Cracker Morons Who Maim

Bicyclists vs. motorist cracker morons and their inbred Sacramento siblings

Of all the people who should know how stupid such a statement is, it should be a CHiPs motor mountie. No bicyclist, or motorcyclist, or motorist is equipped with sensory organs sufficient to safely examine every potential car-door opener, while at the same time paying proper attention to the rest of traffic. It's absurd to suggest otherwise.

Just the same, the committee prescribed three months of bureaucratic wheel-spinning for San Francisco officials.

"They told them to go back, study it, and present more information, and bring it to the next meeting," a CHP spokesman says.

So Tannen will go to the committee's next meeting in mid-July and continue to press his case: Where stencils aren't appropriate, they won't be used; the stencils won't force cyclists to ride in the traffic lane, they will just show a suggested path outside the reach of opening car doors; and cities and counties not wishing to pay for stencils shouldn't use them, Tannen wrote in response to the rejection of the proposed S.F. stenciling program. But Tannen doesn't expect much in the way of a speedy change in the state's position. The committee, which meets four times a year, has been known to stall decisions for years. There's no hurry, these crackers surely believe. After all, we're merely talking about some paint on the pavement.

But really we're talking about a simple bit of policy that would make it safer for bicyclists to use city streets, while potentially making transit easier for the rest of us, as well. As it stands, about 3 percent of S.F. commuters use bicycles; more than 50 percent, however, own bicycles. The most common rationale for the low use of bicycles as regular transport involves the belief that city streets here are just too dangerous for bicycle commuting.

That belief is bad news for all of us, because a mere doubling of the number of S.F. bicycle commuters would ease the city's transit burden by hundreds of thousands of rider trips, open up thousands of parking spaces, and make streets safer for pedestrians by a measure of thousands of moving cars.

The new bike lane on Valencia Street provides hard evidence for the notion that, when streets are safer, more cyclists use them. After the lanes were installed in March 1999, bicycle ridership on Valencia went up by 117 percent. The number of reported accidents per cyclist, meanwhile, was nearly cut in half. The number of pedestrian accidents likewise declined. One way to unobtrusively spread this kind of success would be to paint street stencils, reminding motorists that state law requires them to accommodate cyclists.

As the matter now stands, there's a deadly standoff on San Francisco city streets between a minority of motorists who erroneously believe bikes aren't allowed in the traffic lane, and cyclists, who seek to exercise their right to ride safely in traffic.

On the cyclists' side, there's the law.

In 1998, Police Chief Lau issued an official bulletin reminding motorists that cyclists may occupy an entire traffic lane to avoid car doors and other obstacles. Citing the California Vehicle Code, Lau wrote that when there isn't room for a bicyclist to maintain a three-foot cushion from parked cars on the right, and a three-foot cushion from passing cars on the left, the cyclist "owns the lane and a vehicle must change lanes in order to pass," the bulletin says.

In case motorists aren't familiar with the concept of changing lanes to avoid a slow-moving vehicle, Lau's memo even provides a two-step diagram showing motorists how to signal, cross the dotted line, then move back again after passing, to avoid a cyclist who has taken the entire lane.

Golden Gate Transit spells it out even more painstakingly in a December flier reprinting the Lau memo. "In other words," the flier says, "there are many reasons why a bicyclist may be found legally in the middle of the traffic lane. This is the interpretation used by law enforcement agencies throughout the State of California. Failure to yield to bicycles in these situations is a violation of the vehicle code and the cause of many serious bicycle accidents."

On the side of the cracker morons, there is ignorance, backed up by 2,500 pounds of motor-driven steel.

Do they really need the help of bureaucrats from Sacramento?

Matt Smith (Matt.Smith@sfweekly.com) can be reached atSF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, San Francisco, CA 94107.By Matt SmithMatt Smith

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