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Grand jury seeks clampdown on scofflaw bikers

The key to safer streets for bicyclists in San Francisco is more education and stiffer enforcement of bicycle traffic laws, according to a civil grand jury report released Monday.

The grand jury’s recommendation that city leaders endorse a goal of zero bicycle fatalities comes amid a pair of recent bicycle-related incidents.

On Sunday, a 50-year-old pedestrian was struck and seriously injured by a bicyclist on Market near Stockton.

And last month, 21-year-old bicyclist Dylan Mitchell was killed when a garbage truck reportedly made a right turn in front of him at 16th and South Van Ness.

With more bicyclists taking to city streets, collisions have risen right alongside. 630 bicycle accidents were reported in 2011, an 18 percent bump since 2009.

Of the 630 incidents in 2011, the bicycle rider was found to be at fault in 325, a sliver more than half.

While calling for additional education for law enforcement and non-cyclists, the report also urges city leaders to publicly support SFPD enforcement efforts to reduce bicycle collisions and deaths.

The report quotes unidentified San Francisco police officers as saying citing bicyclists is currently “not a priority,” and that officers “prefer to admonish” bicyclists rather than issuing tickets.

By the numbers, enforcement is already up. 1,959 citations were issued to bicyclists in 2012, a 25 percent increase from 2011. 13 of every 1,000 traffic citations written in San Francisco during 2012 were to bicyclists.

A comprehensive bicycle safety enforcement training program is needed to bring police recruits and existing officers up to speed, the report said. Chicago’s officer education program — and a 14-minute training video — were held up as examples.

Grand jury committee Chairwoman Maria Martinez told the Ex:

“SFPD needs to enforce these laws for everybody and really stand behind it.”

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