Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Press release journalism

In our post-truth world, SF1st gives readers lightly recycled PR from the MTA and the Bicycle Coalition (Report: Cycling Up Across San Francisco):

Daily trips by bicycle are up across San Francisco this year, with a new SFMTA report putting the increase at 8 percent over last year. Specifically, this refers to weekday rides — suggesting that more people are commuting to work via two wheels.

“The popularity of biking is growing faster than that of any other transportation mode in San Francisco," SF Bike Coalition spokesperson Chris Cassidy told the Examiner. "And for the first time this year, we found through independent public polling that a majority of San Franciscans now bike at least occasionally. It’s really exciting to see our community taking our health and well-being into our own hands.”

The report states that 465 bike racks were installed across San Francisco this year, and that 4.2 miles of "new bicycle facilities" were added. Also of note, we learn that the Market Street bike counter passed 1,000,000 trips for the first time.

“We are dedicated to continuing to improve the experience of riding a bike in San Francisco,” the SFMTA report states. “That’s why we have upgraded the city’s bicycling facilities, begun construction on even more bicycle-friendly corridors and provided additional places to park bicycles.”

Not everything was rosy this year for cyclists, of course. SFPD cracked down on people riding the popular Wiggle route, and multiple cyclists were killed by drivers. Mayor Ed Lee did unveil a new plan with the goal of making streets safer for cyclists, however Cassidy noted at the time that a plan did not equal actual action.

"It's important to realize that, while this is a substantial commitment by City leaders, nothing has changed on the ground yet," he explained. "There is a culture of plodding and delays when it comes to improving San Francisco's streets, and we'll be watching closely to see that these deadlines are met."

If trends continue, 2017 will see even more people riding bikes on San Francisco's roads — and safe-streets advocates like Cassidy will be loudly trying to hold Lee to his promises.

Rob's comment:

That "new report" is the MTA's annual report, full of happy-talk and pictures of grinning Muni drivers and passengers.

You can't trust what the MTA says, since it has aligned itself with a special interest group, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. 

According to the 2015 Bicycle Count Report, there was actually a 7% decrease in bike commuters in the annual count made by actual observers, buried on page 9 after 8 pages of self-serving blather:

For example, the September 14 – 20, 2015 manual counts (taken for only two hours from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., not capturing the full evening commute) report a seven percent decrease from the September 2014 manual counts.

The "manual count" is the way the count has been done for years. The MTA now has a trump card: electronic counters embedded in the pavement with numbers we have to take on faith.

Taking anything on faith from the MTA is dicey, since in the last two years it has stopped issuing both its annual Collisions Report and the Transportation Fact Sheet, both of which had a lot of information about safety and traffic on city streets---and how much the city makes from parking tickets and its many parking lots, and other predatory practices it would rather not publicize.

Instead of analyzing the most dangerous streets in the city and trying to determine who/what was responsible for accidents, we now get the fatuous Vision Zero campaign, which is a slogan disguised as a policy.

The MTA claims that their automatic counters show an increase in commuters on bikes. Who are you going to believe, the lying eyes of actual human beings or the machines that only the MTA monitors?

Like the Examiner story SF1st links, the above cites only two sources---the MTA and the Bicycle Coalition---and citing them at second hand at that. 

The Examiner and SF1st should just start publishing press releases from the Bicycle Coalition and the MTA and stop pretending to do reporting on this issue.

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