“Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?” Uh, Shouldn’t the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Have Consulted a Lawyer Here?

Are these 2012 “Rules of the Road” posted anywhere? I don’t know. [UPDATE: Here we go.]

Anyway, leave us begin:

“Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way.”

UH, NOPE. THIS IS EXACTLY WRONG IN CALIFORNIA* AND THIS IS THE KIND OF BAD ATTITUDE THAT GETS PEOPLE KILLED. (I DON’T KNOW IF DRIVERS IN SAN FRANCISCO ARE ANY WORSE THAN THE U.S.  AVERAGE, BUT PEDESTRIANS IN THE 415 ARE _MUCH_ WORSE THAN AVERAGE. RIVALING BERKELEY’S. IF I WERE GIVING THEM ADVICE IN A PUBLIC FORUM, I’D TELL THEM TO STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT. I WOULDN’T TELL THEM A FALSEHOOD ABOUT CA LAW TO MAKE THEM FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEIR BAD BEHAVIOR.)

In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. (CVC 21954 (b))”

UH, NOPE.** IF YOU MEAN TO SAY THAT DRIVERS SHOULD USE DUE CARE FOR THE SAFETY OF EVEN THE CRAZIEST PEDESTRIAN, THEN YOU’D BE ACCURATELY BE PARAPHRASING THE CITED CODE. BUT CALIFORNIA LAW IS SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN* TO STATE THAT PEDESTRIANS DO NOT “ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY.” TO REVIEW, IF YOU ARE A PED IN A CROSSWALK, MARKED OR UNMARKED, OR NEAR ENOUGH (SOMETIMES CLOSE IS CLOSE ENOUGH), AND YOU DIDN’T START TOO EARLY (THAT MEANS THAT YOU WAITED FOR TRAFFIC TO CLEAR THE INTERSECTION AFTER YOUR “WALK” LIGHT LIT UP) AND YOU DIDN’T START TOO LATE (LIKE WHEN THE WAIT LIGHT STARTS FLASHING), THEN, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. IF NOT, THEN YOU DON’T. SORRY. THAT’S WHY WHEN YOU GET KILLED BY A MUNI BUS ON HAYES STREET BY JAYWALKING LIKE WHAT JUST HAPPENED, THE DRIVER INVOLVED DOESN’T GET PUNISHED. THE REASON IS THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY. DOES THAT MEAN THAT DRIVERS HAVE A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO RUN YOU OVER ON PURPOSE WHEN YOU’RE JAYWALKING? NO IT DOES NOT.

Stop Behind the Crosswalk. Leave crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians. Always stop behind the line. (CVC 21950, 21455)

UH, HOW ABOUT IN FRONT OF OR AHEAD OF OR BEFORE THE CROSSWALK INSTEAD?

Stay on the Streets. It is illegal and unsafe to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)

UH, ON SOME SIDEWALKS IT’S OK FOR ADULTS TO RIDE A BIKE, IT JUST DEPENDS. AND WHY IS IT “UNSAFE” FOR A 14-YEAR-OLD TO RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK BUT NOT A 13-YEAR-OLD?

Go With the Flow. Ride the same direction as traffic. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if you find yourself on the wrong block of a one-way street. (CVC 21650)

IRL, THIS IS MERELY ADVISORY IN SAN FRANCISCO. YOU COULD RIDE YOUR BIKE IN THIS FASHION ON A DAILY BASIS FOR DECADES AND NOT GET CITED FOR THIS.

Mind the Signs and Lights. Stop at stop signs and obey red lights, just like all other vehicles. (CVC 21200)

IRL, THIS IS MERELY ADVISORY IN SAN FRANCISCO. YOU COULD RIDE YOUR BIKE IN THIS FASHION ON A DAILY BASIS FOR DECADES AND NOT GET CITED FOR THIS.

Light up the Night! Reflectors and a front white light are required by law. We recommend you use a rear light as well. (CVC 21201)

WELL, _NOW_ YOU’RE TALKING. AGREE.

Take the Lane. Whether you’re next to parked cars, or there are hazards in the bike lane, if you feel safer, take the lane and ride outside the door zone. (CVC 21202)

THIS IS A SUBJECTIVE STANDARD UNSUPPORTED BY CALIFORNIA LAW. OH WELL.

It’s OK to Leave the Bike Lane. If you feel safer outside the bike lane, you can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. (CVC 21208)

MEH. SO WHY HAVE BIKE LANES THEN? I’LL TELL YOU, THE CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE DOESN’T REALLY DEAL WITH “FEELINGS” AT ALL, IRL.

