Capdiamont\’s Weblog

MIJ: Rise in cycling accidents triggers crackdown in Sausalito
Sunday 13 Apr 2008, 09:42
Filed under: bicycle

Mark Prado
Article Launched: 04/12/2008 11:33:23 PM PDT

Sausalito police Sgt. William Fraass writes citations to bicyclists accused of failing to yield on Bridgeway at Caledonia on Friday. Sausalito is taking a harder look at street safety after an increase in bicycle-related accidents. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost)
An increasing number of bicycle accidents in Sausalito has officials concerned about safety as police write tickets and conduct stings to slow riders who fly through the city.

While most drivers coming to Marin zoom past Sausalito on Highway 101, the city is the gateway for bicyclists who ride north over the Golden Gate Bridge, down Alexander Avenue and onto busy Bridgeway, where cars, pedestrians and bicyclists mix.

“There are places where you get wedged up between moving cars and parked cars, and there are pedestrians,” said Ken Eichstaedt, who has been riding through the city to his job in San Francisco for the past 17 years. “You have to be aware when you ride in Sausalito.”

But, increasingly, riders are unaware or don’t care
Scofflaws in Spandex
Should authorities crack down on cyclists breaking traffic laws?
to be aware, creating safety risks, officials said.

Sausalito Councilman Paul Albritton said “Spandex warriors” who ride in groups through the city are the biggest problem.

“They come in packs and refuse to ride single-file and they are going 25 to 30 miles an hour and they bang on cars and spit at cars and have a pack mentality,” he said.

“They just come flying through town.”

At the same time, tourists on bikes and bike commuters also appear on the upswing, city officials said.

“Marin County has become a bicycle mecca, and that is a curse and a blessing for us,” said Kim Baenisch, executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. “Sausalito is the route everyone takes who rides into Marin, some from the other eight
Bay Area counties, but we also see people from across the nation and world.”

During a weekday, the city sees more than 500 bicycles on its streets and, on the weekend, that figure can balloon to 3,000, according to the Sausalito Police Department.

“We see bikes rear-ending cars, bikes into pedestrians – there are just a lot of bikes in Sausalito,” said Albritton, himself a bicyclist who pedals to work in town three to four times a week. “And bicycle accident rates are coming back up
A bicyclist rides past pedestrians walking in a crosswalk across Bridgeway in downtown Sausalito. (Special to the IJ/Douglas Zimmerman)

Bike accidents involve a bike striking a car or vice versa. In the past five years, drivers have been at fault for those accidents half the time, and bikers the other half, according to Sausalito police. Bike accidents can also involve hitting a pedestrian.

In the late 1990s, Bridgeway – the city’s 2.2-mile main drag – was recording the most bike accidents of any street in the county, according to the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

In response, the city formed a Bike Policy Task Force, and bike advocates and city leaders began working to create bike lanes on Bridgeway to make drivers, bikers and pedestrians aware of each other.

While that work went on, accidents remained high. Between 2000 and 2003, there were almost 20 bike accidents a year in Sausalito.

In September 2003, the bike lanes on Bridgeway were finished. Bike crashes dropped in 2004, when only nine were recorded. “The lanes made a big difference,” Albritton said.

But the success was short-lived. Accidents crept up to 12 in 2005, 16 in 2006 and 18 last year.

“The numbers are going up again,” said Police Chief Scott Paulin. “We have a lot of people on Bridgeway and we are concerned about safety.”

The city’s officers are trying to slow the pace by working with the county’s bicycle coalition and setting up checkpoints where “share the road” information is handed out to bikers, motorists and pedestrians.

Officers are also writing citations for violations, which have risen in recent
A cyclist makes her way down Bridgeway in Sausalito, where police have begun cracking down on speeding cyclists after a rise in bike-related accidents. (IJ photo/Jeff Vendsel)
years. In 2006, police wrote 89 tickets. Last year, they wrote 167. Violations are primarily issued for blowing through a stop sign or stop light, not yielding for a pedestrian in a crosswalk or not riding within a bike lane.

Failure to stop at a traffic light is a $360 fine, failure to stop at a stop sign is $138, as is failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Bikers are hit with a $102 fine for riding outside a bike lane.”It has not been an effort to write more tickets, we are just seeing more violations,” Paulin said.

But police are sometimes targeting scofflaws and conducting sting operations. On Friday, decoys acting as pedestrians were sent to stroll crosswalks throughout the city and, when a bike or car, didn’t yield,
Sausalito police Sgt. William Fraass issues citations to cyclists. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost)
they were cited.

“It’s like trout fishing in Alaska,” said bicyclist Craig Reisfield, who received a citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

Said Paulin: “We have a lot of crosswalks that cross Bridgeway, and this is a response to complaints we get from people.”

The bicycle coalition’s Baenisch supports the stings.

“Police have to enforce the traffic laws and if people obey the laws it makes it safer for everyone,” she said.

Sausalito officials say they are seeing more tourists who rent bikes in San Francisco, ride into Sausalito and take a ferry back to San Francisco, but they are not much of a problem.

“They move pretty slow and they are not involved in accidents,” Albritton said. “People like to blame them, but they are not a problem.”

Baenisch said much of the problem could be resolved if people used their heads.

“It’s a lot about using common sense and courtesy and giving the right of way,” she said. “Ideally everyone knows what the rules are.”

With the county promoting bicycling not only for recreation, but as a means of travel, bike advocates say more needs to be done to promote safe biking.

Albritton agreed.

“We don’t mind being a bicycle mecca, we just want to be a safe mecca,” Albritton said.



I consider fellow bicyclists to be one of the major threats to my safety on the road. Some of them don’t even understand what side of the road to ride on.

It always begs the question – what do you do when bicyclists on the wrong side of the street come at you? There’s no good answer other than to get out of the their way, being that they’re not following any known rules of the road.

Comment by jackdurham

Well said/typed jackdurham.
I often find myself rolling down the window and yelling at bicyclists in my neighborhood, going the wrong way down one-way streets.

“Hey you! Bicycle! You are going the Wrong Way!”

I usually get a shrug or a confusing look in return.

Comment by kaivalya

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