SF Media’s Double Standard on Traffic Crashes Rears Its Head Again

Standing on the corner of Castro and Market yesterday afternoon, CBS 5 reporter Ken Bastida relayed to the camera a sad tale of the dangers of walking in San Francisco.

Ken Bastida, newfound pedestrian safety advocate. Image via ##http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/6891383-elderly-pedestrian-critically-hurt-in-sf-castro-district-bicycle-collision/##CBS 5##

“We’re about to do something here that really could be taking your life into your hands,” Bastida said before entering a crosswalk.

He’s not kidding: Two or three people are injured on the city’s streets every day, statistically speaking. And Bastida, being the hands-on newscaster he is, was in the field to get to the root of this “growing problem for pedestrians,” as CBS 5 put it.

“We talked to a lot of the people who live in the neighborhood. It’s not just this neighborhood,” Bastida said before cutting to an interview with a man on the street. I was glad to hear him acknowledge this — a pedestrian was injured around the corner from my home in the Inner Sunset that evening.

This issue needs more scrutiny from the media. After all, 800 pedestrian injures are reportedly hit every year, and 13 people were killed last year — the vast majority by cars.

Except Bastida wasn’t there to talk about cars. CBS sent the journo-turned-pedestrian-advocate out there to talk about bikes.

That’s because a bicycle rider hit an elderly man at that intersection yesterday morning, and both were hospitalized. “Witnesses say a bicyclist came barreling down the street, right down Castro, through the red light, and struck him,” Bastida said. Fortunately, both parties seem to be making a recovery today.

There’s no excuse for colliding with a pedestrian in a crosswalk, no matter what your mode of travel. But there’s also no excusing the double standard apparent in the media’s obsession with bike crashes, while traffic injuries caused by motorists go vastly under-reported.

Like Bastida, many local media outlets took up the cause of pedestrian safety after yesterday’s crash. The story even held one of SFGate‘s three photo-feature slots for hours on its front page.

Yet, despite the abundance of pedestrian injuries caused by drivers, reporters like Bastida don’t seem as quick to cover them.

As I wrote earlier this week, the media generally tends to jump all over relatively rare pedestrian crashes with bicyclists and Muni drivers while overlooking the far bigger risk posed by private motorists. (There was one very welcome exception in the Chronicle yesterday: Columnist and former pedestrian-victim-blamer C.W. Nevius conceded that when you look at the numbers for pedestrian injuries, “It is pretty hard to escape the conclusion – it’s the drivers’ fault.”)

In fact, news crews were nowhere to be seen after SFist reported a crash at Castro and Market last Saturday in which a woman was hospitalized by a driver. Yet yesterday, CBS sent not one, but two reporters to cover the bike-ped crash at that same intersection. (Watch Linda Yee try to get the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Andy Thornton Thornley to say that people on bikes feel “entitled,” as I’m sure she does with AAA for every car crash she reports on.) Anchor Allen Martin even made sure to tie yesterday’s crash to Critical Mass, which is kind of like tying the typical car crash to Nascar or a presidential motorcade. Cars are involved, but the similarities end there.

If CBS is going to stay on top of the pedestrian safety beat, I’m still hoping to see a camera crew in my neighborhood today. Just last night, my girlfriend came across a woman injured in a crosswalk at Irving and 14th Avenue, just around the corner from where we live, and I went out to investigate.

Officer Santiago in the crosswalk on Irving and 14th Ave. where a woman was hit last night by a driver. Photo: Aaron Bialick

According to San Francisco Police Officer Eric Santiago, who responded at the scene, at about 7:35 p.m. the driver, a roughly 45-year-old man, injured a woman of about the same age while she was crossing 14th in a crosswalk marked with bright, yellow zebra stripes. The driver was making a left turn from eastbound Irving.

The woman’s injuries didn’t sound as serious as those of the man hit by the bicyclist in the Castro, though she also needed treatment at the hospital.

The most glaring difference I can see between the two cases is that pedestrians are constantly being hit by cars, not bikes. When I walk down that same street, as I do almost daily, I’m not worrying about the people on 30-pound bicycles. It’s the multi-ton, motorized masses of steel I’m watching out for.

