Friday, April 2, 2010

Keep Calm & Carry On.

First off, I would like to welcome all of the new readers who have joined us in the last few days over this regrettable interaction I had last weekend. I would like to publicly thank the Mission Police Station for taking my complaint seriously and acting professionally and compassionately, SF Streetesblog for running the story (I had no idea that would happen and boy has it snowballed) and Mission Mission for jumping in as well. NBC interviewed me and aired the story on last night's 11 o'clock broadcast (edit- see it here and here). I would also like to thank the Department of Citizen Complaints for taking the time to interview me thoroughly and treat me with respect.

I think it is safe to say that the story is getting out there : )

This story hits a lot of nerves for everybody. It is an easy story to take sides on, although which side you take will depend heavily on your viewpoint at the start. For those of us who ride everyday in urban environments I think it is easy to get heated very quickly, and some of the comments I have read out there on various forums reflect that. It is just so tempting to react and say the first thing that comes from the gut.

While this incident occurred on Saturday the 27th, it took me a couple of days to turn in the paperwork to the OCC. I knew I wanted to lodge a complaint, but I wanted to make sure that I did so without any drama on my part- there is enough in the situation as it stands. The same can be said for what I posted here. Before I hit that publish button I wanted to be sure that my motives were about justice and education, not drama and retribution. This is why, even though I had a license plate number, description of the officers, a photograph of the car and witnesses who can back up my story, I did not publish any of that information and kept that for the official complaint- the last thing we need is for anyone to try and confront this guy.

Some of the comments out there are predictably retaliatory. Some of them advocate being confrontational with drivers, and some go as far as to advocate vandalism. None of that is in any way constructive, nor does it do anything to solve the issue at hand. What it does is force people to draw even thicker lines of "for" and "against" that allow people like the officers in question to continue their abusive behavior. They also obscure the problem that caused me to write the story in first place and limit the conversation to "string him up!" and "serves you right" instead of opening up the conversation to how often this really does happen to people in San Francisco (and other places, too) and how we get to the root of the problem and stop it.

I would like to invite people to share their stories here. Have you felt threatened by the SFPD while riding a bicycle in San Francisco? Did you report it? If not, why? (If you would like to file a complaint about an SFPD officer go here) If yes, how did it turn out? I do not want to villainize the SFPD, only to show that there is cause for concern that the powers that be need to recognize and correct. This is especially important for those who have not reported incidents because they felt too intimidated or pessimistic. Many people feel needlessly powerless in these situations, not realizing that while their story may be only a single one, it is a very important part of a larger tale that all of us are living everyday.

For those of you outside of SF, please tell us your stories, too! This is not a problem experienced only in San Francisco and recognition that riding a bike is similar all over the world, both for better and for worse, can only help make things better for us all.

Most importantly, remember that the only way to make a better world is to live a better life. Be what you want to see. Stick up for what you believe. Ride your bike!


  1. Hi Adrienne In Dublin there are plenty of incidents of being cut up by Cars and worse Vans and Trucks,most Cyclists will say the same. Also of being nearly Doored by People suddenly opening Car Doors as you pass by.

    I think for the most part it is not deliberate,Drivers are too Occupied with themselves and their Eyes are only Focused straight ahead and are not attuned to the Idea of a Cyclist being beside them.

    I always try to keep out more away from the side of the Road a good bit especially when approaching a Junction so that they can see me and it forces them to move further to the side in order to get in front of me when going around that corner.

    Of course you will always get ignorant People who deliberately try to get in front of you to fly around that corner. They usually go very fast and with a Squeal of the Tyres and Brakes and you know right away what they are up to. They have no Respect,they look down their Nose at you. Who are you I dont care about you I own the Road,you you Feckin Cyclist you.

    You nod your Head sadly and say to yourself,what is all the rush then what is the hurry. You keep Driving like that and you will Roll your Car,you are heading for the Graveyard Boy.

  2. Excellently well put, Adrienne - watch out or you may find yourself elected to some public office or other (I'd vote for you, anyway). Val

  3. I am catching up. I am sorry this happened and I am glad the story is getting out. How horrible. And you are right- something like this would have killed it for me just like it did 26 years ago when those teens yelled at me when I was on my bike. And the potential to squelch a new rider makes me unbelievably sad.

  4. L'Homme- I heard an interesting teaching not too long ago that says "You have to stop to arrive". In order to arrive at a place of respect for cyclists drivers have to stop- stop honking, stop driving while distracted, stop feeling entitled, stop fearing loss of the road, stop the car... as cyclists we need to stop being afraid to stand up for ourselves, stop worrying about how others think of us, stop limiting ourselves for the convenience of others... it is interesting what we all need to stop doing in order to arrive at co-existence.

    Val- I will happily except the position of Benevolent Dictator : )

    Mama- It is so hard to get out the message that what makes us vulnerable is not our bicycles, but the unconscious behavior of a car centric society. It takes a lot of presence of mind to see the benefit of our actions when they can be so immediately challenging. What with rougue cops and big rigs and screaming kids : ) it can be a bit much at times.

  5. In some countries 'criminal intimidation' by anyone could send him to prison. Stiffer of sentence to an 'officer of the law' who commits such offence.