Sunday, December 08, 2013

What did City Hall know, and when did it know it?

Leah Shahum and Mayor Lee
Photo by Gene X Hwang

One wonders how much of an oversight this under-reporting of cycling injuries by the city really is. How likely is it that the city somehow overlooked all the cycling accident victims who show up at the city's primary trauma center, San Francisco General Hospital? Where else would they go?

See the Policy Framework of September, 2004, the first volume of the two-volume Bicycle Plan that we litigated about, page 6-12:

Recommended Action 6.11: "Develop a system for hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics to report all instances of bicycle injury to the SFPD and to the DPT Bicycle Program Manager." (This was before DPT was merged with the MTA.)


Obviously that simple recommendation was never acted on by City Hall. Why not?

On the same page:

For the last several years, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been working on an injury data linkage project using hospital admission data. Currently, San Francisco General Hospital is not obligated to report bicycle injuries to the SFPD. This is left up to the injured parties. EMS (ambulance services) is supposed to report bicycle injuries, but many are not reported.

Maybe City Hall didn't want to publish realistic numbers on cycling accidents, since that would support the idea that riding a bike in San Francisco is actually dangerous, thus undermining an important premise of City Hall's anti-car traffic policies.

What did City Hall know, and when did it know it? Was the UC study really the first the city learned about this under-reporting? 

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17 Comments:

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...


Thank you for publicizing these enlightening findings by the SF general researchers, Rob.

Good luck finding reasons why so many things we are curious about, facts and statistics that would better inform us in our civic discussions, are left completely unstudied by the MTA and, for that matter, the Bicycle Coalition.

How many right-hook turns are terrorizing and injuring bicyclists every day at SOMA intersections due to the crappy design of the legacy bike lanes?

Why does the MTA, in its annual bike-count, count bikes at intersections instead of mid-block? So the direction of traffic can be obscured to the reader?

During the 3+ year bike-path injunction why did so many new cyclists continue to take to the streets in increasing numbers? Haven't we been told an nauseum that cycling can't grow unless more bike paths are built?

How many cyclist-cyclist collisions take place before and after the bike lane becomes "protected" from "traffic"?

I could go on but I'm sure you get my drift. Facts and statistics are inconvenient things to the religious faithful.

 
At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again for holding us to the fire Rob. The City really needs to build more and better infra for bikes to reduce these injury and fatality rates you're highlighting.

Question for you: how many fewer injuries and deaths do you think there'd be if it weren't for you suing the city?

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do realize that this little bit of information that you think makes you Ed Snowden is actually a reason for the city to build more bike infrastructure, not less, don't you? Keep harping on it.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for fighting the good fight. Please support MTA in building more bike lanes to reduce the number of fatalities/injuries.

 
At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

As usual, Rob, none of your critics can explain how building more urban bike infrastructure is going to reduce cyclist-only crashes and injuries. As you've reminded us numerous times, and as the SF general study indicates, solo crashes comprise about half of all crashes.

Maybe the infrastructure they have in mind is padded concrete. Or air bags built into the pavement?

 
At 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the mode share of bikes has increased quite a bit since you started your crusade against bikes. What would you say if one day in the future, 20% of trips in SF are by bike?

 
At 2:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bicyclists are getting injured at even higher rates than cities are reporting so...

Rob Anderson: no one should ride bikes.

The rest of the world: we should make streets safer for biking.

I wonder if you never getting elected to office has anything to do with the above.

 
At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What should we do about the pedestrian injuries and fatalities?

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"So the mode share of bikes has increased quite a bit since you started your crusade against bikes. What would you say if one day in the future, 20% of trips in SF are by bike?"

I'd say that was impossible. And the bike "mode share" hasn't "increased quite a bit." Look at the Transportation Fact Sheet on page 3, where you learn that in 2000 2.1% of city commuters rode bikes to work. By 2011 that percentage was up to an unimpressive 3.4% a gain of 1.3% in eleven years.

