Friday, April 04, 2008

The bogus Fell/Masonic emergency

My Dear Winton:

You mean It's All About The Kids? Bullshit. In the first place, changing the configuration and/or the signals at the intersection won't necessarily make it any safer. Cyclists and drivers will still rush to beat the lights. More importantly, this move is just another ploy by the Bicycle Coalition and its many enablers in City Hall to do an end-run around the injunction on the Bicycle Plan. The Bicycle Coalition has been whipping up hysteria about the Fell/Masonic and Market/Octavia intersections for months.

I've lived in SF off and on since 1961, and the Fell/Masonic intersection has always been dicey. The left turn off Fell Street onto Masonic Ave. is not a new thing. Has that intersection become any more dangerous since, for example, the injunction was issued in 2006? I don't believe it, and the city doesn't seem to have any numbers to prove that. In fact, the city doesn't really have any reliable citywide data base on cycling accidents in San Francisco, which the Bicycle Plan itself points out (see page 6-12 in the Framework Document). 

The same people who insisted that the 527-page Bicycle Plan didn't need any environmental review are now trumping up a bogus safety emergency on city streets to get around the injunction. That's what's really happening here, Winton. You and other city progs are simply being manipulated by Leah Shahum and her many allies in city government.

Winton is responding to this article in the SF Chronicle.

See also the article last year by Steve Jones on the Fell/Masonic intersection.

Dear Rob,

Why on earth are you opposed to the safety of kids? My friends and I walk on the panhandle a lot, and I am always amazed by the lack of a separate pedestrian/left turn phase at Masonic. I can't believe you are opposing fixing this. I'm a driver, pedestrian and a motorbiker, and just like you I generally HATE SF cyclists lack of respect for the Driving Code, but you are completely wrong on the Masonic/Fell Oak intersection. Try crossing that road a dozen times and find out how many times cars try to run you over. It's true that cyclists need to learn to stop at Stops, etc, but at that intersection they actually have the right of away remember when the lights are green. I frankly hate making that turn when I'm driving because I'm worried someone will ride thru on their cycles at 15 miles an hour and hit me in my car. Please withdraw your opposition to this.


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At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're basically just as selfish asshole all around, car-boy.

At 7:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, this turn is nothing new. However, in the 30 plus years I have lived in the City I can assure you that driver behavior has worsened. Sir Isaac Newton said that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Don't blame the SF Bicycle coalition for overkill. My fellow (but clueless) motorists have brought this on themselves.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You can "assure" me of whatever you want, but that doesn't provide the city with a factual basis for the proposed changes. Hence, it's reasonable to conclude that the SFBC has whipped up a lot of hysteria based on nothing but a desire to circumvent the injunction. The City Attorney's brief is also asking the judge to give the city a blank check to address any other so-called safety issues on city streets without asking his permission before doing it. But the city and the SFBC can count on True Believers like you to line up in support of whatever they want to do. The problem is Judge Busch doesn't put his finger to the wind before he makes a decision; he'll decide on the facts and the law, which is bad news for you bike lemmings.

At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you are opposed to fixing the intersection because it has been a problem for a long time?

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous murphstahoe said...

you admit yourself that it has always been dicey. For everyone. Problem is, the people that it is dicey for have always had very little capability to do anything about it, and nobody seemed to care. Whether or not it has gotten worse should not matter - you admit it's a crappy intersection. Now maybe we don't have to put up with it anymore. Except for Rob Anderson - he prefers it dicey. OK, maybe he doesn't PREFER it do be dicey - he's such an environmental whackjob that JUST IN CASE it might cause a little extra global warming we better not put a better signal set up there.

I figured I'd call Rob a whackjob in tribute to his primary tactic - the ad hominem attack.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"So you are opposed to fixing the intersection because it has been a problem for a long time?"
The question is, Why now? If, as is the case, this intersection has for obvious reasons always been a problem, why is the city only now getting around to addressing it? Is it just a coincidence that the city is trying to lift the injunction after the Bicycle Coalition has for months been whipping up hysteria about these intersections? And where's the city's data base comparing this intersection with others in the city?

