A lot of Bay Area residents like to do some of their commuting by bicycle, especially now that spring is upon us. However, many – especially those relatively new to biking – might not realize that they are supposed to follow the same traffic laws that apply to drivers.
California law requires bikers to obey all traffic laws, including signaling turns and stopping at lights and stop signs. Those that don’t can be “pulled over” by police and given a ticket.
Just like traffic citations, the tickets carry hefty fines and can put points on a person’s driving record.
In San Francisco, police will sometimes give drivers a warning – called an “admonishment” – instead of an official citation. Law enforcement says the interaction provides an opportunity for education, allowing police to discuss bicycle accident dangers with the city’s cyclists.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is also considering giving ticketed bicyclists the opportunity to attend safety classes in lieu of paying the fine.
City officials say that enforcement is necessary given the risks that San Francisco bikers face on a daily basis. After all, without the protective cocoon that a car offers, even a low-speed collision can cause serious injuries.
Bikers groups, though, say that strict enforcement is impractical. They say that it is inconvenient and physically difficult for bikers to come to a complete stop at every stop sign. They argue that slowing down and checking traffic could be just as safe.
Further, these groups worry that ticketing bikers could cause some people to be reluctant to take up the activity. They think the city should focus on encouraging biking while educating both bikers and drivers on how to share the road.
At the end of the day, we all need to do our part to make sure San Francisco’s streets are safe for bikers, drivers and pedestrians alike.
Santa Monica Daily Press, “Police, Bicyclists Balance Road Safety With Education,” Ashley Archibald, April 2, 2012.