A google search of the term ‘scofflaw’ reveals an urban dictionary definition of “one who habitually flouts or violates the law, esp one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses”. Understanding this term is an important first step in understanding the debate raging about ‘the growing problem’ of scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco.
The SFBC’s report, What About Scofflaw? also provides some valuable insight and context into the debate. As the numbers of cyclists have grown in San Francisco, 71% in the last five years, conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers have naturally increased. Indeed, recent stories involving careless and negligent cyclists have inflamed an already sensitive issue.
San Francisco has an oftentimes harrowing mix of pedestrian, cycling and automobile lanes. Negotiating the changes from street to street, the sharrows and the lack of marked lanes, can cause frustration and unease for even the most experienced cyclists and drivers. The fact is that in San Francisco, and indeed in any major urban center, there will be pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, break traffic laws. Unfortunately for the cycling community these few ‘scofflaw cyclists’ can have an extremely detrimental effect on the cycling community as a whole because public opinion is so split on the cycling issue in general. One rude or unsafe cyclist can mess things up for everyone else. The situation might not be fair, but that’s the way it is.
The best defense against the argument that there is a ‘growing problem’ with scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco, is to simply be aware of the rules of the road and to be polite and safe at all times. This is true for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers as well.
We have to share the roads. Please, let’s be safe and courteous while doing so.
The SFBC hosts regular Urban Bicycling Workshops as part of its drive to educate cyclists about the rules of the road.