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

"I figured I'd call Rob a whackjob in tribute to his primary tactic - the ad hominem attack."
My primary tactic is to base my opinions on the facts. There's no factual basis for the city to change that intersection now.

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous murphstahoe said...

Why now is that finally there is the will to do something about it, instead of just putting up with it.

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous DXW said...

The City does have a reliable database of REPORTED bicycle collisions - over the past 5 years 15 collisions were reported to police in which bicyclists were hit by motorists turning left from Fell Street onto Masonic Avenue. As SFMTA's most recent bicycle collision report shows (see, this total is greater than any intersection total for the period between 2000 and 2006 (the latest period for which citywide data are available).

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why didn't the city propose these changes years ago? Who was responsible for those accidents? What about accidents before 2000? I pass that intersection several times a week, and I've seen a lot of foolishness displayed by cyclists at that intersection.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous SanFranCitizen said...

"My primary tactic is to base my opinions on the facts."

You like to base your opinions on facts that you find that support your opinion. Not true facts.

FACT - bicycle use is much higher in 2007 than it is in 2000. This has been pointed out to you several times. But since the 7 year old 2000 census numbers support your theory that few people bike in the City, you continue to quote those numbers. But the FACT is, way more people are biking now than in 2007. Your disingenuousness undermines any credible arguments you have.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Point it out to me again, then. You mean MTA's survey of a few selected street corners? I don't care if you assholes think I'm credible or not. Funny that all of you are anonymous. Now that's real credibility! You're too chickenshit to even put your name on your opinions!

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous SanFranCitizen said...

Not only those traffic counts (why now don't you think those are legitimate - they're certainly showing the increases over time) but this:

MTC's SIte with SF Bicycling Stats

12% say they ride a bike in San Francisco more than once a week. That's at least 120,000 people that think you and Mary Miles are the real assholes.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your link takes me to the same old David Binder poll, commissioned by the SFBC, that polled only 400 people. Only a True Believer like you would extrapolate that tiny sample to get 120,000 cyclists in SF. According to your own Bicycle Plan, the Census is the best data base: "The most accurate data collected at the national level is the US Census data for trips to work." (Framework Document, page xii) Here's a question you should get Binder to include in his next poll: "Is it okay for the city to take away street parking and traffic lanes in your neighborhood to make bike lanes?"

Obviously, Mary Miles and I don't give a shit what you assholes think.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Rob, you really do have a credibility problem here. Either you're disingenuous or you've lost all perspective. Opposing this straightforward, uncontroversial safety project just makes you look desperate and irrational.

Don't you realize that everyone can see through the little game you're playing? Or do you really have such a chip on your shoulder that you don't realize you're playing yourself?

First you say there's no reason the intersection requires special treatment: it's "no different than hundreds of other intersections in the city". This is simply wrong: it is a very unusual intersection by many a priori criteria, as I have tried to point out.

Next you change tacks and say you don't care about reasonable a priori argument; you want to see the DATA proving this intersection is dangerous. You suspect it's all just a "political emergency whipped up by the bike coalition".

Well, the data are not comprehensive, but they give plenty of perspective. By this account, Masonic/Fell is tied for third as most injury-accident prone intersection in the City for bikers. Further, the section of Masonic between Fell and Oak is also in the top 5 most accident prone street segments.

Sorta starts to look like you might not have a leg to stand on Rob. But lameness isn't going to slow you down; you're taking this one to the mat. Now you say "why didn't the city propose these changes years ago? Who was responsible for those accidents? What about accidents before 2000? I pass that intersection several times a week, and I've seen a lot of foolishness displayed by cyclists at that intersection".

Who's making wild assertions now? More importantly, why does fault or timing matter? If the intersection needs to be fixed, it needs to be fixed.

What I have to ask myself is "what if Fell/Masonic weren't a longstanding problem but really had just suddenly become an unforeseen safety emergency? Then would Rob be satisfied that special action is warranted?". Unfortunately, the way your game works is a little too predictable: you'd be right there saying "this problem is too novel to be judged hastily. We need to wait for five years to collect enough data to determine whether it's appropriate to attempt any improvement!".

