Calling for Fair and Equal Treatment by the Police

Over the years, we have heard from many of our members and others who bike in the city that they have had unfortunate, unjust and even dangerous interactions with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) when it comes to bicycle-related issues.

City leaders are now looking into the SFPD’s response to bike-related cases, and a Board of Supervisors hearing into this topic is scheduled for Thursday, October 3 (10:00AM, City Hall, Room 250). Your SF Bicycle Coalition will be speaking up at this important hearing, and we invite you to join us. Please email leah@sfbike.org if you can attend.

Sergeant Ernst blocking bike lane at SFBC safety outreach station and memorial

Sergeant Ernst blocking bike lane at SF Bicycle Coalition outreach station and memorial

Over the last month, we’ve invited people to share their stories about unfortunate or inadequate treatment by the police regarding a bike issue. We’ve received more than 100 stories — ranging from police refusing to or not fully taking a report, to police officers not knowing the rules of the road for bike riders, to instances of the police placing blame on the victims of serious collisions.

While we have been hearing stories of police bias against people on bikes for years, it was the August 14th fatality of Amelie Le Moullac on Folsom Street that put a spotlight on the SFPD’s mishandling of bike-related cases. At an outreach/memorial for Le Moullac, an SFPD Sergeant deliberately blocked the bike lane, publicly blamed the victims in fatal bike crashes and the investigating officers failed to fully investigate the crash.

These troubling incidents bring to light a more systemic problem among some SFPD officers of bias against people who bicycle and walk. This not only deprives people of fair treatment under the law, but can create unsafe conditions on our streets. We know that many police officers handle bike-related cases fully and fairly and we thank those officers, but there is an alarming number of reports of unfair treatment against people on bikes.

In an effort to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all road users, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is recommending that the SFPD:

1. Increase and improve regular training of officers’ awareness of bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ rights and responsibilities:
We ask that this not be a one-time effort in response to this attention but rather an ongoing commitment to increase and improve training. Specific suggestions include:

  • More robust in-person and video trainings for all new recruits and current officers re: bicycle and pedestrian rights;
  • Issuing regular, official SFPD Bulletins reminding officers of responsibilities that particularly affect people who are involved in a collision while biking or walking, such as their right to file a complete and fair incident report even if injuries are not severe.

2. Use a data-driven approach to traffic enforcement:
The SFPD’s traffic enforcement resources are limited and they should focus these resources on the known dangerous behaviors at the known dangerous locations. This means using a data-driven approach about where the real problems are, rather than simply focusing on the easiest targets.

3. Prioritize transparency in traffic enforcement priorities:
The public deserves to see how the SFPD is prioritizing its limited traffic enforcement resources. These should be shared at least quarterly with the public and decision-makers to help hold the police accountable for their actions protecting the people’s safety.

If you have had a questionable incident with the SFPD while biking please share it at sfbike.org/enforcement and please join us at the hearing on October 3 to speak up at public comment. If you can join, email leah@sfbike.org.

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