Monday, August 16, 2010

"Rob Anderson said Masonic Avenue is working just fine"

Reisman talked to me for the story in the Examiner, but he didn't use the city's numbers I cited showing that Masonic Ave. is in fact now working fine for more than 32,000 vehicles every day, a figure that doesn't include the 12,000 daily passengers on the #43 Masonic bus.

Having the facts on your side when debating the city's bike people isn't enough here in Progressive Land, because you're essentially challenging a faith-based doctrine. Nor is Masonic particularly dangerous for cyclists or pedestrians, in spite of the death Friday night of a cyclist hit by a car on Masonic. (An average of only 1.8 cyclists die citywide every year, and our streets, according to the city's numbers, are actually becoming safer for everyone.)

Mike Helquist
at Bike Nopa---guess what his blog is about?---on the accident: "SFPD's Hit and Run unit has yet to determine the specific circumstances that led to the collision between the driver and the bicyclist, but for many the death of this young man makes traffic calming on our streets, especially on Masonic, all the more pressing." That is, we know little about the accident, except that it comes at a fortuitous time for the bike people's movement to screw up Masonic.

Supervisor Mirkarimi, the Bicycle Coalition's representative on the Board of Supervisors, adds his special brand of stupidity to the discussion: "Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the corridor, said with major local projects looming, including the addition of a new Target chain store on Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue, the street needs to be upgraded in a positive way." This is a good time to screw up traffic on Masonic because...a major retail store will be opening up at Geary and Masonic!

Helquist provides a list of "concerns" about traffic on Masonic, including "frequent crashes," which is simply untrue. The intersections on Masonic that have the most "collisions" between motor vehicles are Masonic/O'Farrell and Masonic/Fell, both of which have had 19 accidents over a six-year period between 2004 and 2009, an average of only three accidents a year. For a street used by 32,000 vehicles a day, that isn't a very big number.

Helquist claims that "Muni is slow" on Masonic, which is also untrue. I often ride the #43 line on Masonic, and, like the rest of the traffic, it moves well between Haight Street and Geary Blvd. That's what the bike people really dislike---that traffic moves well on Masonic. If they're successful in "calming" Masonic, they are also going to slow down the #43 line. But the bike people don't really care about Muni; it's all about bikes for them. Their bogus concern about Muni is just window dressing for their movement to screw up traffic on a number of city streets.

Helquist claims that the Masonic/Fell intersection is "deadly," though, according to the citys' numbers, there haven't been any fatalities there---or, until Friday night, anywhere else on Masonic Avenue. There was only one pedestrian injury accident at Fell and Masonic between 2004 and 2009 and only 11 bicycle collisions during that time.

Helquist says that "the Oak/Masonic intersection is dangerous for pedestrians," but again there were only three pedestrians injured there over a six-year period.

For the city's information on traffic and accidents on Masonic, see the PDF of MTA's presentation at the June community meeting on Masonic, which you can get from Javad Mirabdal at MTA:

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

"Helquist claims that "Muni is slow" on Masonic, which is also untrue. I often ride the #43 line on Masonic, and, like the rest of the traffic, it moves well between Haight Street and Geary Blvd."

Your opinion does not equal facts/stats. If you are going to make a claim, back it up. The data is there.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What "data" and where is it? Where does the city claim that the #43 is "slow"? You folks want it both ways---that traffic is moving too fast on Masonic, and that the #43 is moving too slow! Taking away even one traffic lane on Masonic will slow down autos and trucks---and the #43 line.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU made the claim. Back it up.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I discussed the numbers provided by the city in an earlier post. To check my facts and my analysis, get the PDF of the first community meeting on Masonic that took place in June. Contact Jarad Mirabdal ( MTA, and he'll send it to you.

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

The more I read your blog, which is starting to wane at this point, I trust "bike nuts" just about as much as I trust your anti-bike nut view of Masonic.

I saw you slump into your chair at the last Masonic meeting, you didn't talk to anyone, make eye contact, and you left early. I can certainly see how a soulless, loud freeway like corridor would appeal to you so much.

There were plenty of people at the last Masonic meeting that had legitimate concerns over their safety and wellbeing, but you didn't take any time to hear from your community. I guess it's easier to look at numbers rather than real, genuine people with honest concerns.

You're concerns and rationale are more bogus to me than ever before.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nice insight into my personality, though we've never met. Sorry my posture offended you, but I stayed for the entire MTA presentation and got the PDF of the presentation for further examination. You sneer at the city's "numbers," but they reflect the reality that you insist on ignoring: Masonic Avenue isn't really a dangerous street.