While the police told reporters that the bicyclist at the Castro crash “might” have run a red light, Santiago was quick to clear the driver on Irving of any wrongdoing, despite his obvious failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way in a crosswalk, and it’s incumbent on the driver to respect a bright yellow one not controlled by a traffic signal. But Santiago said the driver didn’t get a citation for violating the pedestrian’s right-of-way and hospitalizing her, nor was he likely to.

“This is an accident. It wasn’t intentional,” Santiago told me.

Bastida, where are you?

  • jd_x

    Thanks again to Steetsblog for constantly bringing this to everyone’s attention. The societal bias against cycling — whether from cops or the media — is mind-numbingly pathetic once its brought to your attention and you see how glaringly biased our society is. A complete and utter misplaced sense of what is truly causing damage is great way to squander limited resources.

    That being said, this incident rightly deserves attention, especially if the cyclist indeed ran a red light. That hill is huge, and a cyclist can get a ton of speed, but you simply cannot go flying into that huge intersection when the light is red (if that is indeed what happened … still don’t know). It is unacceptable for any cyclist to hit a pedestrian like that. However, what I hate about these incidents is how the biased, car-centric public with a misplaced sense of what is truly causing the danger to pedestrians will take this opportunity to “crack down” on cyclists not coming to complete stops at empty intersections on the Wiggle, for example, and that is pointless. Again, we need to understand proportional response: I’m all for going after the small percentage of cyclists who blatantly disregard everyone’s safety (including other cyclists), but I’m completely against this having anything to do with the general cyclist and the fact that our city’s infrastructure and laws are completely inadequate to support what is the most efficient, healthy, safe, and quiet form of transit.

  • mikesonn

    Ross, from North Beach, said he bikes and follows all the stop signs/lights/etc because “once you’ve been hit by a couple of cars on your bike you become more aware of that” and then follows that up with: “I’m more worried about getting hit by a bike than I am being hit by a car.”

    WHAT?

  • Mario Tanev

    Aaron, I completely agree with your piece.

    However, it seems very personal (you actually invoke anecdotes from your personal experience), and I think you should highlight it better as such. Streetsblog has had amazing objective reporting, that managed to bring light to issues traditional media ignores. The point you raise deserves to be raised, over and over, but your frustration leaks throughout this editorial, and makes it less like news/reporting, more like an appeal/commentary.

    I have seen such pieces prefaced by “Commentary” when written by others, and I think this deserves the same treatment.

  • mikesonn

    Note about that Linda Yee story. You can’t make this up!

  • mikesonn

    This is what I meant to post. Sorry.

  • Stan Bunger was the worst on twitter.

    “SFPD says 73-yr-old pedestrian was hit by cyclist at Castro/Market. SFPD says cyclist ran red light. Both rider & pedestrian hurt.”

    When I  pointed out that the SFPD spokesman said it was under investigation, he replied.

    “Sorry for late reply–my Tweet re: cyclist/red light incident in SF was based on comment made to our reporter at scene.”

    “Actually, comment came from an SFPD captain who is himself a cyclist, and was corroborated by several witnesses we interviewed.”

    “Basing our coverage on several intvws w/ SFPD & witnesses w/in minutes of incident. All agreed. Should we ignore what they said?”

    All other coverage says “Cyclist may have run a red light”. My guess is the cub reporter for KCBS did a little “creative translation”

  • Just out of curiosity, does anyone think that a bicyclist could actually run the red (that means the light was red before the vehicle entered the intersection) and then make it across Market St without getting hit be a car? That intersection is impressively wide.  Or does it seem much more plausible that the cyclist entered the intersection legally but didn’t make it across before the pedestrian started crossing the street? Unfortunately the police nor the newscasters would ever look into what really happened when it is far easier to blame only the cyclist even if there is no direct evidence.

  • Aaron Bialick

    We haven’t always strictly used a “commentary” tag in the past, but it should be fairly apparent that it’s an opinion-oriented piece, and I think we’ll be moving away from using that tag in general. What do you all think?

