Friday, October 04, 2013

An exchange with Walk San Francisco

From Walk San Francisco

Hi Rob,

I just found your posting today and wanted to follow up on two points:

"Thank you, Natalie, for your prompt response. No, I didn't walk to work today, since I'm retired. But I don't own a car and walk and take Muni to get around the city, which, as you say, is a very walkable city."

You're welcome.

"Could you provide some specific dollar amounts for the SFMTA and MTC donations?"

I most certainly could've---but you actually never sent this follow-up request to me, you only posted it here on your blog and therefore, I was never able to reply.

Regarding the following:

"Yes, it's sad that people get hit by cars and die in traffic accidents. But, like the Bicycle Coalition, your organization is pushing its agenda by creating the impression that there's some kind of safety emergency on city streets, a bloodbath that can only be stemmed by making it more difficult and expensive to drive in San Francisco...It's disingenuous to pretend otherwise, and we should give credit where it's due."

Walk SF disagrees---it's sad that deaths that are preventable, are not prevented. Accidents assume nothing could have stopped the death from occurring. This simply is not the case. 

Speeding is the number one cause of serious injury and death, and that's due to cars driving too fast, particularly on a limited number of corridors in the city that are designed and feel like freeways rather than streets where people live and walk.

Moreover, there is a 'safety emergency' when one considers that San Francisco has the highest pedestrian injury and fatality rate in the state AND we have the second highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities from car crashes in the nation---at almost double the national average.

But to your original point, taxpayers did NOT pay for Walk to Work Day. However, taxpayers DO pay for the emergency services (police, medical, etc.) that the city bears when a pedestrian is killed or seriously injured on its streets. 

From reading this blog post, I appreciate you have a perspective that is distinct from Walk SF. I would certainly not try to convince you of otherwise now that I understand your point of view, but it's unmerited to claim that Walk SF is disingenuous in its mission and work.

Natalie/Walk SF

Rob responds:

"Could you provide some specific dollar amounts for the SFMTA and MTC donations?" I most certainly could've---but you actually never sent this follow-up request to me, you only posted it here on your blog and therefore, I was never able to reply.

Okay, my bad. I assumed that you knew who your harshest critic in the city was. Your ignorance is evidence of how you folks, like the bike people, live in an echo chamber while brandishing an unearned self-righteousness. Like a few years ago when Elizabeth Stampe of your organization was apparently unaware of the city's annual studies on traffic accidents in San Francisco:

Walk SF disagrees---it's sad that deaths that are preventable, are not prevented. Accidents assume nothing could have stopped the death from occurring. This simply is not the case.

It's simply not the case that the term "accidents" in this context means that "nothing could have stopped the death from occurring." As my post pointed out, in recent years the MTA has had real success in reducing pedestrian fatalities on city streets. I cited the city's latest Collision Report:

As you can see on pages 19 and 20, pedestrians are responsible for a third of their own injury accidents. But the trend over the years is clear: the city's streets are getting safer for pedestrians. In 2000 there were 32 pedestrians killed on city streets, while in 2011 there were 17 killed, which is indicative of the long-term trend.

See also page 21 of the report that tells us what the city is routinely doing to improve pedestrian safety:

SFMTA has implemented a variety of measures to improve pedestrian safety, including installing new pedestrian signs, crosswalk markings, parking prohibitions, signal timing settings, countdown pedestrian signals, audible signals, traffic regulations, speed regulation changes, road diets, and traffic calming measures. General signal upgrades also benefit pedestrians by installing pedestrian signals at intersections where these devices are not present and by improving the visibility of signal indications to motorists.

Natalie:
Moreover, there is a 'safety emergency' when one considers that San Francisco has the highest pedestrian injury and fatality rate in the state AND we have the second highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities from car crashes in the nation---at almost double the national average.

This kind of  per capita calculation is problematic, as the SFMTA pointed out back in 2009 in its San Francisco 2008 Collisions Report:

In 2007 San Francisco had the highest pedestrian injury collision per capita rate among the largest cities in California (Figure 21). However, there are significant problems with comparing collision totals using per capita rates. Even after population size is accounted for, cities can have vastly different vehicular miles traveled, daytime populations, transportation networks, built densities, and walking rates. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, when looking at similar per capita rates for the Bay Area, recognized that “San Franciscans likely make more trips by walking than residents of other, less dense cities, which may account for the higher number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries in San Francisco County.”

