Friday, April 18, 2014

The SF Chronicle: More journalism by press release

Children on a protected lane, not in city traffic

It's a cost-effective way to put out a newspaper---rely increasingly on press releases from special interest groups, especially if they support your editorial positions and flatter an influential special interest group. That's what the Chronicle gets by publishing a press release yesterday from the Bicycle Coalition in support of Bike to School Day---oh, wait, it's now Bike to School Week! (Other recent examples here and here.)

The Coalition is schizophrenic on bike safety: They insist riding a bike is a safe way to travel in the city, while admitting that our streets aren't really safe at all (AS PEOPLE DIE, MAYOR TALKS UP CAMPAIGN TO “BE NICE”).

Ed Reiskin, the head of the MTA, is a bike guy who told the Bicycle Coalition that he takes his child on his bike while riding on city streets (The link to the interview Reiskin did with the Bicycle Coalition four years ago is now gone from their new website, down the old memory hole. I bet Reiskin isn't sorry about that, since it makes him seem like a crackpot.)

Leah Shahum wants to jam up city traffic so badly that children can safely ride their bikes on city streets: "Imagine streets moving so calmly and slowly that you'd let your six-year-old ride on them." While you're at it, imagine gridlock on the streets of San Francisco. Shahum, by the way, doesn't have any children.

I say encouraging children to ride bikes is irresponsible.

Riding a bike in general is an inherently risky way to get around. From the Centers for Disease Control:

While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do. In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion.

The CDC on children and bikes:

Children (5-14 years), adolescents, and young adults (15-24 years) have the highest rates of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for almost 60% of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.

And the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

From the Safe Kids website:

Every two minutes, a child is treated in an emergency room for an unintentional cycle-related incident. More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency rooms for biking related-injuries than any other sport.


Children between the ages of 5 and 14 are particularly prone to bicycle-related injuries and account for the majority of those treated for cycling injuries in hospital emergency rooms...Behavior is another major contributor to bike injuries. Boys under 14 are more likely to be killed or injured than girls, and most fatal crashes are in some way associated with the bicyclist's behavior. Disobeying stop signs, swerving into traffic, and riding against traffic flow are some of the behaviors that have been connected to cycling fatalities.

And cycling and safety is really not about infrastructure---bike lanes, traffic "calming," etc.---since most cycling accidents are "solo falls," what that UC study everyone is strenuously ignoring here in Progressive Land calls "cyclist-only" accidents---that is, those accidents that have nothing to do with other vehicles. In fact the study found that "cyclist-only" accidents were not only the most under-reported injury accidents to cyclists but they were also just as serious as being hit by a car.

Thanks to Streetsblog for the link to the Chronicle story.

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At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Children riding on a protected lane, not in city traffic"

Always puzzled by your use of photos, Rob. Are we to be outraged that the bike nuts have taken over this park path? Or are we supposed to be glad that the children are riding their bikes out of the danger of car traffic? If the latter, does that mean we should support creating more bike routes separated from traffic?

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Always"? Once again a city cyclist is hobbled by BikeThink. This picture shows supervised children---you can see adults on bikes in the background---on the off-road path on the Panhandle. This is not really a route to school, though it might be part of one.

Do you think any of the children pictured is old enough to be turned loose on our streets to ride a bike to school? That's what City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are irresponsibly proposing.

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is not really a route to school, though it might be part of one."

Which would be a bad idea right? Because of the pollution due to congestion.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I didn't choose this picture. It's a Bicycle Coalition picture that adorns its press release published by the Chronicle. It's a deceptive picture, since it shows supervised children riding on a path separated from traffic on the Panhandle, not children riding bikes in city traffic, which is what City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are advocating.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous sfthen said...

Since these bike types are not San Franciscans and thus want SF to be like where they came from: suburbs with wide tree-lined streets and no traffic, they've never heard of Kevin Collins.

He was last seen waiting for Muni corner of Oak and Masonic, near where that photo was taken, and after that no parent of a preteen in SF let their kid go out the door alone.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Rob, the main thing I notice about the bike zealots' comments about your bike-danger posts is the absence of any commentary addressing the casualty statistics that you cite. This time all they want to do is change the subject to the SFBC's choice of press-release photo.

I would be impressed if one of them would share with us their credible statistics showing that on a per-trip basis people suffer more ER visits from riding BART, Muni and private cars than they do from riding bikes.

Unlike the bike evangelists who must always change the subject, you and I and your other supporters can openly consider the possibility that most ordinary city dwellers inform their choices of travel mode with a clear-eyed view of utility versus costs, including the eventual certainty of personal injury which will be experienced by every cyclist who rides long and far enough. For some, like me, the cost is worth it for as long as my bone-density stays high. For most others it will never be.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're one of the few city cyclists who's realistic about the dangers of riding a bike. And, aware of the potential danger, you choose to do it anyhow. That's an approach that I can respect.

