Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Very Serious People and Masonic Avenue

CBS Channel 5 picture

I like Paul Krugman's Very Serious People term he uses to mock the folly of the mindless, inside-the-beltway consensus on inflation and deficit spending. Applying the term to San Francisco can also be useful, since the VSP here in Progressive Land agree on a whole range of dumb stuff.

The latest stupidity of the city's VSP: Doing Something about Masonic Avenue. The fixation on Masonic has been created after years of anti-car propaganda by the Bicycle Coalition, Streetsblog, and Bike Nopa. Even though the city's own studies don't show that Masonic is particularly dangerous for anyone---especially considering the volume of traffic it handles every day---the anti-car bike people have created an entirely synthetic emergency based on a drumbeat of disinformation and outright lies.

Recent stories in the Chronicle and the Examiner  assume that the emergency is real. Apparently their job description doesn't include reading the city's annual reports on accidents on city streets, which wouldn't take much time, since these documents aren't very large. The reports even include a list of the streets and intersections in the city where the most accidents happen. I've written about these reports before, but apparently I'm the only one writing about these issues who actually reads them (They can be downloaded from the MTA's website. Scroll down and click on "reports.")

Two fatalities on Masonic Avenue caused by drunk drivers late at night in the last year have been used by the anti-car demagogues at Streetsblog, the Bicycle Coalition, and Bike Nopa to maintain the bogus sense of emergency. Elizabeth Stampe of Walk San Francisco---still another anti-car front group---has added to the hysteria and is now supposedly a credible source for reporters. The Chronicle quotes Stampe: "There is a process under way on Masonic," Stampe said, "and it's tragic that this happened before the street could be redesigned to make it safer."

Both of these fatal accidents were caused by drunk drivers late at night. The "redesign" of Masonic the city is going to implement will surely "calm"---that is, make traffic worse on that busy street during the day, particularly during commute hours---but of course it will do nothing to make drunk driving any less likely. The Chronicle's reporter apparently didn't know enough about the changes contemplated to challenge Stampe's flagrant falsehood.

Will Reisman in the Examiner, on the other hand, is well-informed about the proposed changes to Masonic---he even includes them in today's story---but he fails to explain how those changes can possibly lessen the dangers posed by drunk drivers. Instead he quotes a resident in the area named Rich Boardman: "I bike and I walk and I drive my car, and I can say that Masonic Avenue doesn't work well for any mode of transit."

That's easily demonstrated to be untrue. All Reisman or Boardman have to do is look at the Powerpoint presentation MTA made to a neighborhood meeting last year that told us that Masonic now carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day and the #43 line carries more than 12,000 passengers every day. In short Masonic Avenue now works well for more than 44,000 people every day, but that won't stop our Very Serious People from "fixing" it and making it more difficult for everyone in a motor vehicle to travel on one of the city's most important north/south streets.

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11 Comments:

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today I woke up to a car collision on Masonic. The car must have been going fast in order to create that kind of damage. The police had to block off most of the lanes during rush hour, and it didn't seem to do much more than slow down traffic. Cars did just fine going 20 miles down the road and it didn't screw anything up. They had to close down 2 of the 3 wide lanes.

Do you think from a personal, and residential, perspective we should take into account the volume of cars going through our neighborhood before we are upset or alarmed over a death or crash?

 
At 12:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The reality is that, as the city's own numbers tell us, Masonic isn't particularly dangerous for anyone. One crash---and the two fatalities being used to whip up hysteria---do not constitute an emergency on that street. Try to focus on the documents I cite in the post, especially the city's collision reports.

 
At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll ask again:

Do you think from a personal, and residential, perspective we should take into account the volume of cars going through our neighborhood before we are upset or alarmed over a death or crash?

 
At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the motorists didn't want it calmed, they shouldn't drive drunk. They are their own worst enemy. Don't drive drunk and kill people, then the "Radicals" don't have any ammunition. Hoist on own petard.

 
At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or let me ask this in a different way. How many deaths have to happen on my street before I have the right to be alarmed or want a change?

I'm pretty sure the answer is 0. Tell me any industry that operates with the assumption that there's an acceptable level of deaths in a given year.

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Dr Pochi said...

Hey ass boy - it's obvious you've never actually seen Masonic, nor the new plans which are excellent. Thank god they are improving that awful street, and thank god you'll be thrown out of the city soon.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great - ruining another street in San Francisco to appease the morons on bicycles. I am born and raised and I never remember having problems riding a bike or walking across the street. What is it with the rejects from back east that can't ride a bike without getting hit? I think the problem is rent control, these morons get apartmenst they can't afford to move out of, so they want to make eveyrone else miserable.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger John R. said...

Rob, in your campaign against safety improvements on Masonic, your relentless determination to downplay the significance of injury and death, is a new low.

The woman out for a jog and hit recently by a red light runner on Masonic is not a martyr in anybody’s struggle. Yet, her injuries (2 broken legs, head injury and more) are severe and needless. You seem content to accept the frequency of such carnage in the name of Masonic being a “busy street.” How misanthropic can you get?

It also needs to be said that your portrayal of the people that have come together to champion a re-design of Masonic as “anti-car” is simple red-baiting. You know perfectly well that schools in the neighborhood, property owners, merchants, walkers, and cyclists
are all advocating for a more civilized street.

I frequently drive a car on Masonic, and I look forward to the day when Masonic is a place where people don’t take their life in their hands when they legally cross the street, or cycle with their child on the back of their bike. And where your hateful arguments are just a bad memory.

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

Still another ignorant, moronic comment. What makes you think you can just pull a comment out of your ass without doing any homework? "The frequency of such carnage"? As I've pointed out lo these many times on this blog, the city's own studies show that Masonic isn't particularly dangerous, especially considering the volume of traffic it handles (more than 32,000 vehicles a day).

Accidents can and do happen on every goddam street in the city because that's what it's like in the real world, John. The city's studies also show that in fact city streets have been getting safer for everyone over the years.

Riding a bike in the city with a child is the sort of thing that makes people think you are irresponsible morons. Even your children are accessories to your risky hobby!

Please go to the MTA's website and scroll down to "reports," which will lead you to the documents I'm referring to.

 
At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traffic Calming is another term for Planned Congestion.
Years ago a group called Rescue Muni lead the to creation of a private, for profit syndicate...MTA. Since the creation of MTA, Muni is in constant crisis mode. Muni runs slower than ever yet they have a hold on the city that allows special interest construction groups to keep the city forever in debt doing pointless fixes of things that don't need to be fixed. At some point people need to realize the first plan of action must be the complete elimination of MTA.

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived in this neighborhood on and off for 50 years and often use Masosnic to cross town. I have never see an accident or people driving recklessly.
MTA and the politically well funded Bike Coalition have a plan that feeds into to high density. This is not necessarily what many neighborhood groups want. Their goal will destroy this beautiful city as we know it.
Anony

 

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