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(Actually, the numbers in the Transportation Fact Sheet are already out of date, since the Department of Motor Vehicles always releases the numbers several months after the city releases its Fact Sheet, which means the above numbers are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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