Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Examiner "doubles down" on falsehoods about bikes in San Francisco

Dustin White, MTA transportation planner

Yesterday's story in the Examiner (SF prepares to double-down investment on bike safety and improvement projects) is an excellent example of how the city's media simply passes on City Hall's party line on the "improvements" now being implemented on city streets. The reporter only talked to the MTA's Ed Reiskin and the Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum. That's the San Francisco media's version of balanced reporting.

The first sentence in the story retails a pseudo-fact: "When bicycling increases, be it in a U.S. city or some foreign land, statistics show that streets become safer." What "statistics"? Anyone who's interested in transportation issues has seen this claim made many times in many stories. Maybe someday a reporter will ask Reiskin or Shahum for some evidence supporting the claim:

San Francisco’s network of bike routes remains fragmented, and while some streets are “safe and comfortable for your grandma,” others require “armor and a will of steel to get by,” according to Reiskin. Indeed, bicycling advocates say they would like a greater financial commitment toward the fast-growing transit method.

If some streets require "armor and a will of steel to get by" for cyclists, why is Reiskin encouraging children to ride bikes on those streets? And "bicycling advocates" want a "greater financial commitment" for their cause? No shit! That's what every special interest group in the country wants---public money invested in their particular interest.

The reporter of course assumes erroneously that riding bikes in the city is a "fast-growing transit method."

Words of wisdom from comments to a story on Paul Ryan's phony initiative on poverty:

There's a Pulitzer Prize for the reporter who reveals that the great gap in American politics divides those who believe in arithmetic from those who do not...The key thing to remember is that journalists are morons. Numbers are not just confusing, they get in the way of the story.

This is by way of introduction to the story's next paragraph:

The City, according to advocates, needs to boost its bicycle investments for the sake of safety. If it doesn’t, they say, the SFMTA will never meet its goal of increasing bicycling’s share of all trips taken in San Francisco...The agency has a goal of increasing the percentage of all San Francisco trips taken by bike from 3.4 percent currently to 10 percent by 2018. Tripling the percentage of bicycle trips over four years may seem like a tall order, but bicycling has doubled in the past six years, according to estimates, and that’s good news for the SFMTA.

The reporter typically doesn't understand the difference between the percentage of bike trips overall (3.4% on page 5 of this report) and the percentage of those commuting to work on bikes (3.3% on page 3 of this report), which I've discussed in some detail over the years (see this for a discussion of the problem with these numbers). The MTA and the Bicycle Coalition like to fuzz up this distinction, and reporters in San Francisco are too lazy to do any of their own research or analysis.

And of course readers of this blog understand that cycling has not in fact "doubled in recent years." That claim is apparently a reference to numbers in the city's annual Bicycle Count, which only counts commuting cyclists once a year, not all trips by bike in the city.

Let's do the not-so-difficult arithmetic to see how likely it is to achieve 10% of all trips in the city by bike by 2018. If trips by bike in 2011 were 3.4% of all trips in the city, cycling will have to increase an average of .94% a year for seven years to get to 10%.

Commuting by bike in the city has only increased from 2.1% in 2000 to 3.3% in 2011 (see page 3 of the Transportation Fact Sheet), an average annual increase of only .11% a year. 10% is not going to happen, and Reiskin and Shahum know it. They also know they can throw out numbers that city reporters are too lazy to analyze (see a previous post on this issue here).

Reiskin and Shahum could count on the local media ignoring  that UC study that found that cycling accidents have been seriously under-counted in San Francisco between 2000 and 2009.

The Examiner reporter provides some misinformation about cycling accidents: "...there were four bicyclist fatalities last year. And a civil grand jury report found collisions increased from 531 in 2009 to 630 in 2011." Nope. Those numbers are from page 22 of the city's annual Collision Report, not the Grand Jury.

But the UC study linked above calls all the city's accident numbers into question, which is why the city hasn't released a Collisions Report since August, 2012. Reiskin says the city is working on the numbers.

I wrote about that lame Grand Jury report last year here.