See also the MTA's New York City’s Pedestrian Safety Study and San Francisco Data for a full discussion of this issue:

But to your original point, taxpayers did NOT pay for Walk to Work Day. However, taxpayers DO pay for the emergency services (police, medical, etc.) that the city bears when a pedestrian is killed or seriously injured on its streets.

But in your response to my question back in April, you said that "The SFMTA and the MTC did both make small inkind donations..." Specifically how large/"small" were those "donations"? Seems that city taxpayers did in part "pay for Walk to Work Day":

From reading this blog post, I appreciate you have a perspective that is distinct from Walk SF. I would certainly not try to convince you of otherwise now that I understand your point of view, but it's unmerited to claim that Walk SF is disingenuous in its mission and work.

Please do "try to convince" me otherwise about the role your organization is playing in creating a unjustified sense of emergency about the safety of city streets. My "point of view" on the issue is based on city documents. Hard to see exactly what yours is based on beyond pushing your organization's anti-car agenda.

You ignore one of the main points my post made:

Your organization's support for City Hall's anti-car bike projects on Fell and Oak Streets and on Masonic Avenue is particularly galling, since those projects will result in eliminating more than 200 street parking spaces in a part of town where there's a limited supply of parking for people who have to drive but don't have garages to park their cars. Not to mention that none of these streets has a bad safety record. These projects aren't going to make those streets safer; they're just going to make traffic congestion worse. But that seems to be part of your organization's agenda, which seems to be the same as the anti-car Bicycle Coalition's agenda (emphasis added).


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The barbarism of Islamophobia. Oh, wait...

Islam: The Religion of Peace

We have to talk about the barbarism of modern Islamist terrorism
Brendan O'Neill
The Telegraph

In Western news-making and opinion-forming circles, there’s a palpable reluctance to talk about the most noteworthy thing about modern Islamist violence: its barbarism, its graphic lack of moral restraint. This goes beyond the BBC's yellow reluctance to deploy the T-word---terrorism---in relation to the bloody assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya at the weekend. Across the commentating board, people are sheepish about pointing out the historically unique lunacy of Islamist violence and its utter detachment from any recognisable moral universe or human values. We have to talk about this barbarism; we have to appreciate how new and unusual it is, how different it is even from the terrorism of the 1970s or of the early twentieth century. We owe it to the victims of these assaults, and to the principle of honest and frank political debate, to face up to the unhinged, morally unanchored nature of Islamist violence in the 21st century.

Maybe it’s because we have become so inured to Islamist terrorism in the 12 years since 9/11 that even something like the blowing-up of 85 Christians outside a church in Pakistan no longer shocks us or even makes it on to many newspaper front pages. But consider what happened: two men strapped with explosives walked into a group of men, women and children who were queuing for food and blew up themselves and the innocents gathered around them. Who does that? How far must a person have drifted from any basic system of moral values to behave in such an unrestrained and wicked fashion? Yet the Guardian tells us it is “moral masturbation” to express outrage over this attack, and it would be better to give into a “sober recognition that there are many bad things we can’t as a matter of fact do much about”. This is a demand that we further acclimatise to the peculiar and perverse bloody Islamist attacks around the world, shrug our shoulders, put away our moral compasses, and say: “Ah well, this kind of thing happens.”

Or consider the attack on Westgate in Kenya, where both the old and the young, black and white, male and female were targeted. With no clear stated aims from the people who carried the attack out, and no logic to their strange and brutal behaviour, Westgate had more in common with those mass mall and school shootings that are occasionally carried out by disturbed people in the West than it did with the political violence of yesteryear. And yet still observers avoid using the T-word or the M-word (murder) to describe what happened there, and instead attach all sorts of made-up, see-through political theories to this rampage, giving what was effectively a terror tantrum executed by morally unrestrained Islamists the respectability of being a political protest of some breed...

Thanks to Spiked for the link.

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