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Stop Signs and Bike Accidents: Do San Francisco Bikers Have to Come to a Full Stop?

Mayor Ed Lee vetoed San Francisco’s Bike Yield Law this January. As a bike accident lawyer and a bike rider in the Bay Area, I watched the progress of this initiative with great interest. If it had passed, the law would have had the effect of allowing bike riders to yield at stop signs rather than come to a full stop, which would have changed the presumption of fault in bike accidents.

Stop-as-Yield Law and Bike Accidents

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Idaho passed a Stop-as-Yield law back in 1982. This law allows a bike rider not to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Instead, they can yield to cross-traffic and then proceed cautiously through the intersection. A few other counties in Colorado have passed a similar measure. We have a state law, Vehicle Code Section 22450a, which requires bikes to stop at stop signs. Only the California legislature can modify this law, the S.F. Board of Supervisors cannot change it. What the S.F. Bike Yield Law did, though, was make violation of this state law the very lowest enforcement priority for local police. If Mayor Lee had permitted this to become law, it would have had virtually the same effect as a change to the state law for bike riders in San Francisco.

Public Safety Concerns for the Bay Area

In high-traffic San Francisco, the Bike Yield Law generated lots of controversy. The Board of Supervisors narrowly passed the initiative by a vote of 6-5. Eight votes were needed to override the mayor’s veto. Mayor Lee’s position was that the initiative did not promote balanced public safety for everyone on the street. Many drivers agreed.

To Stop or Not to Stop: A Hot Issue

If the initiative had passed, San Francisco would have been the largest city in the United States to have such a bicycle law. The proposal got national attention from the New York Times and captured local support from pro-bike groups like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The demonstration at the Wiggle in the lower Haight last summer showed the impact of the current law if taken to the extreme.

Some Bicyclists Do Not Come to a Full Stop

As a bike accident attorney, I’ll take the Fifth on my own biking habits when it comes to a full stop at stop signs. Many or even most cyclists still will go through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop when it is safe to do so.

For two days this past August, the SF police issued 204 citations to cyclists for failing to stop at a stop sign, resulting in outraged bicyclists. Whether the San Francisco police will continue to focus on writing tickets for this violation will depend on local politics.

“Do I Have to Come to a Full Stop Riding My Bike in SF?”

The law remains that cyclists have to come to a full stop at stop signs. In bikes accidents, we could still face an adverse presumption of fault if we rode through a stop-signed intersection in San Francisco without fully stopping.

That means if we are injured in a bike accident, the responsibility for the accident may still be attributed to us, even if we didn’t do anything unsafe.

If the Police Find You at Fault in a Bike Accident

However, a police report stating that you are completely at fault does not always ruin your bike accident case. It’s still possible to win. I’ve had many successful cases involving bike accidents in which the police report blamed the bicyclist.

Talk to San Francisco’s Bicycle Accident Lawyers

We’re bike riders and bike accident lawyers at Callaway & Wolf. We handle bike accident cases around the Bay Area, Marin, San Francisco, and Alameda counties. Contact us now by calling 415-541-0300 to consult for free about your bike accident case, or click here.

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