Friday, August 22, 2014

An exchange with the Bay Guardian on the UC study

On Aug 20, 2014 at 5:12 PM, Steve Jones wrote:

You seem to have an exaggerated sense of your importance, Rob. I can assure you that your post had absolutely nothing to do with our decision.

Steven T. Jones
SF Bay Guardian
835 Market Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

On Aug 20, 2014 at 5:19 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Okay. But when is the Guardian going to write about that UC study?

On Aug 21, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Should we stop the presses to reveal the results of an obscure study from December 2012 finding that cyclists crash sometimes? It may fit into your persistent thesis that cycling is dangerous, but I don't see anything in this report that would surprise anyone or have any significant public policy ramifications. It says that most cyclist injuries are caused by automobiles (58.5 percent), although cyclist-only collisions were more likely to result in admissions (not surprising given that if you're a cyclist who crashes and then decides to go to the hospital, then you're probably pretty injured, whereas in collisions that involve cars and a police response, cyclists may be persuaded to the go to the hospital even if there's not sure they need it). What are you seeing here that I'm not, Rob?

On Aug 21, 2014 at 3:36 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Jesus, Steve, you either haven't read the study or you have a serious reading disorder. The whole point of the study is about the city's method of counting cycling accidents. The city has been relying on police reports and ignoring a lot of cycling accidents---and these are serious injury accidents---treated at SF General Hospital: 1,300 by my count between 2000 and 2009. And the other finding: that those "cyclist-only" accidents are the most under-counted and just as serious as those involving another vehicle.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 4:27 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Again, what's your point, Rob? If cycling accidents are being undercounted, and you believe pedestrian and automobile injuries are as well, why does that matter? What should people do with this information? People still need to get around in this dangerous world we live in, and the best the city can do is try to make that as safe as possible with infrastructure that helps protect people (such as bulbouts for pedestrians and protected bike lanes for cyclists) and by trying to slow down automobile traffic, which is by far the greatest public safety threat on the roadways and one in which numerous studies show become substantially less dangerous when they slow down.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:17 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Just for the record and to get a complete copy of the study, you should contact Dr. Dicker, who will send a downloadable copy to you: Even my transcription of the study doesn't have all the graphs that make the numbers clear.

If the city is over-relying on police reports and neglecting thousands of accidents treated at SF General---the primary trauma center for the city---we don't know how dangerous and/or safe our streets really are. The city's annual Collisions Report not only provides a count of cycling, pedestrian, and auto accidents, it analyzes those accidents and then lists the most dangerous streets and intersections and how it tries to make them safer.

It can't do that without knowing where the accidents are happening. Anyone who writes about the safety of city streets needs to have that information. On my blog, I've been assuming for years that the Collisions Reports have accurately tallied the accidents and where they happen. But that can no longer be assumed if the city has a such a seriously flawed system of counting and analyzing accidents.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
I'd be happy to look at the study, but I just don't find this as interesting or compelling as you seem to. I doubt that even a 50 percent undercounting of bike accidents, which is what the report found, would significantly alter street design or enforcement.

On, Aug 21, 2014 at 5:36 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
How can you not be interested in a better understanding of how safe/unsafe our streets are? The MTA can't even make its "improvements" to our streets without accurate information on where and why accidents happen.

Of course I think riding a bike is a lot more dangerous than you folks and the Bicycle Coalition have been assuming, and, as the study found, solo falls by cyclists are the most under-counted type of accident, which aren't necessarily prevented by improvements to the infrastructure.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 5:52 PM, Steve Jones wrote:
Most bike accidents involve a car, as the study found. And infrastructure (particularly potholes and pavement quality) does indeed have a big impact on solo crashes. It's not like cyclists are just crashing for no reason, Rob. So I see no reason to believe that better bike infrastructure won't help with safety, particularly with such huge crowds of cyclists during rush hours these days. Rob, people have been riding bikes for centuries, and they are a clean and efficient mode of transportation that is growing popularity by all accounts, even if cyclists are definitely exposed to danger and sometimes crash. Sure, better reporting of cyclists accidents might help the city identify dangerous streets a little better than they do now, but this report is never, ever going to support your unrealistic and extreme position that cycling is an inherently dangerous activity that the city shouldn't support. That's not what its conclusion says and there's no way this report is ever going to convince me that you the city should agree with your fanaticism and stop trying to make cycling safer in San Francisco.

On Aug 21, 2014 at 9:15 PM, Rob Anderson wrote:
Okay, Steve. But I still have the impression that you haven't read this study and don't really understand its implications. You seem to think that you already know enough, that doing any more reading and thinking is unnecessary. You don't seem to know what you don't know, not a good position for an editor to be in. It's not a matter of agreeing with me about anything. It's about coming to grips with this specific document and what it means for the overall safety of city streets (Please email Dr. Dicker to get a copy of the study.)

The study does in fact support my view a lot better than it does yours, since it found that both the number and the severity of cycling accidents in San Francisco have been significantly under-counted for more than ten years.

Of course the document doesn't conclude that riding a bike is "inherently dangerous," but that's the implication of its findings after comparing records at SF General with the police reports. Hard to conclude anything other than that cycling is more dangerous than you, the Bicycle Coalition, and City Hall have been saying if between 2000 and 2009 there were more than 1,300 cycling injury accidents that we didn't know about before this study.

The first I heard of this study was in a NY Times story last October about how people in emergency rooms were shocked about the number and severity of cycling accidents. They wanted to learn more about that, which is why they made the study we're talking about.

And there's another study that says the city has been making the same mistake in counting pedestrian accidents.

But, dude, I know you are busy. I don't want to crowd your mind with a lot of bothersome details about the safety or lack thereof of our streets as you're getting ready to go to Burning Man.

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