Friday, August 22, 2014

An exchange with the Bay Guardian on the UC study

On Aug 20, 2014 at 5:12 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
You seem to have an exaggerated sense of your importance, Rob. I can assure you that your post had absolutely nothing to do with our decision.

Steven T. Jones
Editor-in-Chief
SF Bay Guardian
835 Market Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

On Aug 20, 2014 at 5:19 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Okay. But when is the Guardian going to write about that UC study?

On Aug 21, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Should we stop the presses to reveal the results of an obscure study from December 2012 finding that cyclists crash sometimes? It may fit into your persistent thesis that cycling is dangerous, but I don't see anything in this report that would surprise anyone or have any significant public policy ramifications. It says that most cyclist injuries are caused by automobiles (58.5 percent), although cyclist-only collisions were more likely to result in admissions (not surprising given that if you're a cyclist who crashes and then decides to go to the hospital, then you're probably pretty injured, whereas in collisions that involve cars and a police response, cyclists may be persuaded to the go to the hospital even if there's not sure they need it). What are you seeing here that I'm not, Rob?

On Aug 21, 2014 at 3:36 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Jesus, Steve, you either haven't read the study or you have a serious reading disorder. The whole point of the study is about the city's method of counting cycling accidents. The city has been relying on police reports and ignoring a lot of cycling accidents---and these are serious injury accidents---treated at SF General Hospital: 1,300 by my count between 2000 and 2009. And the other finding: that those "cyclist-only" accidents are the most under-counted and just as serious as those involving another vehicle.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 4:27 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Again, what's your point, Rob? If cycling accidents are being undercounted, and you believe pedestrian and automobile injuries are as well, why does that matter? What should people do with this information? People still need to get around in this dangerous world we live in, and the best the city can do is try to make that as safe as possible with infrastructure that helps protect people (such as bulbouts for pedestrians and protected bike lanes for cyclists) and by trying to slow down automobile traffic, which is by far the greatest public safety threat on the roadways and one in which numerous studies show become substantially less dangerous when they slow down.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:17 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Just for the record and to get a complete copy of the study, you should contact Dr. Dicker, who will send a downloadable copy to you: DickerR@sfghsurg.ucsf.edu. Even my transcription of the study doesn't have all the graphs that make the numbers clear.

If the city is over-relying on police reports and neglecting thousands of accidents treated at SF General---the primary trauma center for the city---we don't know how dangerous and/or safe our streets really are. The city's annual Collisions Report not only provides a count of cycling, pedestrian, and auto accidents, it analyzes those accidents and then lists the most dangerous streets and intersections and how it tries to make them safer.

It can't do that without knowing where the accidents are happening. Anyone who writes about the safety of city streets needs to have that information. On my blog, I've been assuming for years that the Collisions Reports have accurately tallied the accidents and where they happen. But that can no longer be assumed if the city has a such a seriously flawed system of counting and analyzing accidents.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
I'd be happy to look at the study, but I just don't find this as interesting or compelling as you seem to. I doubt that even a 50 percent undercounting of bike accidents, which is what the report found, would significantly alter street design or enforcement.

On, Aug 21, 2014 at 5:36 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
How can you not be interested in a better understanding of how safe/unsafe our streets are? The MTA can't even make its "improvements" to our streets without accurate information on where and why accidents happen.

Of course I think riding a bike is a lot more dangerous than you folks and the Bicycle Coalition have been assuming, and, as the study found, solo falls by cyclists are the most under-counted type of accident, which aren't necessarily prevented by improvements to the infrastructure.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:52 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Most bike accidents involve a car, as the study found. And infrastructure (particularly potholes and pavement quality) does indeed have a big impact on solo crashes. It's not like cyclists are just crashing for no reason, Rob. So I see no reason to believe that better bike infrastructure won't help with safety, particularly with such huge crowds of cyclists during rush hours these days. Rob, people have been riding bikes for centuries, and they are a clean and efficient mode of transportation that is growing popularity by all accounts, even if cyclists are definitely exposed to danger and sometimes crash. Sure, better reporting of cyclists accidents might help the city identify dangerous streets a little better than they do now, but this report is never, ever going to support your unrealistic and extreme position that cycling is an inherently dangerous activity that the city shouldn't support. That's not what its conclusion says and there's no way this report is ever going to convince me that you the city should agree with your fanaticism and stop trying to make cycling safer in San Francisco.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 9:15 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Okay, Steve. But I still have the impression that you haven't read this study and don't really understand its implications. You seem to think that you already know enough, that doing any more reading and thinking is unnecessary. You don't seem to know what you don't know, not a good position for an editor to be in. It's not a matter of agreeing with me about anything. It's about coming to grips with this specific document and what it means for the overall safety of city streets (Please email Dr. Dicker to get a copy of the study.)