  • mikesonn

    I disagree with Mario on this one. This media bias is getting out of hand. Note Bastida skipped EVERY car v ped crash since last July to bring up the ONE other incident where a cyclist hit a pedestrian. I’m sick and tired of it. I want Aaron fired up!

    And take a look at the screen shot from Linda Yee’s report (above).

  • Aaron Bialick

    Yee also mentions at the end that residents want red light cameras installed, which can only enforce against driver violations by photographing a license plate. She didn’t say whether those comments had anything to do with bicycles.

  • Both seem plausible.

    I have ridden through intersections where I had a green/yellow as I entered yet had to deal with cyclists and pedestrians who didn’t want to wait until it cleared. It would be helpful if there was actual video evidence showing what the light was when the cyclist entered the intersection rather than all this anecdotal stuff being thrown around.

  • 94103er

    Do you just not understand what this post is about? (Remember, this is a blog, not a news site.) It makes zero sense to quibble about commentary vs. news/reporting in the context of a situation in which the only reason for aforementioned ‘report’ hinges entirely on bias. 

    On the other hand, the Chron, which is supposedly a newspaper, has no interest in news/reporting anymore. Its main goal is “page views.” CBS5 supposedly has a news station, but its main goal is advertisements and social-media traffic.

    In order to be objective, one has to point out the glaring lack of objectivity there is out there once in a while.

  • Anonymous

    What was that b.s. from the SFPD about enforcing traffic laws going forward? Not only are they extremely overpaid to not enforce laws, but they now openly lie to the community about their intentions to enforce some laws.

  • I’m with Mario- it’s a good piece, but it’s more commentary/editorial and should be labeled as such. Sub-par ‘reporting’ by other news outlets shouldn’t be an excuse, even if it is frustrating. Also, I’m not an expert on the laws, but I think OpenPlans’ status as a 501c3 may dictate some differences vs. what for-profit news corporations can do.

  • mikesonn

    What does OpenPlans being a 501c3 have to do with this? I’m not sure what you mean.

    Mario has legit concerns, but this site is here to give a voice to safer streets. If one type of incident (cyclist v ped) is reported on like it’s an epidemic plaguing out city and the other is completely ignored while actually being an epidemic plaguing our city (driver v ped w/ no citation), then how can the editor not let his frustration show?!?!

  • mikesonn

    But Jamie, “This is an accident. It wasn’t intentional” !!!

  • The Greasybear

    My impression of the fairness and accuracy of mainstream Bay Area media dimmed immeasurably the day I started riding a bicycle, and this is just the latest example of why. To attain and retain as many customers as possible, corporate outlets like the Chronicle and KCBS pander to, and inflame, the motoring public’s animosity for the rise of urban bicycling, and accordingly skip coverage of the considerable carnage motorists create in the roadways, crosswalks and bike lanes.

  • The Greasybear

    It’s only an “accident,” unworthy of reportage, if a car is the cause of carnage. If a bike is the cause of carnage, then it’s a blaring headline, an indictment of the bicycle itself, and at long last, the final proof of the collective guilt and unique awfulness of every single person who rides a bike. This is apparently taught in journalism school. 

  • Just ignore CBS, they’re what we call “Commuter News”. Notice how the top story is always something traffic related. Oh, and traffic updates every 7 minutes. What crap.

  • Caleb

    One need only look as far as the top advertisers to see the source of media bias on auto-related injuries and fatalities.  The most ad money spent by far for TV news and SF Chronicle are from auto dealerships and auto-related businesses.

  • Mario Tanev

    My feeling was that in the past SF Streetsblog, even though it had a point of view, actually presented very rational arguments in a very rational way. I felt comfortable linking to Streetsblog to friends who were not necessarily on the same page as me because I felt the articles did a good job focusing on the facts and explaining the pedestrian/cyclist/transit rider side of the story.

    But I feel that if I link this article, no matter how much I agree with, some people will refuse to take it seriously due to the tone. It expresses frustration we all feel, and may galvanize some of us who are already in the choir (and maybe it will make us rise up with pitchforks, which is good), but may turn off other rational readers. In particular, people who disagree may respond with their own frustrations and anecdotes and the conversation would soon devolve into irrational discourse.

