In San Francisco, the second most densely populated city in the U.S., a proposed ordinance that would allow bike riders to treat stop signs as yield signs comes to a vote in December. The mayor promises a veto if it passes. But the city supervisors could override the veto, possibly paving the way for more cities and states to consider this popular-with-cyclists but politically sensitive move.
According to an article in the New York Times, the ordinance is supported by a majority on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. It was introduced by a member of the board of supervisors, John Avalos, who is a bike commuter. Avalos said the ordinance would not promote or condone reckless behavior by cyclists but would instead allow police to focus on what most would consider more serious issues.
San Francisco police have recently been cracking down on cyclists for “rolling stops.” Cyclists in the city, in turn, have organized protest rides on which they roll through stop signs en masse. Many have been ticketed on those rides, as well.
Avalos referenced a friend of his who was recently ticketed after 11 p.m. for rolling through a stop sign at an empty corner as an example of misplaced policing.
“Two blocks away, people are getting drunk in bars and falling into the street,” Avalos said. “That is where we should be spending our resources.”
The mayor, Edwin M. Lee, has promised to veto the measure, if passed, telling The San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m not willing to trade away safety for convenience.”
No Rise in Injuries in Other Locales With the Law
If the ordinance is enacted in the city, San Francisco would become the largest U.S. city with a stop-as-yield law, by far. The state of Idaho and a handful of Colorado counties permit stop signs to be treated as yield signs by cyclists, but the issue (and related measures) is so wrought with political divisiveness that most governing bodies won’t even take it up for consideration.
And when they are considered, they typically fail to gain traction or are vetoed if passed.
Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Oregon, noted that in 2009, Oregon’s Legislature debated such a bill, but it did not pass. “It became, ‘I don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,’” Sadowsky said.
Georgia’s state legislature passed a similar, so-called “dead red” measure in the 2015 legislative session, which would have allowed motorcyclists and bicyclists to, in effect, roll though stop lights after yielding. However, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the measure, citing what he claimed would have been confusion on the part of motorists.
An interesting postscript to this issue is that in Idaho, where stop-as-yield has been the law since 1982, injuries have not increased since the law passed, according to Stephen Clark, a program specialist at the League of American Bicyclists.
And this summer, Paris passed a similar law.
Georgia Driver Gets 15 Years for Running Down Cyclist
In June 2014, Atlanta cyclist Gregory Germani, on his way home from work on his daily commute (which he had done for 20 years), got into an argument with a driver at an intersection in an intown neighborhood.
Apparently fearing for his safety, Germani was captured on the security video of a house on that street racing away from the motorist, who turned his vehicle around – and ran Germani down from behind, dragging him some 50 feet, according to prosecutors. Joseph Alan Lewis, 19 at the time, fled the scene and the state, ending up in Nevada.
Germani was comatose for an extended period and suffers from serious neck and torso injuries, in additon to a traumatic brain injury. According to his brother and fiancee, he requires 24-hour care.
The incident shook the Atlanta cycling community, which is (sadly) somewhat innured to hearing about cyclists being hit by motorists – but not purposely run down and left for dead.
While there really can be no “justice” is a case like this one, it was welcome news to hear that Lewis had turned himself in and has now pleaded guilty to a laundry list of charges. Germani and his family may take some sort of satisfaction from that, but I wonder how much they got from Lewis’s apology in court, as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Honestly and truthfully, from the bottom of my heart, this honestly was an accident. But at the same time I…accept the fact that I did leave the scene of the accident and I took careless acts.”