Wednesday, June 29, 2016

City cyclist proposes safety measures

Screen shot 2016 06 22 at 10.21.26 pm

Dear Mayor Lee and Supervisor Yee:

I see that the Bicycle Coalition and other utopians are making full use of last week’s tragic, fatal motorist-cyclist collisions to pressure City Hall into executing their street re-engineering agenda despite the fact that nothing in that agenda could have prevented the deadly and irresponsible motorist behavior that cost two cyclists their lives, wrong-side driving and red-light running. I am writing to ask that you disregard the current political heat and soberly consider what City Hall could do that would actually make a positive difference in reducing danger to vulnerable street users.

I ride bicycles on public roads between 8-9,000 miles per year, including 3,500 miles within the city limits of San Francisco. I am also a licensed driver, car owner (who parks on the street) and a transit rider. You will see that my suggestions for making the streets safer differ from those insisted upon by the Coalition and its allies. I am not a bicycle evangelist or proselytizer; I just have a personal and civic interest in effective, just and cost-effective measures to reduce traffic danger and discourage indecent behavior while maintaining the utility of streets for all users.

1) DATA: Instead of basing streetscape modifications on evangelical faith and misleading poll results, I ask that the SFMTA and the SFPD commit to careful, detailed study not only of collisions but also of intersections with heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic. This is likely impossible without video surveillance and interpretation. I predict that the biggest causes of casualties and terror are different in fact from what the bicycle propagandists would have us believe, but let the facts speak. 

The SFPD’s and MTA’s statistics need improvement. A UC study of SF General’s emergency-room records showed conclusively that the SFPD’s bicycle casualty statistics are severely under-counted and that half of all cyclist casualties are from solo falls, not traffic. For some reason this study has been held in disregard by the MTA and we have seen no improvements in published statistics. 

SFPD Commander Ali did the public a great service when he published a detailed analysis of street fatalities from 2013 and 2014, showing that a substantial majority were caused by severely negligent traffic behavior. His reward: relegation to SFO "Siberia" duty. Please stop disregarding and discouraging the facts and their publication and start seeking and welcoming them.

The New York Times on the UC study: How Safe Is Cycling? It’s Hard to Say

2) FOCUS ON INTERSECTIONS: The Coalition and its allies are obsessed with segregated bike lanes that make no positive difference in the most dangerous spaces: intersections. Ironically, this is where the simplest, most car-friendly and least-expensive treatments can reduce danger the most: dedicated right-turn zones to the right of the bike lanes. 

The MTA added a handful of these in recent years on Folsom and Howard Streets mid-town, considerably reducing confusion, danger and terror from motorist “right-hook” turns in front of cyclists. If only they had done it a year sooner the female cyclist, killed by a right-turning truck at Folsom and Sixth, would still be alive today. Dedicated right-turn lanes help keep motor and bicycle traffic flowing smoothly while guiding bikes and cars out of each other’s way.

3) CITIZEN ENFORCEMENT: Would City Hall like to take in some additional revenue? Then let the SFPD send moving-violation summons to the scofflaw motorists that I have video-recorded on my helmet camera. Running red lights, running cyclists out of their lanes, texting while making turns, discharging passengers into traffic, on and on. License numbers are always readable; drivers’ faces are often visible and I can cite the exact days and times. 

I encourage the SFPD to establish and publicize a facility by which citizen-collected video evidence can be solicited, collected and used as evidence for moving violations. Will it prevent dangerous driving the likes of which killed two cyclists last week? No. But maybe drivers’ growing knowledge that they are under potentially costly citizen surveillance will discourage it.

4) CIVIL LIABILITY FOR HARASSMENT: Most vehicular violence cannot effectively be dealt with via the traffic court and criminal justice system. The manpower and evidence bars are too high. Cities such as Berkeley and Los Angeles have addressed this by enacting laws that enable tort lawsuits by cyclists and pedestrians who have been harassed by motorists. 

I asked Supervisor Yee two years ago to sponsor such a law in San Francisco, and he has yet to take action on this despite his repeated self-promotion as a champion of street safety. Such a law does not encumber San Francisco with any additional costs or manpower requirements, so I am puzzled as to my supervisor’s reluctance to promote it to the Board.

Deane Hartley
San Francisco
District 7

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At 3:56 AM, Blogger Mark Kaepplein said...

If anyone doubted that bicycling is a religion, read about a vigil held in Cambridge Massachusetts for a cyclist/barista/nursing student who cut a corner by riding over a sidewalk, but found an open car door immediately when returning to the roadway, which she hit, only to end up in front of a truck.

"Everrett was there, in front of the Inman Square memorial, to lead the vigil for Phillips. She never knew Phillips, but that didn’t matter. Like Everrett, Phillips was a cyclist. That was enough."

"Hundreds of cyclists soon pulled up to the memorial, many stopping to kneel in front of the white bicycle."

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I call it BikeThink. It reminds me of how thousands of cops turn out for memorial services for a cop killed in the line of duty. They see themselves as an embattled minority misunderstood by the rest of society. Members of both groups often react with anger and self-pity.

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob - are you supporting cyclists being able to do citizen citations of motorists based on their helmet videos?

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Sounds like an interesting idea worth a try.


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