Watching you try to rationalize your bias against this project is like watching a drowning man desperately grasp for smaller and smaller pieces of flotsam to stay afloat. It's sad. It's doomed to failure. It's a stalling tactic wasting everybody's time and money like the whole CEQA injunction has been from the start.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh, maybe I've gone too far caricaturing your position. But try to see this from an outside perspective, just for a minute. You're making a fool of yourself.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous SanFranCitizen said...

Oh so you don't think that David Binder does accurate surveying? They're the number one firm used in SF for polling with an impressive client list. I'll bet the City and Binder's major corporate clients think they do accurate work.

And yeah it's pretty evident that you and Miles don't give a shit about what people think. The truth's coming out now huh? How about telling us your and Mile's real motivations here. I'm guessing it has something to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars you two have bilked from the citizens of San Francisco with your nuisance lawsuits. What was your cut of the half million or so that Miles got for suing the City?

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

That report doesn't bolster the bogus emergency claims about Masonic and Fell at all. There's only a difference of one or two accidents in 16 intersections on the list, except for Market and Gough, which is on the top of the list. The city has to convince the judge that there's a real emergency at that intersection, but they simply don't have the numbers to do that. I'm making a fool of myself? Your analysis of those numbers is simply dumb. Let my readers go to that graphic---on page 19 in the report---and see for themselves. Seven (7)injury collisions at Masonic and Fell between 2000 and 2006? Some emergency!

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's only a difference of one or two accidents in 16 intersections on the list, except..."

It sounds like you're making an argument that because one intersection is not significantly more dangerous than another, nothing should be done about any of them. You probably didn't mean that though.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Yes, let your "readers" decide for themselves. My point was more general: that your humbug arguments can't be taken at face value; they're nothing but flimsy justifications for your doomed delay tactics. You're a real champion of the status quo. Enjoy wasting everyone's time and money and let's just hope the injury-accidents you make light of don't rate in the "severe" or "fatal" columns for the next few months.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your "general" point has to be backed up by the vulgar facts. The report you linked for us doesn't have the injury numbers to support the notion of some kind of safety emergency at Masonic and Fell. Sound---not to mention, legal---public policy is never a waste of time, Pedro.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"As SFMTA's most recent bicycle collision report shows (see, this total[15] is greater than any intersection total for the period between 2000 and 2006 (the latest period for which citywide data are available)."
I don't know which report you're referring to, but the online "San Francisco 2005-06 Bicycle Collision Report" shows only seven (7) "injury collisions" at the Masonic/Fell intersection between 2000 and 2006 (page 19), which makes it a pretty average intersection. The report lists 18 intersections where there were a total of 109 accidents, which gives us an average of six accidents per intersection for the supposedly worst intersections. Hence, we have an average of one accident per intersection per year. This is an emergency?

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

Holistically the evidence does support my point: your arguments are in bad faith, as is your whole agenda.

I can't take you seriously when on the one hand you say self-righteous things like "sound public policy is never a waste of time" and on the other hand you've made it clear over and over again that you just have a personal problem with bikers and with not getting your way and you've hijacked the system. We can argue about what's good policy all you like, but it's pretty hard to believe that's actually what you care about. The Fell/Masonic project is a perfect example, and I guess that's what I'm trying to get across to you: it would enhance the appearance that you actually care about policy or public good and not just about getting your way if you could budge a little on this issue. But that doesn't seem to be happening.

I know you claim that procedurally the injunction protects sound policy (although of course this is humbug). But let's not pretend that the injunction itself is carefully crafted policy. It's a blunt, temporary stopgap, and should be weighed as such against the current safety concerns.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

On the issue of the collision numbers at Fell/Masonic, again you're either out of touch or just arguing in bad faith. The table on page 19 is titled "INTERSECTIONS WITH HIGHEST BICYCLE INJURY COLLISIONS 2000-2006". Any intersection listed there is inherently NOT "a pretty average intersection".

Let's agree (with each other and the evidence): the limited data does show that this is one of the most accident prone intersections, but you just don't think the numbers are high enough to warrant attention anyway. Right?

Okay, now that we've gotten past the bad faith part of your argument and can talk about the actual disagreement... this is where you've lost perspective. Collisions are inherently underreported. How many people would have to be hit before it would be worth fixing? If the collisions at this intersection are preventable, what are we waiting for?

