Bicyclists’ portraits of survival

Bounding with energy and enthusiasm, 28-year-old Lauren Sailor shakes out her short brown hair before climbing onto her bicycle and donning her helmet for another ride across town.


Storymap of bicyclists’ survival


Photos by Gabriella Gamboa/SFBay

Preparing to ride down Polk near Sacramento, Sailor pulls on her yellow reflective gloves despite the brightness of the afternoon sunshine.

The safety measures Sailor takes on her daily rides are driven by her experiences, including near misses and a few collisions with cars that outweigh her by thousands of pounds.

Earlier this year, Sailor was involved in a collision near here. A car did a “right hook” directly in front of her without signaling and Sailor crashed into it.

A male passenger turned and saw Sailor, but the driver sped off, forcing her riding companion to chase down the car and convince the driver to return to the scene of the accident to exchange information.

When the police finally arrived, they faulted Sailor for rear ending the car and following too closely, which, she said, upset her because the officer didn’t acknowledge the traumatic incident.

Sailor told SFBay she didn’t blame the driver:

 “Don’t blame the victim either. These streets aren’t designed to safely accommodate two-ton vehicles who aren’t paying attention and cyclists in the same space.”

Sailor still prefers to ride everywhere instead of taking public transit because she said it makes her more independent.

The 2013 Bicycle Count Report showed a 96 percent increase in ridership since 2006 and a 14 percent increase since 2011. San Franciscans regularly complete 3,000 bike trips to the downtown area during weekdays, while the bike share program has generated 900 daily rides.

Sailor is evangelical about safety and preaches that cyclists need to obey the rules of the road and take responsibility for their own safety.

Meanwhile, The City is trying to do its part and since 2006 has conducted bicycle counts at key intersections and corridors with the goal of reducing automobile traffic by 50 percent.

Sailor told SFBay drivers need to be more aware of cyclists who they share the road with:

“They shouldn’t pass within inches of a person’s life. I wish people in the deadly vehicles would pay attention, but they don’t so I have to.”

Sailor added that drivers in The City are some of the most courteous and aware she’s encountered, but they still need to work on obeying the three-foot rule.

The three-foot rule signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 mandates a distance of 36 inches when motorists overtake a cyclist. It’s one of the many ways San Francisco streets are slowly getting safer for cyclists like Sailor.