Friday, August 31, 2018

SF Weekly, Vision Zero, and reality

Photo: Carrie Sisto, Hoodline

Fresh off her recent story on Masonic Avenue, the SF Weekly's Nuala Sawyer is back on the traffic safety beat this week:

In the afternoon of Aug. 14, Gregory Blackman, 65, hopped on his bicycle and made his way up Taylor Street in the Tenderloin. As he biked north across Turk Street, a man driving a gold BMW hit him, hard. The car was traveling fast, and according to witnesses, Blackman flew through the air before landing on the asphalt near Aunt Charlie’s Lounge. He was taken to the hospital, but died from his injuries. The alleged driver, 41-year-old Michael Smith, was arrested and charged with the crime.

Sawyer cites Blackman's death in a story about traffic safety in the Tenderloin and the city's Vision Zero slogan that's disguised as a safety policy.

But what Sawyer left out of the story shows how flawed the Vision Zero rhetoric is. Turns out that Blackman was hit and killed by a drunk driver, and he, Blackman, was also running a red light. A speeding drunk driver and a cyclist running a red light, a deadly combination. 

There's nothing the city and Vision Zero can do to prevent people from behaving this recklessly on city streets (Driver Charged With Murder For Tuesday Collision That Killed Bicyclist).

Education? Smith of course knew driving while drunk is dumb and against the law, and Blackman of course knew that running red lights on his bike is illegal and unwise.

That pesky thing called human nature will always foil the best of safety intentions, which is why the Vision Zero goal of eliminating fatal and serious injury accidents on city streets by 2024 is silly and impossible---and everyone knows it. 2024 will come and go, and this sort of accident will continue to happen on city streets.

Sawyer also cites the city's Vision Zero map: 

The[Tenderloin] neighborhood has been on the high-injury network since 2014, when the city first adopted the Vision Zero plan to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities by 2024...Every single street in the Tenderloin is considered a high-injury corridor, part of the 13 percent of San Francisco streets where 70 percent of all serious and fatal traffic collisions occur.

Since every busy street in the city is on the map, it's not surprising that most serious accidents happen on those streets.

That's not to say that the changes the city has made to streets in the Tenderloin aren't helping to make them safer. Sawyer discusses those changes with a SFMTA employee, who of course claims that the city has in fact made the neighborhood safer:

In 2015, the agency striped red curbs at more than 80 intersections, effectively eliminating 170 parking spaces. Called “daylighting,” this elimination of obstacles near crosswalks aids both pedestrians and drivers’ visibility, whether they’re driving toward an intersection or peering past a parked car to see if it’s safe to cross the street. According to the SFMTA, preliminary analysis shows that these daylighted Tenderloin corners have a 14-percent reduction in collisions.

Like she did on the city's numbers in her Masonic Avenue story, Sawyer simply repeats the "14-percent" claim. Maybe it's true, but it's not enough to simply repeat the official City Hall line and its numbers, since we can't count on City Hall, regardless of good intentions, to get the accident numbers right.

What we really need is for the city to do an in-depth study of every serious traffic accident that happens on city streets to determine why it happened and what the city can do, if anything, to prevent it from happening again.

Since the SFMTA has 6,387 employees and Public Health has 8,340 employees, surely the city has the manpower to do that.

Doing that would do a lot to restore the city's credibility with the public after years of fatuous Vision Zero rhetoric and semantic games about "collisions" as opposed to "accidents."

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Sick of that asshole

Pic of the Moment

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