Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How safe are city streets?


Along with under-reporting cycling accidents, apparently the city has also been under-reporting pedestrian injury accidents for the same reason: not counting all those accidents treated at San Francisco General. From a 2005 study (San Francisco pedestrian injury surveillance: mapping, under-reporting, and injury severity in police and hospital records):

We found that police collision reports underestimated the number of injured pedestrians by 21% (531/2442). Pedestrians treated at SFGH who were African-American were less likely then[sic] whites, and females were more likely than males to have a police collision report...

City Hall was in such a big hurry to rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan illegally through the process it failed to take seriously an important recommendation in the Framework Document, which the Board of Supervisors voted to make part of the General Plan (It tried to hide the second volume of the Plan, the Network Document, at the SFCTA):

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 (SFGH) 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. Comparing police collision reports with SFGH emergency room visits or hospital admissions shows that approximately 20 percent of pedestrian injuries (caused by a collision with a motor vehicle) did not show up in police collision reports in 2000 and 2001. The rate for bicycle injuries is probably similarly under-reported (page 6-12, SF Bike Plan: Policy Framework, September 2004).

The city knew in 2004 that it had a problem counting both cycling and pedestrian accidents. Evidently the "injury data linkage project" was not completed or implemented.

That answers more completely the question I asked last year: What did City Hall know, and when did it know it?

But we still don't know why or how this failure happened. Maybe when the MTA releases its long-overdue Collisions Report there will be an explanation.

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17 Comments:

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you really are a piece of work rob. here are all these pedestrian and cyclist collisions in the city caused by motor vehicles and the city tries to do something about it by making walking and biking safer and more common because motor vehicles are the #1 cause of the fatalities. and then we have people like yourself who OPPOSE the changes. and then you have the audacity to bring this up? you are one of the people responsible for SLOWING DOWN THE IMPROVEMENTS that are meant to PREVENT THE COLLISIONS AND DEATHS. thankfully the city is continuing to make safety improvements despite your efforts to oppose them but its not fast enough to prevent the dozens of fatalities that will be caused this year by motor vehicles in the city.

 
At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

im baffled why you find this surprising. this is true for every city in the country--a person going to the ER doesnt get tracked by the transit agency it gets tracked by the ER and the hospital and public health department. you have so much misguided rage. if you find this upsetting you should be upset at literally every single municipality in the united states. good lord.

 
At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"City Hall was in such a big hurry to rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan illegally through the process"

maybe because dozens of people are killed by motor vehicles in san francisco each year and they want to make changes to the streets to reduce the deaths before more people get killed. you know just a thought. but yeah lets not rush it! whats a few more dozen people killed by cars in a city? blood hoses down pretty easily doesnt it rob?

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

Yes, I can see that you're confused. Where is the "rage" in this post? Seems pretty straightforward to me. I suspect you're projecting your emotion onto me. Maybe you have an issue with this blog: I post this at 11:46 and you comment nine minutes later.

I too am "baffled"---about why the city didn't do the important project tracking injuries the Bicycle Plan wrote about.

I also suspect your claim about "every city in the country" is bullshit. Maybe you can provide some evidence for that?

Here in San Francisco, a tracking system was discussed in the Bicycle Plan, but, for reasons unknown, it wasn't implemented. The city should tell us why.

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we do track collisions and injuries we just dont get all of them because some of them ARENT REPORTED. that is true for every fucking city in america

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"here are all these pedestrian and cyclist collisions in the city caused by motor vehicles and the city tries to do something about it by making walking and biking safer and more common because motor vehicles are the #1 cause of the fatalities. and then we have people like yourself who OPPOSE the changes. and then you have the audacity to bring this up?"

Pretty stupid stuff, Anon. What I oppose is redesigning city streets to benefit a small minority of cyclists against the interests of more than 90% who use our streets. Those "improvements" don't necessarily improve anyone's safety. As I've pointed out, the MTA's safety claims to justify projects can be bogus.

But the real question is, How do we know how safe/unsafe our streets even are if the city doesn't have a sensible method of counting accidents? If you're concerned about safety, that question should interest you.

As the emerging evidence is showing, cycling has intrinsic dangers that can't be eliminated by bike lanes and other "improvements" to city streets.

 
At 12:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"maybe because dozens of people are killed by motor vehicles in san francisco each year and they want to make changes to the streets to reduce the deaths before more people get killed. you know just a thought. but yeah lets not rush it! whats a few more dozen people killed by cars in a city? blood hoses down pretty easily doesnt it rob?"

How do we know how many people are killed on city streets if the city has a defective method of counting accidents? And the city knew and admitted it had this problem way back in 2004!

 
At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both of my serious cycling accidents were solo falls, one time because I was avoiding another cyclist who fell in front of me at the Presidio, the other time because I did not watch what I was doing. How would "redesigning" streets to make them "safer" have helped my two falls when no autos were involved? And also, regarding the statistics on cycling accidents, do these numbers include where a bicyclist may have been breaking the law ?(running a stop sign or red light as an example) The same thing regarding pedestrian accidents. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone staring at their IPhone walk out on to a street without looking up to see if a car or bike was coming. Why would that be the driver's fault?

