Monday, March 09, 2009

State of Cycling Report: the fix was in

Steve Jones called me recently to get the so-called anti-bike perspective on the Draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan. During our conversation he insisted that 6% of all trips in the city are by bicycle, a number I was skeptical of. He claimed that he got that number from the MTA, but I couldn't find it in the reports the agency has posted on its website. Instead it seems to be from the "State of Cycling Report" of September, 2008, which isn't posted on the MTA's website[Later: it is now], probably because the methodology used by the folks at Berkeley's Alta Planning to prepare the report was seriously flawed: 400 of the interviews were conducted at "energizer stations" on Bike to Work Day. Alta was so uncomfortable with that approach---insisted on by the city, evidently---that it even mentions the issue in the report:

The team conducted intercept surveys on Bike to Work Day as it was an extremely efficient method of collecting the desired number of cyclist responses...However, this sampling method over-represents people who bicycle to work. In the future, if finances allow, the City should consider conducting intercept surveys separate from Bike to Work Day (page 31).

Yes, it's an understatement to say that interviewing cyclists at energizer stations on Bike to Work Day "over-represents" the number of people in the city who bike to work. It would even be fair to say that using that methodology is guaranteed to exaggerate the number of cyclists in the city, in effect rigging the results of the report before it's even written.

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30 Comments:

At 12:53 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Doh! You weren't supposed to find out about that. Oh well, not like you'll be able to do anything about it.

 
At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Would you feel better if the number was 3 percent?

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

To me this latest bit of bad faith is just more evidence of the near-religious intensity of the bicycle fantasy. There seem to be a lot of people in city government determined to impose this goofball idea on the people of San Francisco. This fits in with the sneaky way the city tried to slip the Bicycle Plan through the process and the stupid and nasty way the City Attorney's office has behaved during the litigation, which is how fanatics behave when their utopian plans are foiled.

One wonders too, now that we are in a recession that still hasn't hit bottom, how much the city paid Alta for this report. Since there are now 10 people and three interns working in MTA on the Bicycle Project, why did the city have to farm out this report? What do those 13 people do all day?

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous kwk said...

That Jones article entitled "Street Fight" in last Wednesday's SFBG in has a "fresh, young activist . . . who moved to San Francisco a year ago" quoted as saying: "cyclists are increasing exponentially"

These SFBG/SFBC people just don't understand simple quantitative concepts (nor can they do simple math), here we have a person who just moved to SF but already knows everything and wants the City to make expensive ($20 million just to begin with according to the article) and all but permanent changes to the infrastructure to accomodate this "activist" during her brief stay here.

Further in Jones' article that statement is contradicted by the SFMTA bike program manager, "the number of cyclists increased by 25 percent" which is a far, far cry from "increasing exponentially."
But it's written right there in the SFBG.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, these young "activists" parachute into SF and immediately want to remake the city in some trendy, PC fashion, with bikes at the top of the list. After all Leah Shahum moved here from somewhere else and was waiting on tables when she had her life-changing epiphany at Critical Mass. We're still trying to cope with the fallout from the Summer of Love that happened more than 40 years ago. The city attracts high-end tourists, newcomers with drug/alcohol/psychological problems swell our homeless population, and starry-eyed young "activists" arrive every day to show us how to reorganize our city to meet their specifications. Thanks, kids! How did we get by before their arrival here in old, nothingburger SF?

 
At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can we make more bike lanes yet? when is your stupid injunction finally over? Thanks for any updates/info.

 
At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, these young "activists" parachute into SF and immediately want to remake the city in some trendy, PC fashion, with bikes at the top of the list."

A place on the list only equals 'the top of the list' in RobThink.

(and I'm sorry for feeding the troll again).

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"can we make more bike lanes yet? when is your stupid injunction finally over? Thanks for any updates/info."

No, not yet, Anon. The city's stupid, illegal, and unprincipled attempt to rush the Bicycle Plan through the process without any environmental review is still holding up all "improvements" for your dangerous hobby disguised as a significant transportation "mode." Judge Busch has to certify the final EIR before the city can continue screwing up our traffic, and all we have on the table is the draft EIR right now. I guess we can assume that you think the city's attempted deception in the State of Cycling Report---the actual subject of this post---is okay? Because the ends---the great, planet-saving bicycle movement---justify any means?

 
At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless you can come to terms with the fact that people are going to ride bicycles here, Rob, you are really going to hate what San Francisco looks like ten years from now.

