Thursday, April 27, 2017

A city cyclist on Vision Zero

Examiner photo

Letter to the editor in the SF Examiner:

SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin proclaims that “each [San Francisco traffic fatality] is preventable” as though this is somehow self-evident simply because he proclaims it. It is no such thing.

As SFPD Cmdr. Mikail Ali discovered in his detailed analysis of 2013 and 2014 street fatalities, the majority of fatalities are due to “really, really bad behavior” on the part of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Anyone who cycles and walks in San Francisco every day, as I do, will be as confounded as I am at the notion that red-light-running, inattentive jaywalking and failures to yield at crosswalks can be prevented by “Vision Zero,” which is a slogan pretending to be a panacea.

Reiskin cites “data analysis” as the basis for ever more expensive and intrusive mismanagement of our traffic flow. Yet despite having more than 5,000 employees at his service, the SFMTA has been slow to publish its annual collisions reports so we citizens can review the data ourselves.

The latest canard is “speeding,” something we all know is nearly impossible to do on tight, congested inner-city streets. Yet it will be cited as justification for massive new camera surveillance. I’m sure the vendors of the speeding cameras are pleased by Reiskin’s endorsement of their solution to a nonexistent problem, as well as Uber and Lyft, who smile upon his efforts to divert our attention away from the true current scourge: distracted ride-hail drivers.

Deane Hartley
San Francisco

Rob's comment:

Good letter. An updated number: as of 2015, the SFMTA had 6,263 employees.

A few months ago I wrote about the city's delay in releasing its annual Collisions Report

The disingenuous explanation for the delay in the report itself:

Since the previous 2010-2011 Collisions Report published in 2012, production of this report was delayed due to problems validating data during the transition to a new reporting system that relies on local data rather than state data. 

Until 2012, the SFMTA received collision data through the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records Systems (SWITRS), which is maintained by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20008 requires that local governments send their police collision reports to the State...However, there has traditionally been a one- to two-year lag for an annual set of data to be considered official by the CHP. 

Since 2013, collision data has instead been reported directly by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and validated by the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the SFMTA...(page 3).

What happened in 2012 to prompt the city to "transition to a new reporting system"? That's when the University of California published a study (Since it's behind a paywall, I transcribed it here) showing that the city's SWITRS-based reporting system overlooked more than 1,300 serious cycling accidents between 2000 and 2009. Turns out that the city was relying too much on police reports and failing to count many accidents treated at SF General Hospital, the city's primary trauma center.

What makes it so galling is that the city actually knew about the problem way back in 2004, since it was noted in the Bicycle Plan the city tried to illegally implement without any environmental review. There was also an earlier UC study showing that the city had the same problem in reporting pedestrian accidents.

Equally galling is how the local media ignore this issue, except for yours truly at the beyond the pale District 5 Diary. Still waiting for the Chronicle, the Examiner, SF Weekly, and SF Streetsblog to even mention it. The NY Times found the story newsworthy, which is how I learned about it. Their readers also found it interesting, since there were 428 comments.

The implication: we not only have to submit to being constantly lectured on the city's fatuous Vision Zero bullshit; we're also supposed to continue to believe the fantasy that bicycles are a safe and sensible transportation "mode"---even for children---that justifies redesigning city streets to satisfy that small special interest group.

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At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 100% that "speed" is not the problem. It really is distracted drivers. Particularly the amature uber and lyft drivers. I have consistently seen them driving and looking at their phones, even if the phone are dash mounted they are still looking at them and not the road!!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Along with alcohol and drugs, drivers are increasingly distracted by their electronic devices.

Pedestrians, too, are often distracted, leading to death and injury.

And, yes, there's also distracted cycling.


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