This whole fix/calm Masonic movement is bullshit, driven, so to speak, by the bike people.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

The bike/car accident last week was a terrible tragedy. We don't really know much about the circumstances yet, so we really need to hold off on judgment. It's horrible for the cyclist, and horrible that the driver initially drove off. He should have stopped immediately and offered help and/or called for an ambulance.

But I shudder to think if the cyclist had been pulling a small child on the back of his bike in one of those little carts. Whenever I see that, say on Valencia, with cars going by, I truly think it should be outlawed. It seems to be just irresponsible for a parent to force a child to be in danger that way. When I was growing up in the midwest in the 60's NO ONE ever hauled a kid around in a cart. Just wasn't part of the culture then. How did it ever come to be acceptable today. It's just wrong. Unsafe and wrong.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

We now know that the driver was drunk and has been booked on a number of charges, including felony hit-and-run. One of the "for saftey's sake" rules listed in "22 tips for better cycling" in current issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter I linked recently is "Avoid riding at night. Most cycling deaths occur between 6:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M." This accident happened at 10:40 P.M.

I'm already being accused of having "blood on my hands," as if there's anything in the Bicycle Plan that could protect cyclists from drunk drivers.

What it shows me is how the city's official encouragement of cycling is irresponsible, since the implication is that it's a lot safer to ride a bike in the city than it really is. And the city is officially encouraging the city's school children to ride bikes to school, which is doubly irresponsible.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger mark said...

Even the behavior of the most reckless and irresponsible driver is influenced by street design.

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rocky's dad - I think a jihad on drunk drivers might be more appropriate than a jihad on kids in trailers. "It's only a matter of time until a kid in a trailer is killed" - well a drunk driver DID kill someone Friday, and that's not the first one this year in the city.

When you were growing up in the midwest it was acceptable to drink and drive. Why is it STILL acceptable???

Revisiting the cop sitting on Fell Street stopping cyclists turning left on red - perhaps a cop setting up a sting outside the bars in North Beach might be a better use of the SFPD's time. Or do you think going after cyclists is more important than going after drunk drivers?

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous The View From Fairfield said...

Events in The City will need to get much worse before voters decide to learn more about who they previously voted for and who they will vote for in the future. There has to be a causal connection between events viewed negative and who was responsible for them. Until that time comes the Demo Central Committee (Peskin) and the Progressives are the machine.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

As usual, the anon comment has nothing to do with what I said, and I suspect he doesn't care. He sounds like another bike nut whose narrow focus is all about biking, and that's it.

Bottom line, it is inherently dangerous for bikes and cars to share a road, even when alcohol is NOT involved. Cars and bikes using the same paving lanes just don't mix well. Do I wish we had the space to provide completely separate bike lanes with protective barriers? Yes, I do, but we don't.

But I still feel any parent who hauls their small child around in a cart need to wise up and consider the safety of the child, more than the "trend" of doing that, and more than giving the kid some fresh air. Just doesn't make sense.

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry rocky's dad, but what does
"any parent who hauls their small child around in a cart need to wise up and consider the safety of the child, more than the "trend" of doing that, and more than giving the kid some fresh air."
have to do with this story.
You mention Valencia street in your first post. To my recollection, Valencia street now has a fairly wide bike lane that fully accommodates a child's cart. Masonic currently has no bike lane. Any bicyclist on Masonic is risking their life riding on the street.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

I think you got that sorta wrong, anon:

Safety is safety no matter what street one chooses to cycle on. And I think it's a fallacy that a cyclist is any safer on Valencia with a marked bike lane than streets without them. Marked bike lanes are fine, I have no problem with them, but they do not "inherently" make a cyclist safer. It just takes one car, unfortunately, to collide with a bike, even if that bike is riding safely and in the bike lane. I keep saying that biking is simply not that safe in The City. There are risks. But for an adult cyclist to take that risk with their young child in tow is even more risky..and irresponsible. Yes, its "trendy" seeing cool, hipster moms and dads riding with their offspring. You never saw that 20-30 years ago..It's a new thing and dangerous. Do it in GG Park on Sundays with NO cars around, then it's safe and ok, in my book.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

Everything has risks. Cycling simply has lower risks than most other ways of spending time, including sitting on the couch with your computer. The evidence may differ on the best age to introduce children to cycling, and whether young kids belong in trailers, but no informed source that I have ever seen disputes that the risks of raising sedentary kids outweigh the risks to kids of cycling.