 
At 9:29 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course the young, the foolish, and the politically motivated are going to ride bikes in the city. I don't have any problem with that. 2.3% of the city's residents now commute by bicycle. Good for them. Maybe the SFBC or their Scout troops will give them a green merit badge. What I object to is redesigning city streets on behalf of this small minority of PC fanatics. Muni is the only alternative to driving for most of us, and if you screw up traffic for cars---taking away traffic lanes and street parking---you're going to screw up Muni, too. Got it? If you want to risk your twit ass riding a bike in the city, good luck to you. But don't impose your goofball ideology on the rest of us with the kind of deception I describe in this post---and by trying to sneak the Bicycle Plan through the process before the city's neighborhoods could learn what it means for their streets.

 
At 11:20 AM, Anonymous mike said...

Maybe if they made it easier and safer for people to ride bikes, more people would.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, Mike. And if pigs had wings they might be able to fly. The problem is that riding a bike in the city---or anywhere, for that matter---will never really be safe enough for the overwhelming majority of the city's population, who choose Muni or driving cars as their means of transportation. Note too, Mike, that few cycling accidents involve other vehicles. According to cycling expert John Forester, only 12% of cyling accidents involve cars (page 282, "Effective Cycling"). Hence, even if SF rid itself completely of Death Machines, aka cars, cycling would still be a rather risky way to get around.

 
At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the fuck? Just because you have some reason that biking is not for you, you don't have to make things worse for the people who want to do it.

 
At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course the young, the foolish, and the politically motivated are going to ride bikes in the city."

I can only assume that by 'young' you mean younger than you. Most of the folks I see out there on bikes are older than me (and even the 20-somethings will one day be 40-, 50-, and 60-somethings, anyway).

How foolish is it, really, to use a form of trasnportation that is clean, healthy, cheap, and fun? Does it somehow make more sense to ride crowded, unreliable buses and trains that take twice as long?

I fail to see how bicycling is politically-motivated, but it wouldn't be the first time you 'invented facts', now would it?

 
At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The problem is that riding a bike in the city---or anywhere, for that matter---will never really be safe enough for the overwhelming majority of the city's population, who choose Muni or driving cars as their means of transportation."

Yes, as long as the overwhelming majority of the city's population chooses to take MUNI or drive cars, cycling will not be safe for them. Nor will walking down the street, for that matter.

"few cycling accidents involve other vehicles."

90% of fatal cycling accidents are collisions with motor vehicles. Only 12% of all bike accidents involve cars (still a huge proportion, in my opinion, if cycling is such an inherently dangerous activity), but 90% of the ones that are fatal involve cars. What do you think about that?

Cyclists create danger for themselves, that is true, and it's as it should be. Drivers create danger for themselves and everyone around them. In SF, two people have been killed by speeding bicycles (both times the bicycles were being ridden on the sidewalk, a phenomenon that is virtually unheard of in places with comprehensive bike lanes). How many people *each year* get mowed down by automobiles (not to mention MUNI vehicles)?

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rob, you are becoming obsolete faster than the planet is warming. Not only is the Congressman from Caterpillar now the Transportation Secretary and openly advocating bike riding, Tom Harkin - the crusty old Senator from Iowa - is the Senate sponsor for the Complete Streets Act.

You have argued that if we think the bike plan is so good we should put it on the ballot. If you think it's so bad, YOU put it on the ballot. Good luck getting anyone to help you besides Hurricane Mary. We'll save a phone booth for you to use as a campaign office.

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Obama is a good and intelligent man, but even if he packs his administration with bike nuts that won't determine what happens on the streets of San Francisco. Ultimately it will be a political decision about how badly our prog politicians dare to screw up our traffic on behalf of you fanatics. I suspect they have already got the message about Masonic Ave., which is probably the impetus behind the new $120,000 study of that street the city is undertaking. Since the EIR tells them that taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes on Masonic is going to screw up both regular traffic and Muni's #43 line.

 
At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, Rob. What you call 'traffic' screws a lot up for a lot of people.

Traffic congestion slows drivers and muni down, presents dangerous conditions to pedestrians a bicyclists, is noisy and polluting, eats up huge amounts of public space, -- the list goes on and on.

Maybe it needs to be 'screwed up'.

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Traffic congestion slows drivers and muni down, presents dangerous conditions to pedestrians and bicyclists, is noisy and polluting, eats up huge amounts of public space---the list goes on and on. Maybe it needs to be screwed up."

