NYTimes Bay Area Blog Fanning the Flames of the Bike v. Car Debate


As part of his "research" for a weekly NYTimes column about Bay Area enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists, Scott James (aka Kemble Scott, author of the 2007 novel SoMa) decided to put a camera at the intersection where Duboce meets Steiner and Sanchez to capture the behavior of cars and cyclists and posted his video to the New York Times Bay Area Blog. But the placement of his camera allows you to see only one of the stops in full, the Steiner & Duboce stop, which also happens to be the end of the Wiggle, that wonderful maze of left and right turns that make getting to the Haight on bike seem fairly flat. He sped up his 40 minutes of video to 8, making it look like the only cars that actually stop do so when there's a pedestrian in the cross walk, and every single cyclist breezes through at 50mph. But really what his video does is fuel the flames of the bike vs. car debate, which always guarantees a slough of irrational comments from all sides.

What "Kemble" Scott James has done here isn't anything new. KRON's Stanley Roberts has been doing it for years on "People Behaving Badly" and, despite the segment's public access feel, has done a pretty good job of calling us all out on our less-than-legal moves. Here are a few of Stanley Roberts' traffic behaving badly greatest hits.

People Behaving Badly: 4th & Market St.

People Behaving Badly: Dangerous Crosswalk

People Behaving Badly: Worst Driver Survey

People Behaving Badly: Bike Lanes People Behaving Badly: 19th Ave Red Light Runners

And to be fair, bikes behaving badly...

People Behaving Badly: Bicycle Night Lights

People Behaving Badly: SF Bike Crackdown

People Behaving Badly: Golden Gate Bridge Bikes

Full disclosure: I am a cyclist in the city. It's no secret that a number of cyclists take liberties with stop signs, fly through crosswalks and blow stoplights. It's also no secret that some cars don't use turn signals, ignore crosswalks, cut each other off, blow stop signs, edge out pedestrians, double park to get coffee, run red lights and practice the legendary "California stop." We all do stupid things, including pedestrians! But if "Kemble" Scott James is concerned with bike behavior in his neighborhood, he could also look at bikes vs. bikes. There's nothing more disconcerting than almost having another cyclist look at the intersection long enough to check for a car but not think to yield to another cyclist. I've had so many close calls with other cyclists not looking for cyclists it's embarrassing. "Share the road" is a nice platitude, but it requires respect not just between cars and bikes but also between cyclists.


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