I'm lucky enough to live in downtown San Francisco by the Bay Bridge. I work in Oakland, and love walking along the Embarcadero to and from BART. But I do so at my own risk. And so do hundreds of other pedestrians every day. In a city that's working hard to accommodate the competing needs of cars, bikes and people, this is a real problem.
There are brightly marked street bike lanes in both directions, but the sidewalk along the Embarcadero has been hijacked by cyclists, racing along at speeds approaching 20 miles an hour. I know how fast they're going because I'm a cyclist, too. I understand the concern riding in streets where cars make a sport of taking aim at bikes, but riding on the sidewalk isn't a solution.
Cyclists speed along, weaving in between families, people walking their dogs, folks in wheelchairs. It's exceptionally dangerous: I've seen crashes happen where a cyclist literally plows into people.
Don't get me wrong. The cyclist in me thrills at finding a flat seven-mile stretch of uninterrupted pavement without a traffic light in sight, where I can fly along like a bat out of hell. But I like to think of myself as responsible, where sometimes it's necessary to subjugate the primal thrill of speed to my duty to others.
Instead, they're forced to deal with a couple of hundred pounds of man and machine hurtling silently at them at breakneck speeds, hoping that cyclists coming from behind are skillful enough to avoid crashing into them. I sound like an old crank, yelling at these guys to get off the sidewalk.
It's bad enough that pedestrians crossing at intersections have to worry about bikes — and cars — not obeying the rules of the road, but it's unconscionable that they aren't safe from potential carnage on the sidewalk.
The San Francisco Transportation Code says it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk if you're over the age of 13. I have never — never — seen the SFPD enforce this regulation on the Embarcadero or anywhere else for that matter. The city has tried to be accommodating, but cyclists need to be responsible too, before more people get injured, or worse.
Looking over my shoulder, this is Jeff Braff.
Jeff Braff is an infectious disease epidemiologist and a competitive racing cyclist.
Editor's Note: According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, it is not illegal to ride a bicycle on The Embarcadero sidewalk. The Promenade, as it is called, is designated a multiuse pathway. It is one of just a few sidewalks in the city not set aside for pedestrian use only. SFMTA is currently seeking public input on a protected bikeway to improve travel there. KQED regrets the error.