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Both of my serious cycling accidents were solo falls, one time because I was avoiding another cyclist who fell in front of me at the Presidio, the other time because I did not watch what I was doing. How would "redesigning" streets to make them "safer" have helped my two falls when no autos were involved? And also, regarding the statistics on cycling accidents, do these numbers include where a bicyclist may have been breaking the law ?(running a stop sign or red light as an example) The same thing regarding pedestrian accidents. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone staring at their IPhone walk out on to a street without looking up to see if a car or bike was coming. Why would that be the driver's fault?"

Most injuries are not caused by solo falls and almost every bicyclist death was not caused by a solo fall. Additionally pedestrian deaths are caused almost exclusively by motor vehicles. And your question about fault. Drivers of cars break the law just as often if not more often than cyclists. When they kill people we "redesign" the highway to make it less likely it'll happen again (guard rails, more visible lanes, lower speed limits). We apply the same logic to bicycling and redesigning the street to make it better for cyclists too.

 
At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anderson's blog is hardly a more rounded view. Generally, it's an
> uninformed rant about things that Anderson doesn't like, or understand. And
> he doesn't like having his blather corrected, especially by someone with
> actual data or factual information. You'll read numerous attempts by
> others trying to correct his diatribe, but he doesn't have it in him to
> admit that someone else actually knows more than he does."

sums you up well

 
At 6:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Just hot air by another anonymous windbag. Specifics, please?

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous James said...

If you're that concerned about injury caused by cycling, why not spell it out for everyone? You have the information right at your fingertips. Tell your readers the probability/statistics on getting injured in San Francisco on a bike. You can even compare the city's numbers and the UC numbers. You tout that it's "more dangerous than we thought". So, by how much?

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

"You can even compare the city's numbers and the UC numbers. You tout that it's "more dangerous than we thought". So, by how much?"

GOOD QUESTION!

First of all, Rob HAS publicized the casualty statistics from both the UC study and the MTA and has formally requested that the MTA update its data-gathering methodology and MTA chief Rieskin has responded positively to the request.

Will you give Rob a financial grant to do the research you request?

The MTA is funded by millions in taxpayer wealth and employs thousands of pencil-pushers. One of the most valuable things it does is accumulate and publish statistics on the state of transportation and traffic. It could do a lot more, a lot better and I wish it would.

As a cyclist I am frustrated that civic conversations are mostly informed by nothing other than fatality statistics, as though being killed is the only lousy thing to be concerned about.

The city appears to be flying blind when it comes to the more mundane, but many-times more frequent perils and terrors of right-hook turns, non-fatal collisions, bike-on-bike mayhem, solo falls, pavement hazards and others.

In a city with research universities and in this era of inexpensive video and GPS-tracking smart phones is there any reason why so little data are accumulated and published about what cyclists experience over time and distance, and where they experience it?

Oh yeah, here's a reason: There's no need for facts when you have faith-based cyclepath religion guiding city policy at all times.

It would help here in SF if we had a less evengelical and more realistic bicycle coalition like the one to the south of us which is working with Stanford Medical Center to study cyclists' safety experience.

http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/bikeabouttown/article/Silicon-Valley-Bicycle-Coalition-s-plan-for-safer-5291253.php

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You can even compare the city's numbers and the UC numbers. You tout that it's 'more dangerous than we thought.' So, by how much?"

You seem to think you're making a salient point, but obviously you haven't even read this post, which shows that we really don't know the real accident numbers, let alone have them "at our fingertips." What the city should be doing: comparing injury accidents covered by police reports with those treated at SF General Hospital, the primary trauma center in the city.

The UC study on cycling injuries only tracked those, not pedestrian injuries or motor vehicle injury accidents. Almost all the latter have police reports.

And that UC study only covered the years 2000-2009.

 
At 4:21 PM, Anonymous James said...

So let me make sure I read this right. Cycling is dangerous in the city, but we don't know by how much, or what kinds of statistics... even though you could approximate by using the average numbers listed in the city reports and combine them with the UC report. There is mounting evidence that supports that more people cycling makes it safe for everyone, and there are also statistics in other parts of the united states where millions of miles have been ridden with very few injuries, those not including all the people on bikes that did not injure other people. The safety savings would be two fold. Check out bike-share statistics for more information. It also sounds like pedestrian counts are also higher, which I would assume the city should announce before anyone decides to leave their house.

Given this information and your picture of a smashed bicycle, I have a difficult time believing you're not trying to be a fear-monger when it comes to bikes from the past.

Maybe I'm just supposed to take your bike information as a counter-point (like fox news and CNN) to any other site with an agenda and realize it's going to be full of biased self-serving BS as well.

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous James said...

and actually I found where that quote came from - "anderson's blog is hardly" it comes from here

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/lowerhaightorg/sxHhk9JEKAI/8rM-GnUdveYJ

"> Patricia:
>
> Yes, the SFBC's website has a lot of information on cycling in the city, and
> so does the MTA site. But to get a more rounded view, you need to read my
> blog (http://district5diary.blogspot.com/), even though I'm considered the
> anti-Christ by the city's bike people, since I was a party to the litigation
> that forced the city to do an EIR on the 500-page Bicycle Plan.
>
> Regards,
>
> Rob Anderson "

I guess I know what "a more rounded" view means now.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You refer to evidence and information, but you never produce any.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

"While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do. In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion."

 

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