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At 2:38 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Bike people seem to think that they should feel comfortable on any street they choose (and in any lane, for that matter). How about just sticking to certain streets?

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Dear Bob,

I think we should examine your implied assertion that a "miniscule" amount of street space means a "miniscule" impact on drivers, who comprise 50% of the commuters in the city. I swear bicyclists must not have a single engineering degree to share amongst themselves.

Think of a pipe carrying sewer waste. You keep the pipe cross section clear for its entire journey from toilet to processing plant. The pipe is 1000' long, and has been sized at a diameter to carry the amount of poop and pee that people put in their toilets. The engineers did a good job making this calculation, and nobody's toilet backs up.

Then let's say we take a 10' section of that pipe and constrict it down to two-thirds of its original size. Pipe constricting advocates might say, look I've only affected 1% of your total pipe length, so your overall pipe FLOW should only be 1% less. But that's not how poop works, and it certainly isn't the way traffic works. You have made a single point in the overall flow 33% smaller, which means a minimum of 33% reduction in flow capacity. It doesn't matter that downstream of the constriction the pipe is bigger, it'll sit unused. It doesn't matter that the pipe upstream of the constriction is bigger, it will only serve to collect the piling up poop.

So no, the changes aren't miniscule as much as you'd like to believe it. Because the various streets in the Sunset and other residential areas haven't been converted into bike lanes (and this is like 70% of the city streets) even though they are comparatively safe to ride a bicycle on, you can claim a low overall impact. But it's these arteries, on which all traffic depend, that are being affected (Masonic, Fell, Oak, Folsom, etc.). And the backup onto the side streets is *significant*! You notice it as a motorist passing through, you notice it as a person who lives in that neighborhood. You *should* be able to reason this out as a logical individual.

On top of that, the roads changes are being funded by either property taxes which we all directly or indirectly pay or by gas/vehicle charges which only motorists pay, it starts to feel like motorists are paying to get screwed.

Motorists have not disappeared, they have not gone away, just because their interests have been railroaded by the SFMTA, now populated by a bunch of bicycle goons (see above photograph). The citizens never got to vote on a Bike Plan, never got to truly weigh in on proposed and already implemented changes, and you can bet your ass an equal and opposite reaction to motorists and public transit getting hosed is coming.

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why you said Bob at the beginning of this, but I'll think of a street as carrying poop and pee. You sounds like someone who has an engineering degree if you're making this comparison.

You're also making a comparison that suggests the best way to move "waste" is to do it through a transit system. But I'll make a blanket assumption like you did with San Francisco citizens that want to ride a bike in the city. You will thwart anything that gets in the way of your rights to drive a car most or all of a street and also park on it. Even if only 50% use cars in the city. Don't even act like you and your motorist friends have allowed anything meaningful to change on the roads, be it removing some parking spots for a faster bus lane, or having BRT in areas. Go ahead and blame SFMTA or whatever you want, but you know cars get in the way of transit improvements, which ultimately would lead to less need for everyone to have cars and try to park them everywhere in SF.

You're not just an enemy to bikers, but you are to pedestrians and transit.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"drivers, who comprise 50% of the commuters in the city"

Pants on Fire: Misleading. The majority of SF residents who commute by car commute to destinations outside the city, primarily by hopping on the freeways

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"The majority of SF residents who commute by car commute to destinations outside the city, primarily by hopping on the freeways."

What's your source for this claim? And what difference does it really make where people are commuting to?

According to page 3 in the Transportation Fact Sheet, 45.1% of city residents commute by driving alone or by a carpool. 32.6% commute via public transportation, and---wait for it---3.3% commute by bike.

Pages 38-41 of the Countywide Transportation Plan have some numbers on how people get around in the city and how they commute. Most people rely on cars to both commute and to get around in the city.

Page 41 tells us that 322,009 residents commute to jobs in SF, and only 93,325 commute to jobs outside the city.