  • Anonymous

    People know that cars are dangerous, so that when a pedestrian is injured or killed it is not surprising, though it may be outrageous if the driver showed a high degree of neglect. A bicycle is much smaller, so when it causes serious injury or death it is noteworthy. Also, bicyclists as a class have a reputation, deserved or undeserved of being aggressive so bicycle/pedestrian accidents feed into this negative perception.

  • Sprague

    Thank you for so clearly highlighting double standards that seem to be rampant in the local media and with local law enforcement.  Your piece conveys an important message.  (As you know, the Streetsblog site from NYC performs a useful service, The Weekly Carnage, cataloging a week’s worth of “motor vehicle violence”; the numbers are staggering and it is probably underreported news.)

    Labeling subjective pieces as “commentary” should be done, in my humble opinion.  This particular piece is primarily objective and, as some commenters wrote, the subjective aspect of it is commonplace in blogs.

    The Castro/Market intersection is very poorly designed in regards to pedestrian safety.  The biggest accident-waiting-to-happen is for pedestrians heading north across Market Street, on the eastern side of Castro.  Right turning vehicles take this corner at high speeds and the crosswalk is set back and partially hidden, too.

  • Guest

    The double standard is with the cyclists. As a pedestrian, when I cross the streets with the green light or at a stop sign and have the right-of-way, I’ve nearly collided with cyclists many times. Even when cars stop at red lights and stop signs, I am never sure that cyclists will – and they usually don’t. It’s bad enough to have to worry about my safety with cars, but now I must be doubly cautious because of cyclists who see me as just another obstacle on their smooth ride home. I don’t watch TV, and I don’t doubt that there is bias with the media, but bikers need to check one another on their own recklessness.

  • James

    I think Mario raises a good point. One of the strengths of Streetsblog for me is that it takes a very professional, rational tone. Similarly to Mario, I direct drivers, who have little concept of what it’s like to ride a bike in the city, to Streetsblog, trusting that they’ll be exposed to issues related to the reclaiming of our urban spaces, without being immediately turned off by the perception that it’s just another blog ranting about a pet cause. That’s been a big motivation behind my multiple donations to Streetsblog and Streetfilms. Aaron does raise good points, but I think a commentary tag of some sort is appropriate.

  • Anonymous

    “The double standard is with the cyclists.”

    I don’t think anyone here is arguing that all cyclists are saints, but that’s not relevant to the double standard being referenced. Based on my experience it seems that people driving cars, riding bikes, and walking all break laws with about the same frequency, but for some reason cycling infractions tend to get more attention and raise the public ire more than the others, regardless of the actual implications.

    For instance, there were 13 pedestrian fatalities in SF in 2011, one of them caused by a cyclist and the other 12 by drivers of motor vehicles. However, the only one still getting occasional media references and the only one anyone still seems to remember is the crash with a cyclist at fault. I don’t know what else you could call this, except a blatant double standard.

    I think safe cycling is very important and I spend a lot of time furthering local educational efforts, but if what we are actually interested in is improving public safely then we have to look at the statistics and accept that the most significant danger comes from motor vehicles, not bicycles, and assign our attention, energy and resources proportionally.

    “bikers need to check one another on their own recklessness.”

    Please note that “bikers” are simply ordinary people who ride bicycles occasionally, most of whom also drive cars and walk around the city. These individuals are no more responsible for one another’s behavior than are random people in cars or people walking. Please try to refrain from making blanket accusations against groups of unrelated people, and we can have a more rational conversation about how to address real safety issues effectively.

  • The Greasybear

    The claim every cyclist “needs to check” the actions of every other cyclist–as if we are somehow individually responsible for the actions of complete strangers–is inherently biased and engenders the very double-standard this thread is intended to highlight and combat. We do not and cannot legitimately assign “collective guilt” to individuals for the autonomous actions of complete strangers based merely on mode of transportation. Bias, bias, bias.