As you know, City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have a different, irresponsible approach: They encourage everyone to ride a bike in the city with little effort at warning those would-be cyclists of the potential dangers involved. It's simply a green, win-win deal for everyone, even children! Get the whole family on bikes!

I've been posting skeptically here and here, for example, about this approach since 2005.

On the city's accident numbers: I've also more or less accepted the city's numbers about the safety of our streets over the years.

The UC report that everyone else in the city's media---San Francisco is a one-party town!---is conspicuously ignoring now makes that impossible. The Chronicle, the Examiner, SF Weekly, all the other blogs and groups are writing about traffic and safety as if the UC report never happened (I transcribed it here, since it's behind a paywall).

All previous city reports that deal with the safety of city streets now have no credibility, since the method the city's been using to count injury accidents is grossly flawed: it's been relying on police reports and ignoring many injury accidents to cyclists treated at SF General. That's bad enough, but the question now is, If the city has been under-counting cycling accidents, has it also been under-counting pedestrian and motor vehicle injury accidents?

We don't know the answer to that question, and the city still hasn't told us, which is presumably why its annual Collisions Report is way overdue. The last one was issued way back in August, 2012, before the UC study was published in December, 2012. We can only hope the city is now going back over the records at SF General to find the answer and provide us with reliable numbers.

That seems to be what Ed Reiskin was telling me recently in an email exchange:
"We are in discussions with the Department of Public Health about these data, and I believe they are hiring a position to look into the data further. Our collision report for 2012-13 will continue to be based on the collisions that get reported, but we will work with DPH and others to get more accurate data. The purpose of our reports are to analyze what is happening to inform efforts to make the city safer. We share your interest in having good data upon which to do so."

That is, DPH has hired someone to check the data, because, you understand, Reiskin couldn't spare any of the more than 5,000 employees in the MTA.

In short, we don't now know how safe/unsafe our streets are.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The link in the comment above doesn't work for a sample of an earlier post taking the city's accident numbers seriously. Here it is again.

One of the things the rest of the city's media hates about the UC study/accident issue: They hate to admit that bastard Rob Anderson is right and they are all wrong. For now they pretend that nothing has changed, that they can continue to write about the safety of city streets, even though they have no reliable numbers to do so.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous James said...

@Gregski - Because it's a myopic, biased, and often trollish way of presentation of information. The way he brings things are up are confrontational and so biased that no one cares to give a reply. Does that really surprise you? This is like saying people get skin cancer so no one should go out in the sun. There's planty of places that people can bike and not suffer these kinds of injuries, and this article presentation basically says "people get hurt on bikes and so you shouldn't make any infrastructure to facilitate biking". Someone already explained why kids get hurt on bikes more than any other way, and Rob dismissed it entirely and didn't incorporate it into his blog entry here (kid's main mode of transportation would be bikes because they cannot drive a car). There's also plenty of countries and cities that don't suffer these kinds of issues due to infrastructure and societal changes. This isn't some "BikeThink" dream because it works just fine elsewhere. I've never seen Rob mention anything about the dangers of any other mode of transportation.

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous James said...

You pick your stats very carefully, to make a a point, and not educate anyone.

Compare those children 5-14 who get bike injuries to young people 15-24 who get auto injuries. Look at deaths or serious disability.
The kid falls down and gets a little cut and mom rushes him to the emergency room. The teenager gets in a terrible crash deaths result Disobeying stop signs, swerving into traffic, and riding against traffic flow are some of the behaviors that have been connected to cycling fatalities. These are exactly the same behaviors associated with auto fatalities. And I know which kills more --- cars by far. It is a matter of speed and weight. Basic physics. Force = mass times velocity. Not that cyclists are ok to break the traffic laws. But they are hardly the only ones and when they do it the results are usually less serious than with cars. Not that cyclists are ok to break the traffic laws. But they are hardly the only ones and when they do it the results are usually less serious than with cars. Cars kill other people, not just drivers. Bikes hardly ever do. And especially not bikes with little kids.

Look up statistics on automobile deaths, accidents, injuries and compare to bikes. Insurance companies charge far more for teens and young adults for a reason.

How can I take you seriously when you never compare data in your own blog? If kids biking is so concerning to you, should teenagers ever be allowed to drive? Why aren't you putting up articles about teen driving and trying to ban it? Maybe get your head out of your car-think ass.

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You conveniently left out the CDC's recommendation to help eliminate these injuries and deaths.

Roadway engineering measures: Information about roadway engineering measures, like bike lanes, that can improve safety for bicyclists is available from The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information CenterExternal Web Site Icon.