The study does in fact support my view a lot better than it does yours, since it found that both the number and the severity of cycling accidents in San Francisco have been significantly under-counted for more than ten years.


Of course the document doesn't conclude that riding a bike is "inherently dangerous," but that's the implication of its findings after comparing records at SF General with the police reports. Hard to conclude anything other than that cycling is more dangerous than you, the Bicycle Coalition, and City Hall have been saying if between 2000 and 2009 there were more than 1,300 cycling injury accidents that we didn't know about before this study.


The first I heard of this study was in a NY Times story last October about how people in emergency rooms were shocked about the number and severity of cycling accidents. They wanted to learn more about that, which is why they made the study we're talking about.


And there's another study that says the city has been making the same mistake in counting pedestrian accidents.


But, dude, I know you are busy. I don't want to crowd your mind with a lot of bothersome details about the safety or lack thereof of our streets as you're getting ready to go to Burning Man.


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28 Comments:

At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have the impression that you haven't read this study and don't really understand its implications.

Summarize:

1) What are the implications of the study?

2) What should we be doing different because of that?

 
At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Here's another study about cycling from UC http://blogs.westword.com/showandtell/2014/07/more_cycling_more_safety.php

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I explain it clearly in the post: 1. The city doesn't have any idea how safe/unsafe our streets are 2. The city has to correct the way it counts accidents, since relying only on police reports is obviously not adequate.

 
At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How frustrating that Steve simply abandoned the conversation without concluding it. We were so close to convincing him, and that would lead to having all the bike lanes ripped out, but he had to rush out to Burning Man. Well, next month for sure.

 
At 4:12 PM, Anonymous James said...

You're right Rob, hopefully the City recognizes this statistically insignificant UC Study and plans to implement Vision Zero must faster, along with buffered bike lanes and by slowing car speeds in the city. You're just too damn thoughtful and caring.

 
At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Justin said...

I think Steve's right here. The police reported 3,700 injuries over 10 years. That's 370/year. About 1 a day. Given that there are 75,000 bike trips a day it doesn't seem significant. Even if it was 2 injuries a day, about what seems to be getting underreported.

And what's the conclusion of the UC study?

"Based on this study, we conclude that trauma centers can play a key role in future collaborations to define issues and develop prevention strategies for CO crashes."

 
At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

When the SFPD starts issuing tickets to scofflaw cyclists in the Wiggle you can be certain that within hours the pro-bike media will be howling that the SFPD should be directing its enforcement efforts based solely upon safety data. They rightly express probing skepticism about the factual basis for the SFPD's tactics.

When relevant new safety data become available detailing bicycle casualties and its publication is brought to the attention of local pro-bike media, the media then express skepticism that the data reveal anything that they don't already know and they resist any probity whatsoever.

 
At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2014/08/22/closed-crosswalks-remain-even-in-todays-walkable-hayes-valley/

Meanwhile the walk nuts continue to find new ways to impede drivers with stunts like this. I'm sure it's a total coincidence that Sharia law specifies that every block in a city must have a marked crosswalk. Yep, total coincidence, not evidence that the Islamists are slowly taking over San Francisco by using front groups like Streetsblog (yes, that was sarcasm).

 
At 8:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I think Steve's right here. The police reported 3,700 injuries over 10 years. That's 370/year."

Even allowing for the fact that no one really likes to read opinions that contradict theirs, you bikesters have a hard time even being relevant here. Steven didn't make any such claim about the police reports being adequate. He seemed to think the numbers were just irrelevant.

