Monday, November 24, 2014

Boredom at the Chronicle

Writing in the Chronicle yesterday, Heather Knight mocks the Board of Supervisors for the melodrama around choosing a new president now that David Chiu has been elected to the State Assembly. Instead, she wants to see some serious emotional engagement with issues she thinks are more important. She called the present board "boring":

Supervisor Scott Wiener disputed the notion he and his comrades are boring. He said there have been plenty of intense, heated discussions ending in 6-5 votes. Asked to name them, he cited the vote on the redevelopment of Parkmerced from May 2011 and the vote on closing parks overnight from November 2013.

Those are important---even interesting---issues (see this and this), about which Knight has written nothing that I recall. Not exciting enough for her, apparently. If it's excitement you want, writing about local politics and issues is not the right job, but doing that can be interesting. You have to read some boring stuff and go to some boring meetings to understand issues, and Knight is easily bored with San Francisco politics, as she told us a few years ago.

Like C.W. Nevius, Knight is a party line gal when it comes to City Hall policies, especially on the city's traffic policies. She sneered at Proposition L last year:

A group of car-loving residents is trying to qualify an advisory measure for the ballot that would call for restricting parking meter hours and building new parking garages. In transit-first San Francisco, we'd give this the same odds as scoring a fog-free summer.

Okay, but it's evidently beyond her reach to actually discuss city traffic policy in any depth---it's presumably all about "car-lovers" versus "transit-first." Instead she talks to Walk SF and parrots their party line with a cheap shot at City Hall on the safety of city streets:

So far this year, 18 pedestrians, three bicyclists and seven drivers or motorcyclists have died in collisions on the city’s streets. An average of three pedestrians are injured every day. City Hall has adopted a Vision Zero plan with the goal of eliminating traffic deaths in 10 years, but improvements to city streets are slow. When a longtime city worker was run over and killed in the crosswalk in front of Polk Street in full view of her co-workers and a busload of tourists last month, Lee said a traffic signal would be installed---next summer.

It may be too boring for Knight, but if she had read the city Collisions Report, she would see that that those numbers are supposedly typical for city streets. In that report the city also lists the intersections that have the most accidents and what it's doing to make them safer. I suspect that the intersection in front of City Hall is not the most unsafe in the city, that there are others that the MTA thinks are a higher priority. Apparently Knight expected that, after that accident, the DPW would be out there immediately with their jackhammers.

If Knight had done a little reporting she would learn something even more interesting: that the MTA hasn't published a Collision Report since August, 2012, because it's grappling with the reality revealed by that UC study published in December, 2012, showing that the city has a seriously flawed method of counting cycling accidents on city streets. Turns out that for years the city has been relying on police reports and ignoring many such accidents treated at San Francisco General Hospital, the city's primary trauma care center. And there's also another boring 2005 study showing the city evidently has the same problem counting pedestrian accidents in the city.

I know Knight is aware of these studies because, after she wrote about street safety a couple of weeks ago, I sent her the links, pointing out that, until the city corrects its flawed method of counting accidents, we won't really know how safe/unsafe city streets are.  

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At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In transit-first San Francisco, we'd give this the same odds as scoring a fog-free summer."

If you had done any research, you'd have known she was right and reported on it long before the votes were cast.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find so shocking is that they ignored this study.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"If you had done any research, you'd have known she was right and reported on it long before the votes were cast."

That wasn't reporting; it was a sneer. Like the rest of the Chronicle's staff, she's ignoring the city's serious accident count problem. Until that's addressed by the city, no one can honestly write about how safe/unsafe our streets are.

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Chainwhipped said...

No doubt the collision counts are not entirely accurate. They're only as accurate as they can realistically be.

You didn't call 911 when you last stubbed your toe. Nobody's going to call emergency services when their kid rides his bike off the front porch and scrapes his knee.

The bike in your headline photo was likely a serious crash involving a car. That type of damage is not possible for a bike rider all by themselves.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You obviously haven't read either the abstract of the UC study or the more complete version I transcribed. This is about how the city is systematically under-counting cycling accidents in the city by ignoring many accidents treated at SF General that don't have police reports. Over a ten-year period, the city failed to count more than 1,300 verifiable cycling accidents treated at SF General between 2000 and 2009.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

The SFMTA collisions report is lacking in vital data to make informed decisions about pedestrian and bicycle safety. Namely, it does not distinguish between daytime and nighttime collisions, or whether pedestrians and cyclists had lighting or clothing more visible at night. Motor vehicles, however, always have lights and reflectors to make them more visible, day or night. Fewer pedestrians walk at night than day, for example. winter has fewer daylight hours than summer, making that season less safe for peds and cyclists.

Economic factors also come into play. If the economy is down, fewer will be out at night eating, drinking, clubbing etc and thus accidents will be down, even if they are out going to work in the day. With recovery, exposure rises again.


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