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

As a final note, the argument over collision numbers brings back another specious argument you're fond of: bicycling is inherently too dangerous and only fools would try it.

This is the stuff that makes you ridiculous. You go on a tear about how bicycling is too dangerous, then turn around and tell us that an intersection ranked as one of the most collision prone in the City still doesn't have enough accidents to warrant fixing.

Which is it Rob? You think biking is so dangerous, but you don't think fixing a collision-prone intersection is a big deal, so I guess you must think that there's some other collision unrelated health risk inherent to biking? Oh I know: it's the risk that if you bike you might not get type II diabetes! Yeah that's scary!

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

"Holistically"? That means you're right regardless of the evidence? Speaking of bad faith, there's a lot of plain old bullshit in your responses. I'll try to take it in sequence.

1. On a personal level, of course I think a lot of SF cyclists are obnoxious based on the way they conduct themselves on our streets. And collectively/politically the city's bike people can also be obnoxious---Critical Mass, the SF Bicycle Coalition, etc. But I assume that, like most people in general, cyclists are probably a decent, if somewhat deluded, lot.

2. Of course I'm interested in good public policy. If you were familiar with my blog, you would know that I write about a lot of other city issues in addition to the bike fantasy. In beginning philosophy, questioning the motives of those who disagree with you is considered a fallacy.

3. Why is the injunction "humbug"? It forces the city to do an EIR on a large, citywide project that could have any number of impacts on the city's environment. State law (CEQA) requires that the city conduct an environmental review of all major projects. Why did two judges agree with us on the injunction? Do they too have a "personal problem" with cyclists? They imposed the injunction because the city was implementing the Bicycle Plan even before the hearing on the merits of the case could be heard.

4. I'm arguing in "bad faith" about the numbers? You're the one who cited the collision report, which, as it turned out, doesn't support your argument at all. As the numbers on page 19 show, there's really no emergency at Masonic and Fell at all. Seven injury accidents in six years doesn't represent much of an emergency. Among the worst 18 intersections, the average number of injury accidents involving cyclist is six. Masonic and Fell had seven, which makes it typical among that group. The issue is not whether these intersections can be "fixed" and made safer; maybe all of these intersections can be made safer. But the city will have to convince Judge Busch that there's an emergency at that intersection to justify lifting the injunction there before the EIR is done.

5. Yes, I do think cycling is inherently dangerous, but I don't challenge anyone's right to ride a bike on city streets. I do think it's irresponsible of the city to encourage such a dangerous activity. What I challenge is the political hysteria whipped up by the SF Bicycle Coalition about this intersection, even though it's clear that no real emergency exists that can't wait until the city finishes the EIR on the Bicycle Plan, since there's no more cycling accidents there than there are on a number of other city streets.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Holistically doesn't mean I'm right regardless. What I mean is that looking at your various conflicting statements about your motives and your disingenuous arguing as a whole, the natural interpretation is that you are acting in bad faith.

Responding by the numbers...

1) Fair enough; there are plenty of obnoxious people wherever you look. I don't see what's wrong with SFBC; they do a lot of good things for the City and are a welcoming community. I won't go to bat for Critical Mass.

2) Sorry to jump to conclusions on your policy interests. I'll stick to my opinion that you are out of touch and hurting yourself with your intransigence on the bike issue, particularly these intersection safety issues.

2a) If I were arguing that your positions are wrong because of your motives, that would be a fallacy. I'm arguing that some of your positions are wrong based on the evidence. More generally I'm trying to tell you that you're making yourself ridiculous, which is not a philosophical argument so I think it's fair to question your motives.

3) Obviously the judge agreed that an EIR should have been filed. I'm not so sure, but I'm not a judge. I also don't see why the injunction should apply to every bike project on every street that is even mentioned in the bike plan. This is what is getting us in trouble with these intersection safety improvements. But again I'm not a judge. I call it humbug because it seems clear to me that your personal motives for suing were not "adequate review" at all but rather shortsighted, petty delay tactics.