This is just hot air. When you look at what the city is thinking about a specific street, like Masonic Ave, this sort of statement is revealed as meaningless. Traffic and Muni are moving well now on Masonic, and, as the DEIR on the Bicycle Plan shows, if the city insists on taking away a traffic lane there to make bike lanes, it's going to have "significant unavoidable impacts" on both Muni and other traffic on Masonic. One of the options for Masonic discussed in the DEIR is for Muni's #43 line to share a lane with cyclists. How does that even help cyclists? How does sharing a lane with buses that are pulling in and out of bus stops every other block make Masonic safer for cyclists?

 
At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Traffic and Muni are moving well now on Masonic..."

You're missing a very salient point here, Rob, and that is what is *not happening* when traffic is 'moving well'.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What I'm saying is that normally it does move well. Taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes would jam it up.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

MUNI is offering a better solution to the congestion. Run half as many 43's. Additionally, by raising the fare (beyond the fare increase planned in July) we can get rid of some more pesky customers, the bus won't have to stop as often, and traffic will flow smoothly!

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/03/13/muni-considers-fare-hikes-service-cuts-as-deficit-grows-to-128-million/

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Cutting half of the #43's runs is of course not mentioned in the link you provided, but surely service cuts in general to a lot of lines are coming, which really is a shame. If Muni becomes a less appealing alternative, this probably means that more people will be driving in SF.

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What I'm saying is that normally it does move well. Taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes would jam it up."

No it wouldn't. There have been lots of streets all around the world (and even some here in SF) where traffic lanes were taken out to calm traffic and make room for bike lanes. People who are afraid of change say, "No! It will jam things up!", but the traffic jam never materializes in the vast majority of cases.

Traffic is dynamic and non-linear, happening in time as well as space, but you look at it as a static, linear system.

You are wrong.

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This is nothing but hot air, Anon. You need to focus on specific streets in SF, like Masonic Ave., where the city's EIR on the Bicycle Plan says that taking away a traffic lane to make bike lanes will have "significant unavoidable impacts" on both Muni's #43 line and other traffic on that street.

 
At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You need to focus on specific streets in SF, like Masonic Ave..."

No. You need to focus on the traffic system of SF *as a whole*, not on specific, imagined consequences of changes-- or how is that any better than what you call 'bikethink'?

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's nothing "imaginary" about the city's EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which posits "significant unavoidable impacts" on a number of streets if/when the city alters them to make bike lanes. Obviously the whole "traffic system" in SF is made up of its parts, which are the individual streets of the city. I have yet to see a single serious analysis of the EIR by a member of the cycling community. The SFBC's campaign urging the city to adopt all 56 projects analyzed in the EIR begs the question and doesn't engage on the details, that is, that most of the projects analyzed in the massive EIR present the city with different "options" for the projects.

 
At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's nothing "imaginary" about the city's EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which posits "significant unavoidable impacts" on a number of streets if/when the city alters them to make bike lanes..."

I didn't say the EIR was imaginary, I said the projected consequences of changing the streetscape were.

It's worth considering that the EIR does not measure projected increases in bicycle use as part of its methodology. What tries to measure is impacts on automobile traffic.

One problem is that high levels of automobile traffic are not socially or environmentally desirable, yet they will take up as much space and as many resources as we're willing to give them.

This reaches an absurd point when we are unwilling to make positive changes to the streetscape because it might jeopardize our current negative practices.

The EIR (as I've read it) doesn't take into account the long term, nor does it take into account the big picture. It does not take into account improvents in air quality, reductions in noise, improvements in safety, etc, that come from reducing automobile traffic.

All it seems to do is project which changes are likely to have impacts on the traffic-- a paltry and artificially narrow point of view, in my estimation.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I didn't say the EIR was imaginary, I said the projected consequences of changing the streetscape were."

Yes, and I pointed out that the EIR is based on actual, present-day traffic counts, which is what EIRs are supposed to do. Projected increases in cycling on, say, Masonic Ave, are entirely speculative, since there's nothing to measure, is there? Hence, the EIR is warning city leaders that if they remove a traffic lane on Masonic to make bike lanes, they are going to screw up traffic on that busy street. And if they do that there's no indication that it will make cycling on Masonic attractive enough to justify screwing up traffic for everyone else.

You may believe that "high levels of automobile traffic are not socially or environmentally desirable," but there's no evidence that a majority of city voters agree with you. Masonic Ave. works well for thousands of people every day, including passengers on Muni's #43 line. City leaders risk voter backlash if they choose to screw up traffic on busy city streets to please a small minority of bike nuts.

 
At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you cite evidence, Mr Anderson, that cycling is "dangerous"? Can you also cite evidence from any city in the world that cycling infrastructure has made transport for any other (non-cycling) user worse?
Seems to me like you have no interest at all in environmental impact and that your litigation is the equivalent of a SLAPP suit.

 

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