  • The thing you folks at Streetsblog are in denial about is how badly so many cyclists behave on city streets. Impossible, of course, to know what percentage of cyclists these folks represent, but it has to be a significant minority, since I witness it almost every day in my neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody here is making excuses for bad cyclist behavior, we all walk around the city too and are familiar with the state of affairs. On the contrary, the folks who contribute to this blog probably care considerably more about traffic safety education and maintaining civility on our streets than the average person, as they have personal interests in making sure bicycling is accepted as a normal and uncontroversial means of everyday transportation.

    However, you can’t honestly argue with the statistics which very clearly indicate that the greatest danger to pedestrians comes from private motor vehicle drivers. What this blog post and others from this site are trying to communicate is that the attention given to bad cyclist behavior often exaggerates the problem while taking attention away from the much more numerous fatalities caused by car drivers, which tend to be given significantly less media attention partially because they are much more common.

    There is nothing wrong with reporting on cyclist-caused injuries or fatalities, as people on bikes have a responsibility to operate their vehicles safely in public, just like any other road users. However, in the interest of public safety it is also irresponsible to at the same time underplay the relatively greater danger caused by motor vehicle operators. To ignore this reality is to truly be in denial.

  • Yes, of course cars are a greater danger to pedestrians than bikes. My point: so many cyclists in the city behaving badly on city streets has created a lot of bad PR for you bike people, not to mention Critical Mass. And some of those people are lying in the weeds waiting for an excuse to hammer you in the media.

  • Anonymous

    My point: Bicyclists are not a cabal and no individual who chooses to bike has any responsibility for the behavior of any other person on a bike, just like no pedestrian, car driver, sailboater, or blimp operator does.

    My point: The media has a responsibility to report on issues within the proper context, so that topics of lesser importance are not sensationalized, obscuring more important concerns and playing on popular misconceptions and bias.

    If you are interested in doing something to promote better cycling behavior in the city then you should try supporting the SFBC’s and SFPD’s expansion of their free bike safety classes, or in supporting better cycling infrastructure. Better infrastructure has been proven to bring a larger demographic of cyclists to the streets, which in turn calms and civilizes the behavior of bike traffic as a whole.

  • ubringliten

    You just contradicted yourself.  You are making excuses for cars yet not for cyclists.  12/13 deaths (not including hundreds of injuries caused by cars) last year is caused by cars and you are saying cyclists should be behave?  What about all the cars that are creating traffic for the Muni riders every weekday.  Critical Mass happens once a month at a specific time.  Cars are not creating bad “PR”?  Please re-analyze.  

    If you are driving, you shouldn’t live in the city.  It doesn’t make any sense these days.

  • No one should be excused from bad behavior, whether cyclist or motorist. Nor is anyone responsible for anyone else’s bad behavior. But the problem with the bike movement in SF seems to stem from its rebel ethos that apparently has its origins with bike messengers and Critical Mass.

    In reality, it’s cyclists who like to change the subject to motorists when the bad behavior of cyclists is discussed. Nor do I know of any evidence that “infrastructure” has anything to do with the boorish behavior of cyclists on city streets. 

  • PF

    If cyclists persist in presenting themselves as both victims and morally superior, accidents like this will continue to get this kind of negative coverage. While as a driver I’ve never hit a cyclist, as a pedestrian, I’ve been hit two times by cyclists- once dead-on while crossing a one-way street by a cyclist traveling in the wrong direction, another on the sidewalk on Third Street and twice “brushed by” messengers on sidewalks. As a driver, I continually find cyclists not stopping or even slowing for stop signs and lights- most of my experiences have been in the Page Street bike lane- and I’m going to assume that the situation persists all over town. I’ve never been hit by a car…

    The first accident made me lose a week of work and miss a critical job interview.
    Most importantly, there are no consequences for cyclists involved in accidents- you carry no insurance, there’s no license for you to lose, and despite the fact that legally you’re governed by California rules of the road, day-in, day-out, you’re observed flouting them.

    The elderly woman killed on the Embarcadero was killed because someone was in a hurry to get to work. He was in a hurry, and now she’s dead. There’s not much moral superiority in that.

  • Anonymous

    “Nor do I know of any evidence that “infrastructure” has anything to do with the boorish behavior of cyclists on city streets.”