Be a Friend to Disabled Neighbors. Sometimes people with disabilities need access to the curb. Paratransit carriers (including taxis) may have to enter the bikeway to drop them off. Be a good neighbor and give them room. (SFMTA Policy)

REALLY? I NEED TO CHECK TO SEE IF THE PERSON COMING OUT OF A CAB IS MY “DISABLED NEIGHBOR” BEFORE I DECIDE TO “GIVE THEM ROOM” OR NOT? THAT SOUNDS A LITTLE CRAY-CRAY, DOESN’T IT? MAYBE I’LL JUST GO AROUND PARKED TAXIS AS ANY SENSIBLE PERSON WOULD DO?

So there you have it.

Maybe they’ll get it right next year…

*”Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

**”The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

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9 Responses to ““Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?” Uh, Shouldn’t the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Have Consulted a Lawyer Here?”

  1. zyzzyva says:

    And you’re coming by your arguments how, exactly? The SFBC is simply covering its ass. The fact that you’re unlikely to get busted for something doesn’t mean it’s not illegal. Believe it or not, cyclists regularly do get busted for things like running lights and riding on the sidewalk; it’s not “merely advisory”. CA law also makes it perfectly legal for cyclists to take the lane, provided said lane is less than 14 feet wide. Go ahead and find a single lane in SF that’s more than 14′ wide. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

    The bit about peds always having the right of way is pretty bunk, though the second half of the provision does state that it doesn’t excuse operators from “exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway”. I’m still willing to believe that the vast majority of cyclists and motorists would rather swerve or brake than plow into a ped, legal requirements be damned.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agree, the SFBC is correct about riding in the direction of traffic and stopping at stop signs. But I don’t do that all the time and neither do the officers of the SFBC,

    I’ve been running stops signs and riding on sidewalks every day for decades in SF – no tickets yet.

    There are rules for taking the lane. Neither you nor the SFBC have stated them correctly.

    Hey, how about Divisadero in NoPA? The slow lane there is quite small these days owing to the extra wide SFBC-approved median they put in a few years back. What’s your solution for that?

    Yes. agreed, drivers are not allowed to intentionally kill jaywalkers even if they don’t have the right of way. Still they don’t have the right of way – that’s my whole point.

    Legally, drivers and bike riders need to look out for all peds, both the good and the bad. Yes.

  3. GG says:

    I’d leave this comment on the original article, but you forgot to link to it. :)

    Please see CVC 21954(a): “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

    As an attorney, I also try to remind people that just because the CVC prohibits pedestrians from jaywalking and creating hazardous situations, that doesn’t relieve a cyclist/driver of possible financial liability under tort law if he/she hits a jaywalking pedestrian and a court finds that he/she was not exercising the appropriate level of care to avoid the pedestrian. Bottom line: EVERYONE needs to follow the rules and take care to avoid an accident.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t have a link, it’s something they just sent out. I’m sure there might be something online already which is the same or similar.

    The non-attorney at SFBC who wrote this made this point: “Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way.” This is a false statement. That’s my point.

    If the SFBC has a point it wants to make then it should make that point. It shouldn’t make things up.

  5. triple0 says:

    On your first point, SFBC specifically mentions part b of CVC 21954. But you left that off of your citation, dishonestly.

    The specific law they cited says, “(b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

    I think that’s pretty clear that they are right, actually.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Here’s what they say:
    “Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way”

    That’s wrong.

    This is CA law: “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”

    This means that some pedestrians DON’T have the right of way at some times.

    Maybe the SFBC is simply making stuff up or is confusing non-CA law with CA law.

    If the SFBC means that drivers and cyclists should be look out for peds then the SFBC should say that and then that would save me the time of making a post.

    TTFN

  7. You're a fucking idiot says:

    You say: ‘This is CA law: “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”’

    No, that is NOT California law. You, like other bike assholes, have omitted the crucial qualifying phrase in 21954(a): “so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.” This section is only saying that pedestrians shouldn’t step in front of a vehicle (auto or bike) that’s SO NEAR that it constitutes an IMMEDIATE hazard.

    Nonetheless, section 21954(b) of this same rule states clearly that “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.” In other words, even if the pedestrian takes the right of way in the situation where the vehicle is “so near as to constitute an immediate hazard”, the driver is *still* responsible for the pedestrian’s safety.

    You’re a fucking idiot. And I say that as a cyclist who doesn’t even own a car.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You say: ‘This is CA law: “Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”’

    No, that is NOT California law. You, like other bike assholes, have omitted the crucial qualifying phrase in 21954(a): “so near as to constitute an immediate hazard.” This section is only saying that pedestrians shouldn’t step in front of a vehicle (auto or bike) that’s SO NEAR that it constitutes an IMMEDIATE hazard.

    Nonetheless, section 21954(b) of this same rule states clearly that “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.” In other words, even if the pedestrian takes the right of way in the situation where the vehicle is “so near as to constitute an immediate hazard”, the driver is *still* responsible for the pedestrian’s safety.

    You’re a fucking idiot. And I say that as a cyclist who doesn’t even own a car.

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