1,300 serious bike accidents we didn't know about? No problem. One wonders what kind of number would give him pause? 2,600? 5,000? He thinks better infrastructure and slower traffic will solve all problems.

And separated bike lanes. Which city streets really have the space to make separated bike lanes? Masonic Avenue actually doesn't, but the city is going to take away two parking lanes and 167 parking spaces to make separated bike lanes. The city should brace itself for potential political blow-back on that one.

Where else? Of course, even as it takes away street parking to make bike lanes, making it harder on motorists, the city is also doing a bad job of making the street surfaces safe, and potholes are a serious safety hazard for cyclists.

That's the problem City Hall has with the $500 million bond on the ballot in November, which needs a 2/3 vote. Just a few years ago, the city persuaded voters to pass a $248 million street bond, and they're coming back for more already, even though the city makes $200 million a year by preying on everyone who has to drive in the city---and the SFCTA, which brings in more than $70 million a year, is squandering transportation money on the Central Subway.

Voters will have a chance to both reject the bond and vote for the Restore Transportation Balance initiative in November, though it's not clear that the campaign that got it on the ballot is going to have the money to wage a real campaign on its behalf.

And we lose Leah Shahum at the end of the year!

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Meanwhile the walk nuts continue to find new ways to impede drivers with stunts like this. I'm sure it's a total coincidence that Sharia law specifies that every block in a city must have a marked crosswalk. Yep, total coincidence, not evidence that the Islamists are slowly taking over San Francisco by using front groups like Streetsblog (yes, that was sarcasm)."

Thanks for labeling it. It's not always easy to tell with you guys. Your lame attempt at parody involves two issues city progressives are fucking up: traffic and Islam. Is it alright to call the guy who beheaded James Foley a "savage"? Maybe I better check with Theresa Sparks and City Hall first!

But what are your issues? What is the "progressive" agenda? Except for anti-carism and the bike bullshit, which I suspect isn't very popular.

 
At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My issues are preventing Sharia and driving as fast as possible through Hayes Valley, thank you for asking, Rob!

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Jones said...

This is really rich coming from someone who moderates their comments and picks and chooses who gets posted on their blog. At least the Bay Guardian decided to block everyone, not just the ones they favor.

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2. The city has to correct the way it counts accidents, since relying only on police reports is obviously not adequate.

You are making this claim without backing it up. Why are the police reports inadequate? Imperfect does not imply inadequate.

 
At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Restore Transportation Balance initiative in November, though it's not clear that the campaign that got it on the ballot is going to have the money to wage a real campaign on its behalf.

Already making excuses!

I guess that's the problem with the "silent majority" who love cars and hate bikes. They spent all their money on their car so they don't have any left to contribute to a campaign.

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You are making this claim without backing it up. Why are the police reports inadequate? Imperfect does not imply inadequate."

Another bike guy with a reading disorder. Actually, that's probably not accurate, since it implies that you even read this post, let alone the UC study I linked for you.

One more time: The police report system was so far from perfection that it missed counting more than 1,300 serious cycling accidents treated at SF General Hospital between 2000 and 2009---and presumably ever since then. Got it?

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"This is really rich coming from someone who moderates their comments and picks and chooses who gets posted on their blog. At least the Bay Guardian decided to block everyone, not just the ones they favor."

Yes, because it's my blog, not the political blog of a publication that purports to be the most important source of progressive opinion in San Francisco.

I get a lot of anonymous, cutesy, straining-to-be-clever comments from assholes like you that rarely raise substantive issues. If you and the others want to come out from behind your anonymity, I might post your comments. Then people in the city's political community could decide how cute and clever you are.

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Already making excuses! I guess that's the problem with the 'silent majority' who love cars and hate bikes. They spent all their money on their car so they don't have any left to contribute to a campaign."

I haven't owned a car in more than 20 years, and of course I don't hate bikes as physical objects. I just object to morons like you making traffic policy for San Francisco against the interests of more than 90% of those who use the streets of the city.

As I said, it's too soon to tell whether the effort to get the transportation balance measure on the ballot will be matched by an effort to get it passed.

