Saturday, March 01, 2014

Streetsblog: Dumb and dishonest

This is the head on a recent Streetsblog story: "SFPD: No Charges for Trucker Who Killed Woman, 91, on Fillmore Street."

Did the truck driver jump out of the truck and hit the woman with a tire iron? Of course not, but the headline suggests negligence and/or intent by the trucker, as if killing people---even old women!---is just the sort of thing they routinely do.

The story tells us that in fact the woman was jaywalking when she was hit by the truck. Obviously the driver didn't see her, and it was nothing but a tragic accident.

But Streetsblog---as per the anti-car movement's struggle against death monsters, aka motor vehicles---has to find the trucker guilty because, you understand, there's a war going on on the streets of the country, and pedestrians and cyclists are being mowed down by heedless and/or malicious motorists. Even the legitimacy of laws against jaywalking has to be questioned:

The victim was apparently jaywalking (an offense which, as the BBC recently pointed out, was invented by the American auto industry, and is not illegal in most countries, including the UK). There are, however, two sections of the CA vehicle code that the driver may have violated. CVC Section 21954 is the clause that requires pedestrians to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of a crosswalk, but it also says, “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.” In addition, CVC Section 22106 says a driver may not “start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway…until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.

Obviously the driver thought it was safe and didn't see the jaywalking woman, aka, "the victim." Streetsblog adds an out-and-out lie to the story:

KTVU footage also shows the truck stopped with its rear encroaching on the crosswalk, indicating that the trucker could have been blocking it when the woman attempted to cross.

The picture (above) was obviously taken after the accident---both an SFPD motorcycle and police car are clearly visible---and shows nothing about the position of the truck before the accident.

This story is such a crude piece of special pleading that even some Streetsblog readers objected in comments:

This site is quickly becoming one to skip. A woman says meh to the crosswalk, walks in front of a huge truck and is hit and killed and this site wants its pound of flesh. There are so many examples of bad driver behavior in SF but this doesn't seem like one of them.

Streetsblog's editor, Aaron Bialick, who wrote the story, responds to the critical comments:

Of course, it's not "fishing" to blame the 91-year-old woman for her own death, while ignoring the violations and responsibilities of the professional operator of a cement truck, by focusing on an unrealistic ban on crossing the street outside of a crosswalk --which doesn't even exist in most countries. (Where's a bicyclist to blame when you need one?)

Laws against jaywalking are "unrealistic"? Seems like this accident illustrates the opposite. Nice touch too with the irrelevant, self-pitying sentence about blaming bicyclists. To adherents of this goofy ideology---I call it BikeThink---motor vehicles are the enemy that must be combated on every level, including this type of crudely biased reporting.

Not surprisingly I've been banned by Bialick from making comments on Streetsblog. After one of my recent comments questioning whether Polk Street was in fact unsafe---the city's justification for removing hundreds of parking spaces there to make bike lanes---Bialick gave me the heave-ho:

Rob, you've long shown a clear pattern of asking the same questions and having them answered, over and over again. We welcome productive and sincere conversation, but that's not what this is.

That of course is a lie. Obviously Bialick and his readers were annoyed by my comments that were skeptical of the great anti-car bike movement. My comments often included links to documents that Streetsblog's readers don't want to discuss---or even read, for that matter. (You can go to this link for a sample of my comments to Streetsblog and other sites under the Disqus system.)

One of the important documents that Streetsblog is ignoring---along with the rest of the local media---is that UC study that found that San Francisco is radically under-counting cycling accidents by relying on police reports and ignoring many accidents---1,377 between 2000 and 2009 by my count---treated at San Francisco General Hospital, the city's primary trauma center.

Bialick posted a story recently comparing how New York City and San Francisco report traffic accidents without mentioning a study that challenges the methodology his own city has been using to count accidents involving his own readership.

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At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rob
I am surprised that sfstreetsblog allowed you to post as long as they did. Their policy is to ban ANYONE who opposes their ridiculous anti-car propaganda.

Congratulations! Welcome to the banned from streetsblog club. I too was banned a few years ago for complaining about SFMTAs anti-car policies. The person who banned you was no doubt Aaron Bialick.

Bless his heart, Aaron tries to write about complex land use issues that he frankly doesn’t understand. The boy has no practical experience in traffic engineering, land use, city planning, architecture, or journalism. At the ripe age of 25 Aaron Bialick is simply a puppet for the developers and planners who exploit his youth and inexperience.

At the end of the day Aaron will have to grow up like the rest of us and hope that the world takes him seriously when they look back at his ridiculous body of work.

Robert Francis

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went over to the Streetsblog articles about this accident and was shocked by the strange reasons they came up with to explain why the pedestrian might not have been at fault. Their answer to this accident was to either want to ban ALL trucks from the city, or ban ALL vehicles from commercial streets between 7am and 2am. Can. you imagine? What about restaurants, package delivery, mail carriers, emergency services vehicles? Would this include MUNI too? Their ideas are just insanity.

Am I missing something or not looking at the picture correctly? It looks like the pedestrian victim was not in the crosswalk, and probably stepped out in front of the truck. How was the driver supposed to see her if she came out into the street between two parked cars?