And then look at the MTA's 2011 Mode Share Survey on page 5, where you learn that only 3.4% of all trips in SF are by bicycle.

I'm not on a "crusade against bikes." What I've been saying for years is that it's a really dumb policy to redesign city streets on behalf of this small minority based on nothing but the hope that a lot more people will give up motor vehicles and start riding bikes.

I've also been saying that riding a bike is intrinsically unsafe and that it's irresponsible of City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition to encourage people---even children---to ride a bike in the city.

See also my analysis of the 20% by 2020 bullshit.

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2.1 to 3.4--that's a 62% increase! And that's without added protected infra built! Imagine what that number would be had SF built infra!

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" encouraging the unwary and the PC---even children!---to do that with no caveats about the inherent dangers involved is grossly irresponsible."

Are you saying that SF and the BC have never said there are dangers to biking? What do you propose the city do? Public awareness campaign???

 
At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"I've also been saying that riding a bike is intrinsically unsafe and that it's irresponsible of City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition to encourage people---even children---to ride a bike in the city."

Intrinsically. You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

 
At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think, just a year ago you were complaining about how the city and bike coalition were focusing too ::much:: on the dangers!

http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2012/08/2010-2011-san-francisco-collisions.html

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Bicyclists are getting injured at even higher rates than cities are reporting so...Rob Anderson: no one should ride bikes. The rest of the world: we should make streets safer for biking. I wonder if you never getting elected to office has anything to do with the above."

I've never said that "no one should ride bikes." Anyone is now and forever free to ride a bike on the streets of San Francisco, but encouraging the unwary and the PC---even children!---to do that with no caveats about the inherent dangers involved is grossly irresponsible.

The implication of the UC study is that riding a bike in SF is a lot more dangerous than City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling people. One of the findings of the study is that more than 40% of serious cycling injuries in the city are "cyclist-only" falls that have nothing to do with motor vehicles.

Not much the city can do about those accidents, except to keep the streets in good repair and filling in potholes, which are a serious danger for cyclists.

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"And to think, just a year ago you were complaining about how the city and bike coalition were focusing too much on the dangers!"

It's the Bicycle Coalition that wants to have it both ways---that our streets are safe enough for children to ride bikes on while, on the other hand, there's a daily bloodbath happening on our streets. They like to maintain the bloodbath hysteria to justify all the anti-car projects.

The city's Collision Report says that city streets have been getting safer for everyone except cyclists, since there's been a spike in cycling accidents in recent years because there are more people riding bikes in SF.

Since the recent study shows that the city has been systematically under-counting cycling accidents, the next report should show that that spike is even greater.

But there's nothing the city can do to eliminate the essential dangers of riding a bike in the city---or anywhere else, for that matter.

Another finding in the UC study: that "cyclist-only" accidents have been significantly under-reported, that is, cycling accidents that have nothing to do with a motor vehicle. Except for filling in potholes, there's not much the city can do to prevent those accidents.

 
At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

in·trin·sic ( n-tr n z k, -s k). adj. 1. Of or relating to the essential nature of a thing; inherent.

A cyclist travels at speed over a hard surface on a flimsy, lightweight vehicle with thin-walled, easily-punctured, high-pressure tires with tiny traction surfaces and rapidly-rotating sharp metal parts while wearing almost nothing to protect skin, bones and skull.

I think you have nailed what's intrinsic about bicycling, Rob.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Motorcycling, like bicycling is intrinsically more dangerous than travel within a padded steel enclosure. Despite green benefits compared to car travel, government policies have discouraged motorcycle use in contrast to strong promotion of cycling. Downplaying the actual risks of bicycling is more policy decision. Motorcycle riders don protective, padded garments and superior helmets to protect themselves while cyclists instead lobby against cars. Imagine if there was more parity for all to benefit. Pedestrians can learn too - wear more visible clothing at night.

 

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