4) We agree based on the limited data: Masonic and Fell is roughly average among the group of intersections that are the most accident prone in the city. The bad faith was your repeated attempt to imply that this intersection was average among intersections in the City at large. It isn't. That kind of simple misrepresentation isn't fooling anyone and makes you ridiculous. Fell/Masonic and Market/Octavia are accidents waiting to happen. Actually they're accidents already happening and waiting to get worse. And there are remedies ready and waiting. The injunction is a blunt instrument; I don't see how you can consider it good policy to cleave to it under these circumstances.

5) I disagree that it is irresponsible for the city to promote a behavior whose health benefits outweigh the dangers. And I think there are a lot of other larger benefits from promoting cycling, but that is a discussion for another time and place. The specific question is why you think bicycling is dangerous but you don't think that making it safer at some of the worst intersections in the City is a critical issue. My interpretation is that you are biased against cycling and would like it to stay as dangerous as possible as long as possible in the hopes that it will somehow go away.

What is accomplished by demanding that these intersection projects wait? Do you have a problem with the specific proposals?

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Peter, you are a first-class bore---and not a very careful reader. Still waiting for a shred of evidence showing "bad faith" on my part. Waiting also for "evidence" that some of my positions are wrong. I never said that Masonic/Fell was average among all city intersections. You keep huffing and puffing but deliver nothing but more assertions. You don't seem to understand what the legal situation is. The injunction is in effect until the city completes the EIR on the whole Bicycle Plan. The only possible way to get it lifted is to convince the judge that there's a genuine emergency at this intersection and the Market/Octavia intersection. According to the numbers, the Masonic/Fell intersection isn't any more of an emergency than the other intersections listed on page 19. I could be wrong, but one injury accident a year is not likely to impress him as an emergency.

My problem is not with making intersections safer; it's clear to me that there is no emergency to justify all the hysteria generated by the SF Bicycle Coalition, and the city's own numbers bear that out. Don't forget that the SFBC has never thought that an EIR is necessary for the 527-page Bicycle Plan.

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, I do think cycling is inherently dangerous, but I don't challenge anyone's right to ride a bike on city streets. I do think it's irresponsible of the city to encourage such a dangerous activity."

Do you think it's irresponsible of the city to encourage any dangerous activity? Driving is also a dangerous activity, just as many cars as bikes were involved in those collisions, proving both to be equally dangerous.

Yet the city encourages driving by offering low cost and free parking. Parking permits are less than the cost of two Muni fast passes, discouraging people from taking transit and taking advantage of the cheeper option of driving.

Since you don't think the city should encourage dangerous behavior, then you would oppose anything that encourages driving right?

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Based on the Chronicle article, my understanding of the April 29 hearing is that the city is asking for a public safety exemption to the CEQA injunction for these two cases and for any other case of public safety so long as environmental review has been done on those specific sites. The article also implies that you will actively oppose this exemption in court. Apologies if I have misunderstood the situation. Will you be actively opposing this exemption in court, or will this be a matter simply between the City and the judge?

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There hasn't been any environmental review of these intersections. What the city does is simply declare them "categorically exempt" from CEQA, literally using a rubber stamp on the paper work. In fact, the city did the same thing for the whole Bicycle Plan, declaring that it had a "general rule" exemption and didn't need any environmental review at all. This is a common tactic by the city when they think they can get away with not doing an EIR. As I've pointed out in earlier posts, the city did this on the Housing Element in the General Plan (the Court of Appeal threw out the city's legislation last year after city neighborhood groups sued the city over the aggressively pro-development Element), the Bicycle Plan (city lost again), and, more recently, on last November's Proposition A. Of course by not doing environmental reviews the city saves a lot of money, since the only recourse the public has is to litigate, an expensive, laborious prospect that not many are willing to undertake.

Yes, we're going to oppose the city's proposal, which involves more than those two intersections. They're also asking the judge to allow them to alter city streets under the injunction for alleged safety reasons without asking the judge's permission.

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do they ask the judge without asking the judge? That doesn't seem to make any sense.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Not clear what you're referring to, Anon. The city is asking Judge Busch to lift the injunction so it can make changes on the two intersections. It's also asking permission to make whatever changes it wants anywhere it wants on city streets, supposedly on behalf of safety. They've already filed the necessary papers for the April 29 hearing on the matter. We will file papers in opposition.


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