Friday, August 24, 2018

Masonic Avenue and the media

Photo: Kevin Hume

Several years ago I wrote about The Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome:

What is it about Masonic Avenue that encourages people to do and say foolish things? Let's call it the Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome. The head of the city's transportation system suffers from this malady...

Ed Reiskin is still at it, and the local media let him get away with it. Not surprising that the head of the MTA supports an important agency project that's been in the works for ten years. The Examiner's Joe Rodriguez is the worst offender, since he's written about Masonic more than anyone but me (I first wrote about it in 2007).

SF Weekly's Nuala Sawyer now joins Rodriguez with an article on the bike project (Masonic Avenue Renovations (Nearly) Complete). Like Rodriguez she relies on the MTA and the Bicycle Coalition as sources.

Sawyer begins with this observation:

There’s the pesky little problem of the bike lanes, which, if you don’t remember, were subject to a lengthy and fierce debate for years among Masonic Avenue neighbors, city officials, and people who bike. The plan that was eventually settled on did include bike lanes in place of parking, but aside from the occasional inclined rise, they’re not protected whatsoever from two lanes of vehicles traveling 25 miles per hour.

How exactly could cyclists be "protected" from the other traffic on Masonic, since---this bulletin just in---that street is lined with homes and apartment buildings that have curb cuts to allow residents access to their garages? Not to mention bus stops on almost every block between Fell and Geary where the #43 bus pulls over for passengers.

Even though Sawyer walked the length of the project, she apparently didn't notice that. Instead she provides another version of the official story about Masonic: 

This obviously remains a sore spot for cyclists. In the 20 minutes it took SF Weekly to walk along Masonic from Fell to Geary, we only spotted two bikers traveling on the avenue — both of which were on their way to the ribbon-cutting event.

If Sawyer had read the only study the city has done on Masonic, she would know that there weren't many cyclists using Masonic before this project, and the city had no information that there were many cyclists who even wanted to travel North/South in this part of town: Masonic Avenue: Where are all the cyclists?

It mimics a pattern that’s ingrained in our city’s bike culture; for years the avenue was so dangerous that cyclists mostly avoided it altogether. The death of Nils Yannick Linke, 22, who was killed on his bike after being struck by a drunk driver on Masonic in 2010 didn’t help ease the fears.

Yes, Linke was killed by a drunk driver in the Turk/Masonic intersection while riding a bike, an accident that had nothing to do with the design of the street and wouldn't have been prevented if this project had already been implemented. Linke also wasn't wearing a helmet, which might have helped him survive the accident (see Masonic Avenue and the Nils Linke lie).

As I pointed out more than five years ago in a widely-ignored post, Masonic actually isn't particularly unsafe for anyone, especially cyclists (page 12):

“We were having close to 20 crashes a year just on Masonic alone,” says SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. Post-renovation, he said that “we have taken what used to be essentially a mini-freeway that was dividing a neighborhood in our city and have replaced it with a beautiful, safe, inviting street that knits together the community, and will make it much much less likely that anyone will be severely hurt let alone killed on this street.”

Reiskin provides another deranged comment on Masonic Avenue! Since when are busy city streets designed to "knit together" communities instead of moving traffic? And the new Masonic Avenue will not be any more or less likely to have people hurt/killed than before these "improvements."

Of course Sawyer doesn't question Reiskin about those "crashes"---he can't call them "accidents," since the Orwellian Vision Zero terminology means there's no such thing.

Where did those accidents happen, and who was responsible? Like Rodriguez Sawyer just accepts what Reiskin says, which is what he and the city always say when it wants to make an "improvement" to city streets, especially taking away scarce street parking to make bike lanes (see Safety lie to justify Polk Street bike project).

Sawyer's other source is the Bicycle Coalition, which for years led a campaign of lies and disinformation to promote this project:

“When these designs were first planned in 2007/2008 and in 2010 they were considered revolutionary,” [Brian]Wiedenmeier says. “It’s now 2018 and we’ve got some other ideas about what makes a great street to walk and bike on.” But for the sake of everyone who uses Masonic, he stresses, time is of the essence that improvements are made soon. 

“As we celebrate a decade of work that brought us here today, we need to remember Yannick and others like him who have died on San Francisco’s streets,” Wiedenmeier says. “If we’re going to achieve Vision Zero, if we’re going to make this city and its avenues a place for people, we don’t have another decade to wait. Let’s finish fixing Masonic and let’s get to work on the rest of the city.”

We aren't going to "achieve Vision Zero" by 2024---or any other year, for that matter. 

Wiedenmeier is just doing what representatives of special interest groups are paid to do: pushing the Bicycle Coalition's anti-car agenda. 

Considering its traffic volume, Masonic Avenue is already remarkably safe for pedestrians (page 13).

Wiedenmeier's assumption is that people aren't driving those 32,000 vehicles on Masonic every day or the more than 12,000 people who ride the #43 bus through this part of town every day.

In his view, people don't become fully human until they start riding bikes.

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At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Half of all patients at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital’s trauma center are people injured in traffic collisions.
Every 17 hours a trauma surgeon in San Francisco responds to a serious injury from a traffic crash."

Left out of this article: nearly all were bicyclists and pedestrians who were not wearing helmets and not paying attention. Bad behavior, folks - it's a killer!

At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The two main problems with SFMTA are: Ed and the SFBC.


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