Many cities across the country are trying to go green: instituting recycling programs, promoting public transportation, and encouraging cycling to work. However, some cities, including San Francisco, are finding that promoting bike use has its share of downfalls.
San Francisco’s bicycle ridership has increased 53 percent since 2006, and the city has recently lifted a four-year ban on developing bicycle lanes and safety areas for cyclists. The San Francisco Bike Plan would develop 79 miles of bike lanes throughout the city. But are San Francisco drivers ready to share the city’s already narrow roads? Will these new plans lead to even more bicycle accidents?
A recent incident shows that the city still has a long way to go with the relationship between cyclists and motorists. David Mark Clark, an SUV driver, ran over four cyclists last August. Fortunately, all survived, but not before undergoing intense treatment. Rolando Casajeros was one of the four cyclists Clark ran over. Casajeros endured 19 hours of surgery, 12 facial fractures, missing front teeth, and bleeding of the brain. Clark is currently in the psych ward of San Francisco County Jail.
Although the motive behind Clark’s actions is unclear, many other cyclists are injured each year due to road rage and animosity between cyclists and motorists. Motorists have been known to throw items at cyclists and open doors as cyclists pass, intentionally or unintentionally hurting them. Cyclists sometimes ignore important traffic laws, like stop signs and traffic lights, and ride in the middle of the street, which can back up traffic.
Another obstacle to harmony between motorists and cyclists is law enforcement’s reluctance to cite cyclists who violate the law. For every 100 citations issued to cyclists, 20 to 30 result in complaints to police, compared to 1 every 100 issued to motorists. An alternative to citations would be to set up a bicycle court that would hear cases on bicycle-related incidents.
As cyclists become more prevalent on city streets, it becomes increasingly important to reconcile the differences between cyclists and motorists. Only then will accidents decrease.