In any case, we can reduce road risks if we simply stop people from driving drunk. We have chip cards to stop credit fraud; use the same technology with ignition interlocks to prevent people from starting a car without a valid driver's license and PIN. Revoke the license and the car won't start. Impose serious enough penalties for lending a license that most people won't do it. Then impose long suspensions for drunk driving and other dangerous behaviour on the road, and the death rate from cars will go right down.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

What a strange and convoluted response. To equate the "risk" of cycling with sitting on your couch with your laptop is pretty ludicrus and I really do miss the point. In fact, it's pointless.

Hauling a 5 year old child in a little cart behind your adult bicycle has nothing to do with introducing him to cycling. Take him/her out to GG Park with the little bike on training wheels on a sunday afternoon with NO traffic and introduce him that way. It's safe, fun and he will actually be riding a bike! OMG, what a miracle.

Of course, drunk drivers are a danger everywhere. But even responsible drivers and bikes do not mix terribly safely on our urban streets. That's the only point I'm attempting to make. To add very small children in the mix is insane, and very dangerous.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

People are rethinking some sports and activities just because of the concern about head injuries. Even the Macho NFL is reconsidering their approach to head injuries. Head injuries ended Steve Young's career prematurely. As a 49er fan, I felt that loss!

It no doubt pains the bike people, but they need to face the facts about kids riding bikes and head injuries. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that cycling is the most dangerous recreational activity for children: of the top 10 head injury categories among children ages 14 and younger, cycling is the most dangerous activity for kids.

Which is why hauling your children around in those little canvas trailers behind your bike seems like a bad idea, as is the Safe Routes to School program, wherein the city encourages children to ride their bikes to school.

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, how many people need to perish in this city before you get off your high horse and admit that cars are dangerous in a city as densely packed as San Francisco? We are on a 7 mi by 7 mi peninsula - why should cars be king? Can't we agree that there might be other ways to get around rather than having these 45 mph corridors through residential neighborhoods carrying traffic through our city?

My own impression is that you have seriously drunk the coolaid GM, Ford, Toyota and the other car makers marketers have fed you that the only way to live is with a car. Get a life!

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On average only 1.8 cyclists "perish" on city streets every year. There's nothing in either the Bicycle Plan or the current proposals for Masonic Ave. that can protect anyone against drunk drivers. I haven't owned a car in more than 20 years, and "get around" very well on foot and on Muni, which is the real alternative to driving for most people in SF. And all the proposals on Masonic will slow down the #43 line that carries more than 12,000 people a day.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

@Rocky's dad: I'll try to explain the risk: spending time on the couch with your computer as opposed to cycling promotes obesity, and obesity has a strong positive correlation with many life-shortening ad debilitating conditions, including cancer, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. According to estimates done for the British Medical association, the risks of not cycling, from obesity, car accident, pollution and so on outweigh risks of cycling twenty to one. A US National Institutes of Health study concurs.

@Rob: First of all, the sources you cite doesn't say what you think it does: they give the aggregate head injury statistics for all head injuries, not head injuries to children. And they give the numbers for all head injuries, not brain injuries, and certainly not numbers for life-changing traumatic brain injuries.

Serious head injuries do happen to cyclists, of course, not often, but tragic when they do. It bears repeating, of course, that sedentary lifestyles can cause depression, which has many of the painful and debilitating effects associated with brain trauma.

If we want to avoid serious injuries to caused in traffic, of course, it makes sense to start by cracking down on irresponsible motorists. Which leads to the obvious point: if we had the political will, we could take take serious and effective measures against drunk and other dangerous drivers tomorrow. If you don't accept the need to do that, I find it hard to believe your expressed cycling for safety.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I know you want to change the subject to motorists, a common tactic by the bike people who comment here. You're right that that link shows overall head injury totals, not just for children. Here's the correct info and link:
"According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the most recent statistics indicate that there were an estimated 64,500 bicycling-related head injuries treated in United States hospital emergency rooms in 2005. Nearly 37,000 of these injuries were to children age 14 and younger."

Many people, including children, are fit without riding bikes. I have no problem with cracking down on reckless/drunk motorists, and I have never written anything to the contrary. What I oppose is redesigning city streets and screwing up city traffic---including slowing down Muni lines---on behalf of a minority of cyclists.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another try on that link.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

@spragge: so, the only 2 choices a person has, adult or child is 1) sitting on the couch in front of your computer, or 2) cycling? That's it?

Still Not following that logic at all. Of course, we know there are tons of ways to enjoy a day such as, urban walking, kids playing soccer or basketball, walking your dog, jogging/running/hiking..the list goes on. Lots of stuff besides "just" cycling.