Page 7 of the Mode Share Survey tells us that most people rely on cars to get around inside the city.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Dear anonymous - there was a post by a Bob Gunderson which I was responding to. I don't know where it went, but it was there when I composed my response.

By your response - a non-response to my model and just some blanket assumptions about who I am and how I get to work - I can tell you definitely don't have an engineering degree. And that's who we have planning our streets - artists who love Amsterdam and the thoughts of a bicycling utopia.

Rather than engineers that are concerned with actual results, benefit versus cost, and objectively measuring results.

I'd love to be able to ride a bicycle around town - but that luxury should not trump the needs of the majority of citizens in town. There is no possible scenario that doesn't reek of hubris where under 4% of the commuters in SF should overrule the 45% (motorists) plus 30% (public transit takers).

As a side note, if the 45% of motorists count as people who leave the city, thus far it's been city policy to treat those people just like anyone else. I personally believe that people should try to live near work versus creating a large, unnecessary commute, so I'd like to some confirmation on that 45% number being people who work in SF or otherwise. Please cite sources, I will definitely read them.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

One more thing, anonyomous, I have friends who I do not qualify by their preferred means of transport. Do you qualify your friends by calling them bicycle lovers? And just for your grossly uninformed self, I ride a motorcycle (taking up about as much space as a bicycle) 90% of the time, drive 5% of the time, and take MUNI about 5% of the time. If MUNI could get me to work in faster than 3 times my normal transit time and at less than triple the cost of my normal transit cost, I would take MUNI every day. I would LOVE to see real MUNI improvements. I actually do think that the Central Subway, while overbudget, is the way things have to go. The mistake you make is confusing bicycle predilections with being a supporter of all things car. Last time I checked, money going to bike improvements don't improve MUNI. In fact, in the case of surface street operating vehicles, they actually hurt MUNI!

So you can take that self-righteous bullshit about me being an enemy to transit and shove it. Go google "ad hominem" and let me know what you learn.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then how is it you want bikers to only go in a few lanes, but not afford them what you just described as a bicycle network in your first statement? How about you actually give them a good choice? You don't think there's ANY room for bicycles even though it's being done all over the country with varying levels of success?

And I find it hilarious that you accuse me of "ad hominem" but I don't see you cast that out to your friend Rob here when he labels people "bike nuts" and whatever other demeaning name gets thrown out at people who don't agree with him and never represent themselves as someone who rides a bike. I'll throw out whatever name calling I want since it's par for the course on this blog. Isn't that what it's all about here? As if I could gauge your comments as someone who thinks of the streets holistically and not just centered on cars. please.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one more thing: "I swear bicyclists must not have a single engineering degree to share amongst themselves." is painting with a very broad stroke, hypocrite.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

That comment is clearly conjecture, unlike yours posting of conjecture as fact. There's a difference, if you haven't noticed.

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see the connection between this story and the picture. The picture is clearly taken out of context, which seems very intrusive and disrespectful. That person is riding on a dirt course in a bicycle race, not on any street in San Francisco. Do you have permission from the photographer to use it? This seems like libel to me!

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The connection between the picture and the post is obvious, since for years White has been working for the MTA at redesigning city streets on behalf of cyclists, a small minority special interest group. Click on the caption to verify that.

The people of San Francisco need to know that bike zealots are doing the "transportation planning" for the city.

I got the picture from this site, but no photographer is cited. Here's another site with a picture of White in full spandex mode.

You seem confused about the law. How could a picture of White, who is clearly pleased with himself and his bike-centric way of life, be "libel"?

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Rob makes up his own numbers too said...

The first sentence in the story retails a pseudo-fact: "When bicycling increases, be it in a U.S. city or some foreign land, statistics show that streets become safer." What "statistics"?

Here you go:

More here:

And if anyone has a problem understanding math, it's you Rob. From your link here:

You say:

For reference, the American Community Survey (ACS), which collects data from a sample of households, estimates San Francisco’s bicycle commute mode share to be 3.8% in 2012, compared to 3.4% in 2011 (page 4).

