Saturday, April 07, 2012

Bike lanes just to make cyclists "comfortable"

Luis Montoya is the MTA administrator in charge of the bike lane project on the Panhandle that will take away a lot of street parking in that neighborhood to make cyclists more "comfortable" riding on Oak and Fell Streets. After getting his follow-up message (below in italics) after last Saturday's "community" outreach meeting, I sent him this message: 

Mr. Montoya:

You mention "improving the safety" of the neighborhood as a rationale for this project. Do you have some information on accidents involving cyclists on Oak and Fell Streets?

Rob Anderson

Mr. Montoya's response:

Mr. Anderson,

Yes we do have information regarding collision trends. Attached is a 5-year history of bicycle injury collisions reported to the SFPD on Oak Street and Fell Street. It is important to remember that not all bicycle collisions are reported to the police. Also, the goals of the project include reducing collisions, as well as improving the subjective feeling of safety to encourage more people to bicycle more often.

Louis Montoya

My follow-up message:

Mr. Montoya:

16[should be 17] accidents in five years isn't very many. Nor is there any indication of who was at fault in these accidents, except for two that have "Auto R/W Violation," which apparently indicates a right-of-way violation by the motorists.

There's no indication that there were a lot of unreported cycling accidents, so the main motivation for the project has to be "improving the subjective feeling of safety to encourage more people to bicycle more often."

At the very least, these reports---and the numbers reported in your agency's latest collision report---show that riding a bike in San Francisco comes with some risk. Is it responsible of the city to encourage people to engage in an inherently risky activity?

Rob Anderson

Okay, I understand why he didn't respond to the last message, which has a when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife kind of question. But Montoya's message shows that the city's justification for eliminating street parking to make bike lanes in a neighborhood where parking is scarce is factually deficient.

As previous city reports show, due to unsafe behavior cyclists in SF are responsible for 50% of their own injury accidents, not to mention the fact that, as the Bicycle Coalition's favorite safety instructor tells us, most cycling accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles. Hence, it's fair to say that the city is irresponsibly encouraging people to engage in an inherently unsafe activity. 

It also shows some desperation that Montoya relies on speculation ("not all bicycle collisions are reported to police") to make his case for the bike lanes.

The moral of the story: City Hall is going to take away up to 90 parking spaces to make bike lanes on the Panhandle between Scott and Baker Streets, not because there's evidence of a serious safety problem but to make those streets more "comfortable" for cyclists, even though they could access the Wiggle easily from nearby Page and Hayes Streets, as the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association has pointed out. 

See pages 15, 16, and 17 in the MTA's PowerPoint presentation for the making cyclists "comfortable" rationale. Not surprisingly the sketchy safety data Montoya gave me wasn't included in that presentation.

I wanted to thank the roughly 150 community members who attended the public meeting on Saturday to give us their feedback on the proposed conceptual design. The design details that were shared are now up on the SFMTA project website, and an overview video is also posted on youtube.

Project overview video:

The next step for this project will be a traffic engineering public hearing, likely in May. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to voice their support or concerns about the project at that time. Details on this future public hearing will be posted on our web page and sent out to this project email list.

The project will undergo detailed design, environmental review, and legislative approvals through the SFMTA Board of Directors and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the summer, fall and winter. Implementation of this project may occur as soon as spring 2013, dependent on funding.

Thank you once again for continuing to stay involved in improving the safety of your community.

Luis Montoya
SFMTA| Municipal Transportation Agency
"Montoya,  Luis"

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