SF Cop Known For “Bike Crackdown” Rolls Through Stop Sign

Much outrage of late has been aimed at San Francisco's darn scofflaw cyclists, as angry drivers and pedestrians call bicycle users who roll through stop signs without halting completely.

San Francisco police Capt. John Sanford, who oversees Park Station, even called for a “crackdown” on such bad bike behavior earlier this summer. 

In a twist, a video has surfaced that shows Sanford, who later called off the crackdown after community pressure, rolling through a stop sign. 

What cycles around, cycles around, it seems. 

[jump] The video was posted to Facebook earlier today by Morgan Fitzgibbons, founder of The Wigg Party, a cyclist advocacy group named after the popular bike commuter route “The Wiggle.”

He told SF Weekly the video was recorded during Sanford's community bike ride, which is the same bike ride he proposed in order to break bread with cyclists after he backed away from the proposed crackdown. 

In the video, Sanford appears to roll through a stop sign on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park near the Conservatory of Flowers. 

Not the worst offense, but the timing is poor for the police. The video was posted just after Sanford's boss, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, came out against Supervisor John Avalos' new bike yield law proposal.

That law would task the SFPD with de-prioritizing enforcement of cyclists who roll through stop signs — and would effectively legalize conduct like Sanford's. 

Avalos, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and The Wigg Party all argue that its safer for cyclists to roll and slow down at a stop sign, and to proceed through if no pedestrians or cars or present. If pedestrians are present, they must legally yield. 

In a recent KTVU news segment, Sanford said the law would be unsafe. Suhr recently was quoted in KQED criticizing Avalos' bike yield law.

“Stop signs are pretty simple. They say ‘stop,'” Suhr said. “They don’t say ‘yield,’ they don’t say ‘slow down.'”

Sanford isn't the only badge-wielding cyclist to roll through stop signs. 

Here's a video from 2012 showing officers rolling through a stop sign on Haight Street:

Fitzgibbons told SF Weekly that cyclists naturally roll through stop signs, and that's okay. The data backs him up. As this Streetsblog post points out, autos kill far more pedestrians in San Francisco than bikes, annually. 

“I just wanted to show this was normal behavior, that even the poster child for the bike crackdown shows on a bicycle,” Fitzgibbons said. “That's why Chief Suhr's comments and the comments Sanford made to KTVU are just so silly.”

Importantly, he said, “It wasn't even the worst example of this on the ride, it's just when I realized I should video tape them.”

Fitzgibbons highlighted the contrast between the SFPD's actions and words a bit more scathingly on Facebook:

Here's video evidence that even Captain Sanford treats stop signs as yield signs while on a bicycle.
We weren't going to put this out because we didn't want to embarrass the Captain, but after thinking about it we realized he has nothing to be embarrassed about – treating a stop sign as a yield sign is a perfectly normal, safe, reasonable thing to do. If he wants to be embarrassed by his own hypocrisy, that's his problem.

We called Sanford for a response, and we'll update this post if we hear back from him. 

Update 1:19 p.m.: Albie Esparza, an SFPD spokesman, called SF Weekly and told us Sanford's conduct appears to be A-OK.  

“It appears he slowed down,” he told us, adding “nothing says you have to put your foot down” in California vehicle code. “In the video it’s kind of hard to see if he completely rolled through it or slowed down enough,” but, Esparza added, “It showed he slowed down enough to stop, almost.” 

“Cars do that all the time too, they don’t stop and count to five before proceeding,” Esparza said. “You stop, you look, you go.”

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