To be clear, biking is fine and fun. But in a "city" environment it can be pretty dangerous, bike lanes or not. I guess if I were a parent, I would be freaked out with my child biking on his own on the city streets, from the ages say..10-18..One reason why I'd love to see GG park become completely carless all the time. What a great place to bike in.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One reason why I'd love to see GG park become completely carless all the time."

Comments, Mr. Anderson?

At 8:16 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

The data Rob quotes still don't back up an argument against cycling. For one thing, a head injury doesn't equal a traumatic brain injuries, and not all traumatic brain injuries cause the kind of life-altering complications we associate with the phrase. Also, as the statistical picture gets clearer, the proportion of brain injuries associated with cycling gets lower. If you read the article carefully, you will see that cycling accounts for at most one in about twenty-five brain injuries. While it makes sense to reduce the risk as much as possible, the risks associated with physical inactivity still outweigh the risks of cycling. For another, most critically, the experts you quote don't advise people not to cycle or let their children cycle; they advise cyclists to wear a helmet. Whatever your opinion of this advise, it does not mean we shouldn't cycle.

@Rocky's dad: I can compare two things without establishing them as the only possible options. I wrote that cycling involves less physical risk (from all causes) than sitting on a couch in front of a TV or computer screen. Forms of physical activity other than cycling exist, but they involve risk as well. Cycling does have one essential and unique advantage as a form of physical activity: it offers both a workout and a practical means of transport in an urban environment. Assuming a relatively consistent residential density, about sixteen times as many people live within a workable bicycle commute of any given place in a city as live within a workable walking commute.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

@anon: Let's be clear what I said. Your tone sounds like you are trying to bait someone.

GG Park is NOT the same as Valencia St. or Masonic, or on and on streets. It's a park..and IF the park were to become carless, that would be the ONLY place in my opinion safe for kids and young adults to ride their bikes safely. Every other street in SF for bike riding is inherently dangerous.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@rocky's dad - apparently you are against the elderly and disabled who would not be able to use the park if it were closed to cars. Not everyone can ride a bike or walk like you can. Not to mention that would impact parking around the park for people who aren't so fortunate to live in richie rich land.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The bike people---includng the SF Bicycle Coalition---opposed Prop. J in 1998 to allow the construction of the parking garage under the Concourse in the park, and they then went to court to stop the construction of the garage after city voters voted to build it. Fortunately, the litigation was unsuccessful, and the garage, which was built without using public money, has been a huge success. Hard to imagine how bad traffic would be in the park without the 800 parking spaces it provides.

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rocky's dad isn't just against the garage - he's against cars in the park at all!

At 11:49 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Once again anon, you try to speak and form opinions for other people,including me. Let me speak, ok?

Making GG Park car free in no way means it would exclude elderly and/or disabled..And you know I didn't say that. The parking garage under the concourse is a great example of bringing people into the heart of the park underground, and then giving them great freedom to enjoy the park on foot..or perhaps in a wheelchair. Maybe we need a few more below grade garages in the park?

Public transit can also be brought in to key points of the park, without endangering cycling..and thus allowing others to embark and enjoy the park on foot. These are just two examples of making the park car free and safe, while addressing the needs of those who don't or can't drive or walk.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The bike people liked the traffic gridlock that was common in the park before the garage was built, so they could weave around the stalled cars and demonstrate the superiority of their "mode." But before the garage was built, the Concourse was a lot like a parking lot, since there were 200 parking spaces on the Concourse itself.

More importantly, the garage allows easier access to that part of the park for everyone---the elderly, the disabled and handicapped, people with children, etc.---an issue the bike people never seemed very concerned about.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The garage is always full. They should put the on street spots back. And lower the price.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Agree completely Rob. The concourse garage is such a great success, well designed and great access to both the De Young and The Academy of Sciences.

If only the bike centric people would be open to solutions such as this where cars, pedestrians and biking can all work in unison, and safely. A few more discreet, below grade garages in the park would be a great way to get rid of "most" of the car traffic and what a boon for family cycling.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

Thanks for the enlightenment, Rob. I use the corridor every day and I have to remain alert at all times to make sure a speeding car doesn't kill me. Or when I'm driving down it I get driver honking their horn telling me I'm driving too slow at 25 mph. But you have numbers that say it's safe so I guess I'm OK. Some of us actually use the corridor, and some of us live near it and know how dangerous it is. You never address anyone's legitimate concerns. Tell me why I'm wrong in my assessment of my neighborhood.

At 12:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have great news: there's room for at least 12 bike lanes on this stretch of Masonic without taking away any space from pedestrians!


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