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I think I get it, Rob. You see cars (and maybe buses) as a necessity for transportation and don't see bikes as an alternative. That is why your arguments never address what other people see as the real issues and ours don't for what you see as the real issues. You don't see bikes as part of the total transportation system at all. I don't think you can even conceive of it. To you, bikes are just annoyances that people, especially kids sometimes fall off of. When adults are on them, they represent a menace and an incumbrance to the free flow of traffic. They aren't part of the traffic -- they are an impediment to it. You don't think there are too many vehicles on the road, but you see bikes as just adding to the congestion, not as a way to reduce it. So to him your arguments sound ridiculous. I'm the fanatic. I'm the one who wants to put a plaything on the roadways, creating more congestion and danger to those who ride it.

Did I get this right?

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob we actually think the city is too unsafe for biking so want more bike lanes to make it safe. Why do you oppose that?

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see what accounts for 1/3rd of all deaths of teenagers from the CDC...

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

When will bicyclists be licensed and insured to use the public roadways?

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Someone already explained why kids get hurt on bikes more than any other way, and Rob dismissed it entirely and didn't incorporate it into his blog entry here (kid's main mode of transportation would be bikes because they cannot drive a car)."

I must have missed that "explanation." More likely it wasn't made in a comment here. And it's irrelevant, since the reality is that if kids didn't ride bikes they wouldn't be suffering these injuries. And the point of this post: Why encourage children to engage in an intrinsically risky activity? It's one thing, as noted above, when an adult who's aware of the potential dangers chooses to ride a bike; but you can't/shouldn't simply give children a safety lesson, a helmet, and turn them loose on city streets. By definition children are immature and routinely make bad decisions about their own safety.

And the false alternative: children in SF have to ride bikes because they aren't old enough to drive! But of course they can walk or ride the bus. If they're too young to do either, their parents can drive them to school.

As per virtually the entire cycling community in SF, the comment also ignores one of the main findings of that UC study: the most under-reported type of cycling accident is "cyclist-only" accidents that don't involve another vehicle and that "infrastructure" can't prevent. Importantly, the study also found that this type of accident is just as serious as being hit by a car.

"Rob we actually think the city is too unsafe for biking so want more bike lanes to make it safe. Why do you oppose that?"

Yes, I understand that. A question for you: Why is it so hard for you to understand what I'm saying? Dyslexia is rampant in the cycling community? Some other type of reading disorder? First, cycling has intrinsic dangers that can't be eliminated by more bike lanes. Second, removing thousands of street parking spaces and many traffic lanes on busy city streets for your small minority---only 3.4% of all trips in the city are by bike---makes traffic worse for more than 90% of those who now use city streets.

And doing that is based on the unsupported assumption that it will attract a significant number of new cyclists on city streets, thus reducing congestion and pollution. There's no evidence to support that "mode shift" theory, and it's continued implementation on city streets is likely only to make traffic worse for everyone (See this post on the experience of Portland and other cities).

"How can I take you seriously when you never compare data in your own blog? If kids biking is so concerning to you, should teenagers ever be allowed to drive? Why aren't you putting up articles about teen driving and trying to ban it? Maybe get your head out of your car-think ass."

Whether you are a serious person or not is of no concern of mine. I read the stuff the bike community puts out, and I find it stupid in a doctrinaire way and even dishonest (Streetsblog, for example).

There are plenty of other sources of information on the dangers of driving. You are just changing the subject when you bring up cars, because you are unable to come to grips with what I'm saying.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

"...we want bike lanes to make it safe"

Here is an elegant statement of the faith upon which the bike zealots' religion is based. First, the notion that cycling can ever be "safe". Then there is the notion that bike lanes are what makes it "safe".

Thanks to the facts that Rob has publicized we pagans can see that only about half of bike injuries are traffic-related, the rest are the results of bike-solo incidents that are inherent to the art of traveling at speed over a hard, sometimes slippery surface on a light, flimsy vehicle with rapidly-rotating sharp metal parts while wearing minimal protection for body and bones.

Our city has lots of bike lanes. Cyclists keep getting injured. Indeed, the UC's and others' facts suggest that the casualty rate might actually be increasing over time. Faith-based religion apparently blinds true believers to the obvious: If we were to build personal bike lanes for every cyclist that no-one else were ever allowed into, there would still be bike crashes. It's an inherently dangerous activity compared to most of ordinary American life.

Since Rob has been publicizing the UC study's facts I've been following the commentary and the only commenter who has ever made a serious suggestion for a "bike infrastructure" improvement that might actually reduce solo bike crashes is Rob himself! He has acknowledged that if the city kept the pavement in better repair it could help cyclists stay wheels-down.

Of course the bike zealots' method of smoothing the pavement is to borrow money to do it. Consequently, thanks to bond interest taxpayers will shell out $180 for every $100 pothole repair and the pavement will be improved much less than it would have been if the government would simply allocate current fuel tax revenues to current road maintenance.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Apparently Seattle voters are rejecting new fees and taxes for their transit system. Bad news for City Hall and Mayor Lee if even a progressive city like Seattle is getting wise to their bloated transit agency.


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