Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Chronicle's story on Masonic Avenue #1

Photo: Connor Radnovich

The SF Chronicle belatedly checked in last Thursday with a story on the Masonic Avenue bike project ($26 million plan to slow speeding traffic on SF’s Masonic Avenue) long after the poor stories in the Examiner based on pro-project sources, mainly the MTA itself. Hoodline has done several Masonic stories, the first of which was awful. Lately it's wisely letting the comments take over after a more or less objective post.

Until last week's story, it looked like the Chronicle was going to ignore the controversial Masonic Avenue project, like it ignored the UC study that showed San Francisco's radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents. The New York Times ("All the News That's Fit to Print"), on the other hand, thought that cycling and public safety in San Francisco was worth a story. 

More recently, by the way, the Chronicle hasn't done a single story on the latest bicycle count report, apparently because the count showed that the bike revolution in San Francisco is essentially over, since the count showed a 7% decline in the number of cyclists commuting by bike in the city. The SF Chronicle: "All the news that fits"?

A couple of years ago the Chronicle celebrated---front page, above the fold!---a bicycle count report that supposedly showed---falsely, as it turned out---a significant increase in cyclists (See Journalism by press release). 

This year there has been no bicycle count story at all in the Chronicle, let alone a story on the front page. (SF Streetsblog has also ignored the latest count report like it did the UC study.)

Over the years the Chronicle has been as committed to the bicycle fantasy as the Bicycle Coalition itself, with front page stories favorable to Critical Mass after it was marred by violence, uncritical interviews with Leah Shahum, and poorly-informed editorials on CEQA and the Bicycle Plan litigation.

From last week's Chronicle story on Masonic:

A new plan for Masonic aims to slow traffic and make the street safer by installing a median strip, widening sidewalks, adding protected lanes for bikes and creating boarding areas for Muni. And it makes room for all those changes by eliminating — or, in the words of transportation planners, “repurposing” — 167 parking spaces and squeezing three lanes of rush-hour traffic into two.

As everyone in this neighborhood knows, the sidewalks on Masonic are already among the widest in the city, and there never has been a safety issue about boarding Muni on Masonic. Both those statements are simply MTA propaganda to bolster its "safety" lie to justify this project.

It's also deceptive to say that eliminating all that street parking is about something other than creating the separated bike lanes. The paragraph muddies the waters by implying that the already-wide sidewalks and creating new Muni boarding areas also require removing 167 parking spaces. That is simply untrue. 

In fact the new and unimproved boarding areas on Masonic will be like those the city created on Divisadero: the #43 bus will stop in the traffic lane to pick up passengers, often trapping trailing vehicles in the intersection as the light changes.

What about "installing a median strip" on Masonic? The Examiner story last week quoted bike demagogue Michael Helquist about the alleged danger in crossing Masonic on foot:

Michael Helquist, who wrote the blog BIKE NOPA and who lives a block away from Masonic Avenue, said his neighbors sometimes opt to drive distances as short as three blocks so they don’t have to cross the busy roadway by foot.

Michael Helquist is a liar. I cross Masonic on foot every day at the Masonic/Fulton intersection and have never felt unsafe doing so. In the only in-depth study the city has done on Masonic (Masonic Avenue Redesign Study), we learn about foot traffic and safety at this intersection: 

According to recent counts, the intersection of Masonic at Fulton Street has the highest volume of pedestrian traffic with an average of 1,013 people counted between 5-7pm (page 13).

On the same page, we learn that even with all that foot traffic there was only one pedestrian "collision" at Fulton and Masonic in six years!

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