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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Good news: SF lost the "Smart City Challenge"

Columbus, Ohio won the competition for a $40 million “smart transportation” grant from the federal government (plus $10 million from Paul Allen). The city must match this with $90 million in local funds, so it is questionable who is the real winner: Columbus or the cities that applied but didn’t win.

Columbus’ application is somewhat vague. The specific things it proposes hardly seem worth $140 million, and many of them could be done by the private sector without any government prompting.

For example, the city proposes to create an app that would allow truck drivers to find the most congestion-free way to reach their destinations and another app to help tourists reach sporting events and other popular destinations. Don’t we already have such apps in Google maps? And if not, isn’t it likely that private developers can or will make such apps without huge government incentives?...

Earlier posts on the subject here and here.

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GMOs: Safe and green

From the Washington Post:

More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.

"We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against 'GMOs' in general and Golden Rice in particular," the letter states...

High-speed rail: "Wishful thinking" or "elaborate con"?


From Bloomberg View

Virginia Postrel

California's high-speed rail project increasingly looks like an expensive social science experiment to test just how long interest groups can keep money flowing to a doomed endeavor before elected officials finally decide to cancel it. What combination of sweet-sounding scenarios, streamlined mockups, ever-changing and mind-numbing technical detail, and audacious spin will keep the dream alive?

Sold to the public in 2008 as a visionary plan to whisk riders along at 220 miles an hour, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours, the project promised to attract most of the necessary billions from private investors, to operate without ongoing subsidies and to charge fares low enough to make it competitive with cheap flights. With those assurances, 53.7 percent of voters said yes to a $9.95 billion bond referendum to get the project started. But the assurances were at best wishful thinking, at worst an elaborate con...

Rob's comment:
Actually, only 52.7% of voters approved the 2008 measure, not 53.7%. The hed on the story is also inaccurate. The state hasn't "hit the brakes" on the dumb project yet, but this may be the beginning of the end.

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