Sunday, July 20, 2014

"The bike lobby is running transportation policy in San Francisco"

Steven T. Jones on Facebook

Good to see Steve Jones, editor of the Bay Guardian, using the city's annual Transportation Fact Sheet as the basis for his latest anti-initiative screed (Motorists fight back). 

But his use of the numbers is selective, like 385,442 as the number of "cars registered in SF." That's technically correct, but deceptive, since that doesn't include the number of trucks (56,694) and motorcycles/motorbikes (21,697), for a total of 463,923 motor vehicles registered in the city (page 2). (I always subtract the number of registered trailers from the total.) Since that's a California Department of Motor Vehicles number, it doesn't include vehicles registered in other counties or states.

(Actually, the numbers in the Transportation Fact Sheet are already out of date, since the Department of Motor Vehicles always releases the numbers several months after the city releases its Fact Sheet, which means the above numbers are actually 2012 numbers. The latest numbers: 397,238 cars, 57,466 trucks, and 22,610 motorcycles, for a total of 477,314 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco as of December, 2013).  

Using the car/autos number by itself without trucks and motorcycles of course downplays both the number of motor vehicles overall in the city and their dominant role in our transportation system as compared to Jones's preferred transportation "mode," which is bicycles.

Jones doesn't include in the sidebar some numbers on bicycles: On page 3 of the Fact Sheet, we learn that 2.1% of city commuters in 2000 commuted by bicycle, and in 2012 that percentage was only 3.6%, not an impressive increase after more than ten years of anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

Jones's sidebar includes $88,889,809 "annual parking ticket revenue," as if that represents what the city makes from preying on everyone who drives in the city. But that's only part of the total, since the city also made $53,856,001 from its parking meters; $85 million from its 20 parking lots; and $10,248,044 from its residential parking permits, for a total of $237,993,854.

But even that's not all: The Controller's office says that the city also got $2,799,155 from tickets from what the MTA calls "Red Light Cameras" at 25 city intersections; $2,695,930 from other moving violations; $3,055,028 in gas taxes; and $805,223 from vehicle license fees, which brings the total amount the city gets from motorists $247,349,190.

Jones goes to the usual unreliable, anti-car sources for some soundbites: Tom Radulovich, Leah Shahum, and Gabriel Metcalf. Radulovich: "There are certain people who believe in the welfare state, but only for cars and not for humans," as if people don't drive those cars---and rely on them in their daily lives to get to work, to shop, to get their children to school and to after-school activities.

Jones refers to Vision Zero and safety on city streets, but the Guardian still hasn't even mentioned that UC study that found that the city has a radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents, relying on police reports and not counting a lot of accidents treated at SF General Hospital. You would think folks who claim to be concerned about the safety of city streets would take an interest in that report. The question is, If the city is under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents?

Why are the anti-car folks, the Guardian, the Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF---even the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner---all ignoring the UC study? The answer: by showing that riding a bike in the city is a lot more dangerous than anyone thought, the study undermines the big push to get people---even children---to ride bikes in San Francisco, making it harder to justify redesigning city streets---taking away traffic lanes and parking spaces on busy city streets---on behalf of a small minority of cyclists.(The New York Times saw fit to do a story on the study, but not a single paper in the city has even mentioned it!)

Jones talked to David Looman, one of the proponents of the Restoring Transportation Balance initiative, who succinctly sums up the reality: "The bike lobby is running transportation policy in San Francisco." 

The initiative wants to put a stop to that.

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At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, in your calculation of the MTA's take from "death machines", you always omit Muni's 80% share of the hefty 25% parking tax on non-City owned garages and lots. If you check the latest budget on, you'll see that this amounts to $63 million for 2014, bringing the total from autos up to $310 million. The money goes into the General Fund before being transferred to the MTA which may be why it hasn't shown up on your radar.

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob you keep mentioning the UC study well here is the UC study on pedestrian collisions and they're underreported so do you think we should not let our children walk either?

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

"do you think we should not let our children walk either?"

Wow, you commenters surely love to have someone tell you what you should and shouldn't choose for surface tranportation needs, don't you? I guess when City Hall's endless efforts at social engineering are called into disrepute we then turn to ...Rob Anderson! To advise us what our children "should" not do.

Here's an idea: How about we make our own WELL-INFORMED decisions about how we and those we supervise get from place to place? As Rob has repeatedly pointed out, City Hall and the Bike Coalition have actively promoted a rosy, "everybody from age 8-to-80 can bike" scenario which disregards the U.C. study's (and others') findings that close to half of all bicycle injuries are cyclist-only crashes that don't involve traffic and won't be mitigated by the Coalition's Nirvana solution of segragated bike lanes.

Do you really think parents will make wiser decisions about their 8-year-old child's safety if they remain ignorant or misinformed about bike-injury frequency? How about women in their 70s with diminishing bone density, for whom a low-speed bike crash might mean 6 months of hospitalization, immobility and rehab?

