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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