Commuting by bicycle in the city has increased by .4% in one year!

Wrong. It's an increase of 11.8%.

Thanks for the nice pictures of Dustin!

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

As far as how I view the streets, I view them as a means to get people from A to B, as well as facilitate egress and ingress from people's properties via driveways, doorways, etc. All other priorities are secondary. So true, I don't view them "holistically" as you put them. I.e. I don't think someone wanting to play street hockey should have any precedence than someone driving to work or a driver making deliveries to a business. We have public parks to address the need to have open space to congregate, play, and relax. We have streets to get people from A to B. Both are necessary, but you don't see anybody asking to pave over the small regional parks because it would be more convenient for them to get from A to B. Golden Gate Park is the exception as it occupies a major swath of the city, and even the auto is definitely deprioritized and I think that's okay.

You seem to have a (perhaps cynical) interest in seeing what I would offer as a "holistic" approach. Here's what *I* think:

Some streets could be allocated a single, one direction bike lane. Major vehicle and transit arteries would disallow bike traffic of any kind (in special lanes or in the shared lanes) to make up for the impact bikes have on the other roads. I also believe bicyclists who use city streets should have to receive a basic license to show that they have been instructed on the rules of the road. The fees from that license could help pay for bike related modifications. I also think that we need to step up enforcement on ALL users of the road, from road-raged and arrogant motorists to distracted and apathetic pedestrians, to militant cyclists who run people down in cross-walks. Parklets, which clearly benefit single businesses, would have majority funding from the adjacent business instead of serving as a weapon to punish people who need to park a vehicle. The city would have to also commit to using parking meter fees and parking tickets to build new garages. And finally, the city would have to devote itself to undergrouding the major public transit network which is the LRV system. We can't compress like Manhattan without Manhattan's public transit system. This should be paid for by hefty surcharges on developers who are making money hand over fist on the backs of everyone who lives here. Crosswalks with pedestrian signals on major arteries should be pushbutton activated, not on a timer. More of our lights should be equipped with induction loops to reduce wasteful light cycles where no traffic is flowing. Generally accept that some thoroughfares are vital transit arteries, and are necessarily streamlined for other neighborhoods to not turn into shitty parking lots where cars idle and contribute to gridlock, bikes run stop signs, and pedestrians bear no responsibility for their actions. And for God's sake, pave our shitty streets already! Lastly, we should spend and improve within our funds whenever feasible and not expect everything to happen over night.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Anonymous quotes me: "Commuting by bicycle in the city has increased by .4% in one year!"

He says: "Wrong. It's an increase of 11.8%."

No, you're the one with the math problem here. I rode Muni yesterday and again today, which is a 100% increase in Muni trips in two days! True but not a significant statement.

Thanks for the other links. I'll check them out.

While we're on the subject, when are you folks going to comment on that UC study that found that riding a bike in SF is a lot more dangerous than anyone but me thought? Nothing but silence from you bike nuts.

Yes, it must be reassuring to the people of San Francisco to learn that a full-fledged bike nut like White Man---most of you fanatics are white guys---is a long-time "transportation planner" for the MTA. That explains a lot of the goofy "improvements" made to neighborhood streets.

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rode Muni yesterday and again today, which is a 100% increase in Muni trips in two days! True but not a significant statement.

No - that is a zero percent increase.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He owns a car - but I'm sure you didn't ask him that, or simply don't care.

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rkeezy - you make a lot more sense than your friend Rob A here. While I don't agree with everything you say, you at least state yours case well and I understand your point of view. You even sound more hospitable to a balanced approach to transportation in the city. Why don't you have your own blog?

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous James said...

Regarding the UC study - How about you get someone who isn't freaked out by bicycles to explain what the study might mean? All it tells me is that people (not specific on age, what they were doing) can get hurt biking, like they can with all kinds of other activities. Do you honestly believe that people think biking is absolutely safe?

Every year, about 86,000 people are injured by tripping over their pets. Can you speak to that too?

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My response to James is here.


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