Monday, April 02, 2012

Carpetbaggers tout phony pedestrian emergency

The lurid, deceptive opening sentences in yesterday's article ("Put brakes on pedestrian casualties") in the Sunday Chronicle:

If today's Chronicle headline read "7,250 injuries, 250-300 dead in San Francisco," readers would look up in shock. Was it an earthquake? Had jumbo jets crashed into AT&T Park during a playoff game? "Something must be done," elected officials would cry, then scurry to head off a flood of calls from angry voters. Alas, if only this were the reaction. Worse, the headline is true. The injury and death-toll numbers are the unenviable record San Francisco has piled up over the past decade through injuries and deaths of pedestrians.

The authors---David Grant and Robert Planthold---are carpetbaggers whose sketchy groups, to the extent they exist at all, seem to be based in Sacramento and L.A. (SF Walks and Rolls, California Walks, and California Pedestrian Advisory Committee).

Many good, dedicated people serve in pedestrian programs in the city, but an honest appraisal has to say that what they have been doing is not working and people die because of it. 

Untrue. The opposite is the case. They clearly know nothing about the MTA's success in making city streets safer for pedestrians over the years. Like similar statements by Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF last year, they are apparently ignorant of MTA documents detailing that progress, like the annual Collisions Report and New York City's Pedestrian Safety Study and San Francisco's Data, both of which are available on the MTA's website. 

Computerized modeling can now map where pedestrian injuries are most likely. A sensible city policy would be to focus attention on those areas immediately.

This is exactly what the MTA's annual collision reports do, with analyses of intersections and streets in SF where most accidents happen and what's being done to make them safer. The New York/San Francisco pedestrian safety study linked above provides numbers of all fatalities on city streets from 1915 to 2008, showing a steady decline over the years (pages 5-7).

The main reason that pedestrian fatalities in SF often make up 50% of all traffic fatalities is that people walk a lot more here than in other cities:

Central cities like San Francisco can be much more active during the day, so using population figures from the US Census can underestimate actual levels of traffic and pedestrian activity (page 8)...Per capita [fatality]rates have the disadvantage of not accounting for pedestrian activity. The New York study did use those considerations to select its peer cities, but it did not adjust for actual walking rates among the selected cities (page 10).

When you factor in how many people in SF walk, the numbers show the city is safer than any other city studied. On page 11 we learn that "estimated annual work walk trips" in San Francisco are more than any other city except Los Angeles, which has a much larger population: 10,491,404 walk trips, with 9.66% of commuters in SF walking to work, a percentage that's much higher than other cities.

See also the MTA's annual Transportation Fact Sheet, which shows 9.4% of SF commuters walking to work in 2000, and that percentage maintained in 2010 (bike commuters, on the other hand, were 2.1% in 2000 and had increased to only 3.5% in 2000).

The Transportation Fact Sheet also tells us that city streets are very busy, with 461,536 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco and 78.4% of city households having at least one motor vehicle. During workdays the number of vehicles on city streets increases by 35,400; there are more than 1,000 Muni vehicles on city streets and more than 1,500 taxis.

The biggest problem pedestrian advocates face is a public that is not informed and does not speak out.

Seems like the biggest problem the public faces in SF is "pedestrian advocates" who fan hysteria about a non-existent safety emergency on city streets.

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At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree. We need to stop the hysteria the cyclists pose a danger to pedestrians.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Evidently cyclists do pose a danger to pedestrians here and here.

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cyclist in the Castro entered the intersection on the yellow light. The pedestrian left the curb before the walk sign turned on. It's unfortunate that he was injured, but he was a victim of not heeding your advice of walking with care.

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 cyclist v ped crashes in 20+ years = danger.

2 driver v ped crashes a day on average = streets are safe.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No one is claiming that city streets are every really "safe," which is impossible. But the anti-car movement---led by you bike people and phony pedestrian advocates---tries to convince the public that there's an ongoing emergency on city streets that requires still more anti-car policies. The campaign of hysteria by the SFBC about Fell and Masonic is a good example of that Big Lie approach to traffic in SF.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

Interesting but flawed study. Policies are flawed too.

Studies well document that many pedestrian injured are OUI and/or wearing dark clothing at night. The study blames motorists when pedestrians or cyclists take no personal responsibility for their own safety.

Studies well document what road features save lives and which have no effect, yet effective treatments are not prioritized. Raised median saves lives while equal or greater width in wider sidewalk or bike lanes do not reduce accidents. Sidewalk extensions do not reduce accidents, yet much money is also wasted on them. Pedestrian scale lights and fancy surfaces are expensive and only look nice. Put the lighting first where it reduces street crime and illuminates people in the road.

Sidewalk or curb extensions are such a waste of money that I'd rather see a little on-street bike parking at the locations instead to protect pedestrians and space crosswalks from parked cars!


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