Mayoral veto slams brakes on rolling stops

Mayor Ed Lee followed through Tuesday on his pledge to veto an ordinance that would have allowed bicyclists to roll through stop signs when it was safe to do so.

The ordinance, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos in September, was approved by the Board of Supervisors 6-4 at last week’s meeting but failed to garner the eight votes it would need to override a veto.

Avalos argued the legislation would improve public safety by making bicycle stop sign violations a low enforcement priority and directing police to focus on the most dangerous vehicle violations, including speeding.

Bicyclists practicing unsafe behaviors could still have been ticketed.

Police Chief Greg Suhr and Lee came out strongly against the bill, however, with Lee vowing to veto it just a week after it was introduced.

In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Lee said the bill “does not promote balanced public safety for all the diverse users of our streets, rather, it trades safety for convenience.”

The ordinance was inspired by a police crackdown this summer on cyclists along the popular bicycle route known as “The Wiggle,” connecting Market Street to Golden Gate Park.

The enforcement effort targeting bike riders who rolled through stop signs triggered an outcry from bicyclists. It also inspired “wiggle stop-in” protests in July and August in which cyclists stopped at every stop sign on their route, significantly tying up traffic in the area.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition today said the veto was a “major step away” from a pledge made by Lee and police officials in 2014 to work toward Vision Zero, a goal to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

While police said they would focus on the top five most dangerous traffic violations, all of which involve vehicles, they continue to focus on ticketing bicyclists rolling safely through stop signs, the coalition said in a statement.

Avalos Wednesday said in a statement it was:

“… disappointing to hear the mayor confuse smart, targeted traffic enforcement with ‘convenience.’ … Judging how SFPD has focused traffic enforcement on places where bicycling is common instead of on high collision corridors, it is clear we have a ways to go with our Vision Zero efforts.”

Avalos and bicycle coalition officials Wedneday said they are now hoping to develop and gather support for a smaller pilot program to test the rolling stop legislation, although it is unclear at this point what form that will take.