After spending 10 minutes on Streetsblog it seems their answer to every accident is to want to ban all motor vehicles.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

A number of the regular streetsblog (née creepsblog) commenters seem to be Google bus types, that is, they spend more of their weekday waking hours on the Peninsula or commuting to/ from the Peninsula than they do in SF. Yet they know everything about SF and especially about transit in SF.

Perhaps most telling is something Bialick wrote as foto caption, "Street hockey strikes a nostalgic chord for my days growing up on a cul-de-sac."

If he loves suburban living and suburban cul-de-sacs so much it would be a lot easier if he and the others would just move back there and leave the City to San Franciscans, that is, to people who don't want to live on suburban cul-de-sacs.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

Aaron Bialick wrote, "Rob, you've long shown a clear pattern of asking the same questions and having them answered, over and over again. We welcome productive and sincere conversation, but that's not what this is."

Here's a comment that Bialick did welcome on streetsblog so he must consider this "productive and sincere":

=> sfparkripoff • a month ago
piss off

7^ • Reply • Share ›

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Rob, does Aaron inform his readers that he bans commentators not for writing profanity, obscenity or personal insults but simply for (allegedly) asking questions repeatedly in response to Aaron's rather repetitive articles?

It's wimpy enough to ban your posts and doubly wimpy to ban them without disclosing it to readers.

Most of the comments on your blog posts are disagreeable towards your points of view and are often insulting and profane, yet you allow their posting. Just out of curiosity, do you ever ban commentators from YOUR blog?

I would wager that Aaron is welcome to post comments on D5D any time.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is a good start, but there is a big backlog of pedestrian deaths that we still need to investigate. Most of these deaths (probably all) are the fault of the pedestrian, but there's a lot of work to be done to establish that it *was* their fault.

Nevertheless, it's important to do so, because it will help keep at bay the anti-car dim-bulbs who are trying to befoul our air with pollution by slowing down cars. Thanks for this brave first step, Rob.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This is typical of the kind of comments I get here---cutesy and of course anonymous, implying that I blame pedestrians for all their accidents, though the accident discussed in the post was clearly the fault of the pedestrian.

Of course many pedestrians are responsible for their own injury accidents. The city's annual Collisions Report (pages 19,20) says that pedestrians "could be" responsible for a third of their own injury accidents.

What neither Streetsblog nor the commenter above will even try to come to grips with are the implications of that UC study that I keep mentioning that found that the city has a seriously deficient method of counting accidents in general.

Note that the report I linked above is from August, 2012, and an updated version is way overdue from the MTA. Note too that the date on the abstract of the UC study is December, 2012. I would liked to have been a fly on the wall at the MTA when they learned about the UC study!

Streetsblog hasn't even mentioned the UC study---nor has it been mentioned in the Chronicle, the Examiner, the Guardian, or the SF Weekly.

The reason? Because that study found that riding a bike in SF is a lot more dangerous than anyone knew, which undermines the assumption of City Hall's policy of urging everyone---including children---to take up cycling as if it was a green, win-win deal for everyone---and, not incidentally, a inexpensive way for City Hall to deal with traffic congestion.

And, since the study found that "solo falls" or "cyclist only" accidents that don't involve another vehicle are both significantly under-counted and just as serious as those where a cyclist is hit by a car, truck, or bus. That is, City Hall can't simply respond by insisting, as per the Bicycle Coalition's line, that the remedy is more bike lanes and anti-car policies.

Another important implication: If the city has been radically under-counting cycling accidents---by relying on police reports and ignoring accidents treated at SF General---has it also been under-counting pedestrian and vehicle accidents?

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another outrageous lie Bialick is perpetuating at Streetsblog: that the Polk Street meeting last year when residents booed and hooted at the MTA's Ed Reiskin last year was "packed" with people from outside the city. There's no evidence of that. Since the bike people hate to think that their "improvements" to that street---taking away 200 parking spaces to make bike lanes---are actually opposed by the people of the neighborhood, that lie has to live on.

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, do you ever ban commentators from YOUR blog?

Rob blocked all comments on his blog for the better part of a year. He claimed his "blog was hacked" - laughable because blogger is inside google and was not hacked.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that the Polk Street meeting last year when residents booed and hooted at the MTA's Ed Reiskin last year

Apparently you have no problem with people booing and hooting in a public forum. Stay classy.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Public officials in San Francisco often deserve to be booed, Reiskin more than others. I bet he will never take that risk again.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet he will never take that risk again.

A bet implies a wager. I'll take that wager. What are we betting? How about an even $100? Put your money where your mouth is....

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Make a bet with someone who's too chickenshit to even put his name on a comment?

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Much later: That blogger can't be hacked because it's part of Google is clearly false, since earlier this year I was hacked into part of a Russian internet scam that locked up my blog and I then had to pay to eliminate.

This old comment has a falsehood that I have to respond to:
"Rob blocked all comments on his blog for the better part of a year. He claimed his "blog was hacked"---laughable because blogger is inside google and was not hacked."

I've never blocked all comments on this blog, only a few malicious individual commenters, who of course are always anonymous.


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