A road rage incident that could have seriously injured or killed a San Francisco mother on her way to pick up her child from school on Monday perfectly illustrates why the Great Walkway must be restored. “The punishment passes were terrifying. I had been participating in a peaceful protest against allowing cars on the Great Highway, and I left to pick up my son from his first day back at school,” wrote Jessica Jenkins in an email to Streetsblog about the incident. “I expected some level of honking and yelling by drivers that had been delayed for ten minutes by our protest. While I did not expect to be physically assaulted, I’m not surprised.”
The video in the tweet below shows exactly what happened: two different motorists menaced Jenkins with close, fast passes obviously intended to terrify the cyclist.
A couple drivers on the Great Highway decided to threaten me with their cars after I peeled off from the peaceful protest to pick up my kid from school https://t.co/CzzvxFBj27
— Jessica Jenkins (@jessjenk) August 17, 2021
Whatever one may think about the Great Walkway/Great Highway debate, it’s crystal clear that these motorists were reckless. Even the San Francisco police acknowledge that much. “After reviewing the video clips on Twitter, it appears that the drivers of the vehicles are not allowing the proper safe distance when passing the bicyclist,” said Robert Rueca, a spokesperson for the department.
However, he confirmed the police will not act on it. “If an officer witnesses this violation, they should take enforcement action,” he said, adding, “As a Department, we do not tolerate vehicular violence.”
That kind of double-talk is consistent with Jenkins’s past experiences getting harassed and threatened by motorists (an experience common to anyone who bikes daily in California, including the writer of this blog). She told Streetsblog she’s filed police reports twice in the past when drivers deliberately swerved at her. “The first time, the Park Station SFPD officers were extremely reluctant to take the report at all. They didn’t seem to believe that attempting to hit a cyclist with a vehicle was illegal,” she wrote in her email. “The second time, the Northern Station SFPD officer was much more sympathetic and attempted to pull up a photo of the owner of the vehicle with the license plate that I had recorded so that I could ID them. However, the DMV records were so out-of-date that they were unable to locate the registered owner … Again, there was no follow-up or investigation. In both cases, it took several hours to file the police report, and it felt like a waste of time in the end.”
From Streetsblog’s view, the video shows menacing/brandishing or, arguably, straight-up attempted assault. If the driver had been on foot and swung a bat, inches from Jenkins’ face, would that also require the police to witness it first hand? Besides, the California Highway Patrol and the Petaluma Police set a precedent on police being able to investigate motor vehicle crimes based on video evidence alone when they prosecuted drivers at sideshows.
“Since SFPD is not offering to assist, I wonder if you could interest any of the local news stations in running the footage on air. What is clear is that the two motorists broke the law and intentionally endangered the lives of ordinary citizens,” said attorney and traffic law expert Andy Gillin upon viewing the video.
Meanwhile, with fifty or so other north-south streets covered with motor traffic in San Francisco, it remains beyond belief that motorists can’t function if this single stretch of road is dedicated to people using bikes, roller skates, scooters, and their own feet. “The SF Bicycle Coalition continues to firmly believe that the Great Highway should be a park and be car-free 24/7,” wrote the SFBC’s Janice Li in an email to Streetsblog.
“As we gathered at the Great Highway preparing for our protest, I saw several cyclists proceed along the Great Highway, trying to get somewhere, and I feared for every one of them. I hope that Supervisors Gordon Mar, Connie Chan, Myrna Melgar, and Mayor London Breed see the video and acknowledge their actions have created conflict and danger and destroyed an amazing, tranquil oceanside park,” said Jenkins.