I don't see Rob telling people whether to ride bikes or not. I see him pointing out, correctly, that City Hall is misinforming potential cyclists of the physical risks involved.

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Your link doesn't work."

did u try pasting into a browser

"Of course no accidents should be under-reported, which is why coming to grips with that UC study is so important: If a pro-bike city hall is under-counting cycling accidents, it's probably under-counting pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents."

still didnt address the ped issue--if were undercounting we should stop promoting walking right

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Rob you keep mentioning the UC study well here is the UC study on pedestrian collisions and they're underreported so do you think we should not let our children walk either?"

Your link doesn't work. No injury accidents should be under-reported. That's why coming to grips with the UC study is so important. If the city is under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting pedestrian and auto accidents? We don't/won't know until the city reports back on fixing its flawed system of counting accidents. Presumably a full accounting will be done when City Hall releases its long-overdue Collisions Report.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I don't see Rob telling people whether to ride bikes or not. I see him pointing out, correctly, that City Hall is misinforming potential cyclists of the physical risks involved."

I would advise people to not take up cycling, because it is manifestly dangerous. City Hall won't provide would-be cyclists with a realistic sense of the dangers because doing that would clearly imply that riding a bike can be dangerous. That's why even discussing the wisdom of wearing a helmet when you ride is controversial and makes a lot of bike people uncomfortable.

City Hall sees getting a lot of people on bikes as a cheap way to mitigate traffic congestion in the city. The head of the MTA is a bike guy who takes his kid on his bike while riding on city streets.

And this is the most shocking bit of irresponsibility by City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition: urging city parents to get their children on bikes in the city.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

How can anyone take a guy seriously who wrote a book entitled, "The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert Is Shaping the New American Counterculture."

"The New American Counterculture"--huh? Burning Man is just very large frat-party-paen to the global petrochemical industry and the internal combustion engine. Without those all the "Tribes" at Black Rock would be dead in less than two weeks.

Counterculture, jeeze . . . !

(noted that a used copy of the book can be had on Amazon for $1.00; figure it's probably worth about as much as an issue of Bay Guardian)

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Radulovich: "There are certain people who believe in the welfare state, but only for cars and not for humans,"

I've know Tom for years and sat on various committees with him. I must say that his world view does not leave much room for the views of others. I have seen him when hi is in his "dismissive persona", where he merely fans other folks ideas and asks to "move on" ....kinda rudely.

We all need to keep open minds, and importantly not try to force ideas but rather work with others for an acceptable middle path.

At 4:49 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

I was able to open the URL to the pedestrian study.

9-year old study of 13-year-old data which concludes that pedestrian injuries are under-reported by 21% due to the same police-report methodology that the MTA uses for its bike-injury statistics.

This conclusion seems plausible and it's a good addition to the discussion. The MTA would likely improve its statistics if it were to gather its injury data from local hospitals' ERs and trauma center.

Too bad nobody will furnish any data showing what percentage of pedestrian injuries are caused by collsions with bicycles on the sidewalk and in crosswalks. It's definitely the cause of 90% of MY pedestrian injuries.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...


Can you send me a functional link? Sounds like UC warned the city about its poor counting method on pedestrian injuries years before the study on cycling injuries.

In fact, the first volume of the Bicycle Plan we litigated on, the Framework Document, page 6-12, has this paragraph that shows the city knew ten years ago that it had a problem with the accident injury count for both pedestrians and cyclists:

"For the last several years, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has been working on an injury data linkage project using hospital admission data. Currently, San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) is not obligated to report bicycle injuries to the SFPD. This is left up to the injured parties. EMS (ambulance services)is supposed to report bicycle injuries, but many are not reported. Comparing police collision reports with SFGH emergency room visits or hospital admissions shows that approximately 20 percent of pedestrian injuries (caused by a collision with a motor vehicle) did not show up in police collision reports in 2000 and 2001. The rate for bicycle injuries is probably similarly under-reported."

What happened to the DPH "linkage" project? The city was in such a hurry to get the Bicycle Plan through the system it violated the state's most important environmental law by not doing any environmental review. It apparently also didn't take its own documents seriously enough to follow up on this important issue.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lol nice response bob

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

This brought up the abstract in IE9. Looks like the same URL that anon posted.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As atonement for hammering Steve Jones, here's a link to his book on Amazon. If you're interested in Burning Man, it's surely worth a look. I'm not particularly, as it turns out, though as a former more-or-less member of the counter-culture, Burning Man is an interesting hybrid that creates a structured environment where you can create art, take drugs, and do sex in a more or less safe environment.

Institutionalizing this sort of thing is an interesting development, especially with the federal government in effect collaborating in the effort. I'm not interested, but it's hard to see it as anything but a Good Thing that doesn't require taxpayers' money.


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