos claims that strict enforcement is counterproductive because it discourages people from bicycling. First, no evidence is cited for this proposition. Second, if it is true, what it means is that some people don't want to bicycle unless they are exempt from stopping at stop signs. In other words, they want special treatment.

· Supervisor Avalos also claims that strict enforcement is "counterintuitive to the way most bicyclists and drivers currently navigate intersections." As above, no evidence whatsoever is cited for this proposition. But to the extent that it accurately describes the way drivers currently navigate intersections, it is most likely not because San Francisco drivers believe that cyclists should be exempt from stopping at stop signs, but because San Francisco drivers have become so used to dangerous, illegal, unpredictable, aggressive and unpunished behavior by cyclists that they are always on the lookout for cyclists coming from any direction, fast, weaving in and out, and violating traffic laws generally.

· Drivers who aren't from San Francisco would not expect that bicyclists are permitted not to stop at the stop sign. This is another reason why the law should be uniform and consistent throughout California.

· Idaho adopted the "Idaho stop" law in 1982. There is a good reason why none of the other 49 states have adopted this law in the subsequent 33 years. It's also important to consider that Boise is much less dense than San Francisco and is not comparable in other ways.

Please oppose this ordinance that would diminish pedestrian safety and give cyclists special treatment. Thank you for considering this email.


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