Updated to include Tuesday’s comments by San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr (12:55 p.m., 9/22/15)

At least six of the 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors back a proposed ordinance that would, in effect, allow bicyclists in the city to roll through stop signs as long as they take care to “safely yield” to pedestrians and other traffic.

Supervisors John Avalos, Eric Mar and Jane Kim are co-sponsoring the proposed ordinance, which would make strict enforcement of stop signs for cyclists the Police Department’s lowest priority. Avalos is expected to introduce the legislation at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“It shouldn’t be the police’s top priority to enforce the law for cyclists who actually yield to pedestrians but don’t come to a complete stop at intersections,” Avalos said in an interview.

“There are other places to put their resources that will have a much greater impact on protecting pedestrians,” he added, stressing the Police Department should focus more on citing drivers who endanger pedestrians by cruising through stop signs and running stoplights.

The legislation was prompted in part by a planned police crackdown on bicyclists rolling through stop signs along The Wiggle and other popular cycling routes. The new proposal embraces the “Idaho stop,” which allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

But not everyone’s on board with the plan to relax stop sign enforcement in the city.

“Stop signs are pretty simple. They say stop,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said during a visit to the University of San Francisco. “They don’t say yield, they don’t say slow down.”

Speaking of cyclists who roll through stop signs, Suhr said “if they are in violation, they will be cited.”

But he noted that only about 1 percent of the department’s traffic citations are handed out to cyclists.

Supervisor Norman Yee said he’ll vote against the proposal. He argues that it’s not clear enough and that everyone who uses the roads should follow the rules.

“We do have laws that govern traffic,” Yee said. “I prefer that out there in the traffic, everybody follows the same rules. People who share the streets should follow our laws. What I worry about is the safety of all people, and that comes first before any one lobbyist group.”

The city’s leading lobbying group for cyclists, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, has endorsed the idea. In a press release Monday, the coalition called the proposed “a groundbreaking streets safety measure.”

Mayor Ed Lee has not said whether he’d support an Idaho stop ordinance — though he sounded cool to the idea when cyclists staged a July protest against the Police Department’s plan for stricter stop sign enforcement.

“I’m not going to be bending to interests that simply want to disregard public safety,” Lee said. “That’s not what our city should be doing.”

The board’s stop sign proposal needs nine votes to override a mayoral veto. Avalos said he’s confident the ordinance can win that supermajority support. But at least three members of the Board of Supervisors have said they’re undecided on the proposal.

Supervisor Mark Farrell wants to see the proposed language of the ordinance before backing it. But he is likely leaning toward supporting it, aide Jess Montejano said in an email.

Supervisor Malia Cohen has not yet taken a position on the issue, said aide Yoyo Chan. “We are still continuing to hear from all perspectives,” Chan said in an email.

Supervisor Julie Christensen has also not taken a position. Aide Gary McCoy said the supervisor and her office are still discussing the legislation with other advocates and residents in her district.

Aides to Supervisor Katy Tang did not reply to a request for comment.

Alex Helmick and Tara Siler contributed to this post.

Majority of S.F. Supervisors Back ‘Idaho Stop’ Proposal for Cyclists 22 September,2015Ted Goldberg

  • DrG

    I am totally against this adjustment to established law. The Bicycle Coalition is putting political pressure on these Supervisors and they are caving. Bicyclists CONSTANTLY run red lights and never stop now. How will this change do anything to keep pedestrians safe. Absolutely nothing. Ask anybody who’s been hit or nearly hit by a bicyclist. Besides that, it’s going to create an opposing traffic nightmare.

    • I heard the hospitals are teeming with bicycle “near misses”. If only they could stop at every stop sign like the majority of patient, safety conscious, law abiding, motorists.

      • Nahn Faerns

        Lol you can’t possibly take at least 50% of what you say seriously right. I know I sure don’t. Keep up the mediocre work.

        • You can’t up vote your own comment! That’s against the rules or something.

  • Factkneader

    What percentage of automobiles come to a complete halt at stop signs– 2%?

    • SF Guest

      Whether you’re referring exclusively to SF or the entire USA without a doubt it’s substantially much higher than 2%.

      • Guy Ross

        POSSIBLY higher than 2% but no way is it 5%.

        • Trevor

          And those drivers should be ticketed.

  • sfparkripoff

    To Mayor Lee, President Breed and Supervisors:

    Please do not adopt the ordinance proposed by Supervisor Avalos 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.

    If this legislation becomes law bicyclists may go through intersections without stopping when they determine that there is no ‘immediate hazard. This proposed legislation may lead to increased crashes because many bicyclists, especially our young riders, will misunderstand the law and blast through stop signs with tragic results.

    The extent that stopping is a burden to cyclists is up to the individual. As a longtime cyclist I’ve never considered stopping to be a
    problem. Cyclists who are not fit enough to start and stop multiple times when riding, perhaps shouldn’t be on a pedal-bike?

    Here’s a scenario to consider: a cyclist approaches a red light. She stops, looks both ways, and decides to cross or turn left on the red
    light. Unbeknownst to her, motor traffic on her left or across the intersection has just gotten a green left turn arrow. Conflict (or worse) occurs. She wasn’t aware of that because many such signals are not visible to the cross traffic because there’s no reason for them to be when all traffic is supposed to obey them according to the same blackand white rules. I suppose you could argue that a prudent cyclist would not cross on the red light under the circumstance where there wascross traffic waiting to turn left across her path. But how many of us would make that determination under those circumstances?

    My observation of the “judgment” used by many cyclists when choosing to ignore stop signs or red lights is that they often make very poor and
    dangerous decisions. Making such behavior “legal” won’t reduce the danger to them or others.

    Is it REALLY all that onerous to stop at stop signs and red lights?The “Idaho Stop” runs counter to the principles of vehicular
    cycling and also violates one of the primary elements of traffic safety which is predictability.

    Please take a moment to view this video and oppose this ordinance that would diminish pedestrian safety and give cyclists special treatment.

    • Guy Ross

      Thanks for providing the example. It illustrates that you are not totally understanding the issue: Nothing is being proposed about a change in right of way but rather whether cyclist must come to a complete stop. Cyclist would still need to yield just as before. In your video, the cyclist did not have right of way and would not have had legal protection in the case of a collision.

  • SEL Pilot

    If you don’t have the bike handling skills to stop without putting your foot down, then just put your foot down! The safest traffic situation is one where everybody follows the rules and everybody acts predictably. That being said, there are places in the world that don’t have stop signs — everyone is expected to navigate themselves. Of course, that requires paying attention. Ah, there’s the rub!

  • Eight votes, not nine, are needed for override of veto. from Rules of Order, Board of Sups, pg. 13/64 [PDF]:
    2.14.3. Disapprove and veto the legislation, in which case the Board may override the veto and approve the legislation within 30 days by an affirmative vote of not less than two-thirds of the full Board, eight votes in accordance with Board Rule 2.16 relating to the effective date of the legislation.

  • Trevor

    This is a terrible idea, what intelligent person would thiink otherwise?

    • Guy Ross

      Me. And not only am I intelligent, I ride and drive! Can you say the same?


Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city’s fire department and the Bay Area’s refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

You can follow him at @TedrickG and reach him on email at tgoldberg@kqed.org

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