At the very least, the initiative sure got under the skin of the city's anti-car bike movement. Rarely a day goes by without it being mentioned on SF Streetsblog, where the bike people go to congratulate themselves for being "car-free."

Lurking deep in your tiny little two-wheeled brains is the fear that an overwhelming majority in the city really dislikes you folks and that they will turn out in November to express that antipathy.

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

One more time: The police report system was so far from perfection that it missed counting more than 1,300 serious cycling accidents treated at SF General Hospital between 2000 and 2009---and presumably ever since then. Got it?

Give one tangible example of a policy decision that would differ had we had perfect data.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's not a matter of being "perfect." What the city had supposedly doing for years in its annual Collisions Reports is both count the accidents on city streets and study the streets where a significant number of accidents happen to see how they might be prevented in the future. That might involve a change in how an intersection is designed with lane changes or changing the timing of traffic lights, etc.

See for example page 8 in the Collisions Report for a list of city intersections that had the most accidents followed by an analysis of each intersection and some proposed changes to avoid future accidents.

The problem with failing to account for---and analyze---those 1,300 injury accidents is that that process can't happen for those accidents to find out how to make city streets safer.

On a policy level, I favor having the city stop pushing people---even children---to ride bicycles in the city as if it was simply a green, win-win deal for everyone instead of the rather dangerous transportation "mode" that it really is.

 
At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's worse than that - they are actually encouraging children to walk to school, despite the insane dangers involved.

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, walking to school is sensible, depending on how close children are to their school. Riding a bike is a lot more dangerous.

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

Rob, I was wondering what the study's authors discuss with you when you correspond with them. Would you be willing to publish some of those correspondences?

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I haven't "discussed" the study with any of the authors. After reading the NY Times story , I contacted Dr. Dicker, who was quoted in the story, to get a copy of the study: "Is it possible to get a copy of the report on cycling injuries referred to in Tuesday's NY Times story?" Her response: "Sure. Thanks for your interest."

Later I asked her about cycling injuries treated at other hospitals in the city besides SF General: "Is it right that your study used data only from the SFPD and SF General? One wonders about data on cycling accidents from other emergency rooms in the city."

Her response:
"Given that SFGH is San Francisco's only trauma center, all seriously injured people, if they don't come to SFGH, are transferred there. The city contracts with SFGH to provide 98% of trauma care. St. Lukes gets a small percentage. We certainly miss people who go to their PMD or to ERs with minor injuries. From the standpoint of trauma surveillance, SF is unique in that we are able to capture the vast majority from looking at just one hospital. Other cities often don't have that capacity. It's fortunate because we can document quite accurately our burden of injury for purposes of matching that burden with resources towards injury prevention and policy."

That's it.

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

By the way, Dr. Dicker told the NY Times why she and her colleagues did the study:
"Dr. Rochelle Dicker, a trauma surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, does not see it that way. She cares for victims of the worst bicycle injuries, people who might need surgery and often end up in intensive care. So she decided to investigate those crashes. She and her colleagues reviewed hospital and police records for 2,504 bicyclists who had been treated at San Francisco General Hospital. She expected that most of these serious injuries would involve cars; to her surprise, nearly half did not...Cyclists wounded in crashes that did not involve a car were more than four times as likely to be hurt so badly that they were admitted to the hospital. Yet these injuries often did not result in police reports--a frequent source of injury data--and appeared only in the hospital trauma registry. Dr. Dicker is not a cyclist, but she said, 'Lots of my colleagues do not want to ride after seeing these injuries.'”

What's odd about the NY Times story is that it quotes a Centers for Disease Control official who claimed her organization didn't find that cycling was particularly dangerous: "There is no trend."

But the CDC link provided in the story takes you directly to this that directly contradicts that statement:
"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."

 
At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also interesting to note on the CDC website, the facts about auto injuries and deaths: http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/index.html

"Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.2The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005."

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, but you're still ignoring this: "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."

 
At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S."

"bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do"

So let's ban the people getting hurt, not the item causing the hurt. Got it.

 
At 12:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Who's talking about banning anything?

 

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