Supervisors examine anti-cyclist bias at SFPD

Pub date October 8, 2013

The Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee held a high-profile and well-attended hearing Oct. 3 to examine how the San Francisco Police Department investigates motorist versus bicyclist collisions. Sup. Jane Kim called the hearing following revelations about shoddy police work and anti-cyclist bias in the Aug. 14 death of cyclist Amelie Le Moullac.

Dozens of cyclists told horror stories of being hit by cars and then treated badly by police, which routinely absolves motorists of responsibility even in cases where they are clearly at fault.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Biel admitted some shortcomings in their investigations and promised to do better, and he apologized for the absence of Police Chief Greg Suhr and Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at an Aug. 21 memorial event for Le Moullac to make inaccurate and insensitive comments criticizing cyclists. Kim had requested testimony from both men. Sup. David Campos pledged to hold another hearing on the issue, this time at a rare joint hearing of the Board of Supervisors and Police Commission.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum urged the SFPD to, “Focus limited traffic enforcement resources on known dangerous intersections and known dangerous behaviors.” (Read Shahum’s op-ed on the hearing.)

Concerns about selective enforcement and anti-cyclist bias by the SFPD were heightened in the week before the hearing when officers started enforcement stings focused on stop sign-running cyclists riding the Wiggle, one of the city’s most popular and heavily traveled bike routes.

Among those stopped and given a written warning — one of 534 written warnings and 16 citations the SFPD reported giving out to cyclists in September — was Guardian Editor Steven T. Jones, whose Oct. 1 blog post on whether SFPD should strictly enforce laws requiring cyclist to completely stop at stop signs was the most commented post of the last week.

Shahum told us that the Bike Coalition has done education campaigns urging cyclists to yield to pedestrians on the Wiggle, but that none of the seven intersections on the Wiggle meet the SFPD’s own stated goals of focusing enforcement on the five most dangerous intersections in each police district. “When you look at the data on the Wiggle,” Shahum said, “it’s not a high collision area.”