    1. The most agressive and collision-prone cyclists tend to be young men
    2. Better cycling infrastructure tends to attract more women, more families, and older cyclists
    3. Cyclists, like other road users, tend to adopt the behavior of those around them

    Therefore:

    4.Creating better bike infrastructure will encourage a more diverse ridership, reducing the ratio of agressive riders on the streets and improving the overall behavior of people on bikes.

    For comparison, imagine a narrow, pothole-ridden highway filled with metering lights and 20-something white guys harboring a sense of persecution. I wouldn’t want to be there either.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    If cyclists persist in presenting themselves as both victims and morally superior

    Well, both counts are true, averaged over populations.  Sorry, but you’re going to have to deal with that for the rest of your life.  You might not like it, and it might fill you with seething rage and resentment of Those People, but, well, them’s the facts.  Nothing you can do about it, sorry.

    Most importantly, there are no consequences for cyclists involved in accidents

    You’re utterly delusional.
    The first and most obvious consequence is that if you hit anything on a bike, including a soft squishy pedestrian, you’re likely to come off badly, and nearly every time you’re going to come off worse than whatever it was you hit, and unpredictable resulting trajectories can be fatal in the presence of any motor vehicle.  Nobody who isn’t doing stunts for movie seeks to end up on the road surface.  Nobody.
    The second obvious consequence is that the doughnut boys will fuck you over, will prosecute where motorists can and do murder with impunity, will enforce the law selectively, will fail to prosecute or even investigate where cyclists are injured or killed, etc.  The consequences are real and selective and unfair and onerous.
    Anybody who spends a minute on the streets understands these basic facts, in their skin.
    Only psychopaths use their own breakable bodies as projective weapons, and nearly all humans (especially the ones who aren’t sociopathic enough to drive) aren’t psychopaths.So yeah, there are consequences.  And nobody remotely rational invites them.
    Enjoy your afternoon of anonymous seething resentment!

  • But the problem with the bike movement in SF seems to stem from its rebel ethos

    “I dig that tribal look”

  • If cyclists persist in presenting themselves as both victims and morally superior

    False. The persistence is pointing out that being a cyclist does *not* imply that I am morally *inferior*

  • Most importantly, there are no consequences for cyclists involved in accidents- you carry no insurance, there’s no license for you to lose.

    Someone with insurance will have *less* consequence than someone without insurance. If you have insurance, you might see a small increase in your premium for the next 3 years. If you don’t you are 100% exposed to judgements.

    This also assumes that any given motorist has insurance. Well over 10% of the time, you’d be making an incorrect assumption. A similar percentage has no license. This also implies that if you lose your insurance and your license, that will not stop you from driving. And getting involved in an incident without a license means that you will have your license suspended for a while longer and you can ignore that suspension as well.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Nobody here is making excuses for bad cyclist behavior,

    Hey, I will!

    Much of the “bad cyclist behavior” that gets bleated on about are either victimless crimes (SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE ROLLED THROUGH A STOP SIGN AND MUST BE PROSECUTED!) or just part of the low-level friction of living in a society that contains other humans and occasionally being surprised (THAT LUNATIC CAME FROM NOWHERE AND TRIED TO RUN ME DOWN) or wronged by small inconsequential errors (NO YOU ARE NOT SORRY YOU MUST DIE).

    Most people break small laws in small ways all the time, with the result that society as a whole functions in a slightly less frictional and even more pleasant way than the bizarre self-righteous hypocritical anti-utopias of the “bad behavior” accusers.

    Dangerous behaviours and anti-social behaviours are a very small subset of “bad behavior”, and a lot of the “bad behavior” bandied about really amounts to “getting on with your life in a way that I choose to disapprove of for some reason.”

    So there.

  • Ubringliten

    “The elderly woman killed on the Embarcadero was killed because someone was in a hurry to get to work. He was in a hurry, and now she’s dead. There’s not much moral superiority in that.”
    This is the reason that this article is addressing.  People think this way because of the biased mainstream media.  Present those 12 auto accidents as much as that one bike accident (which happened in the last 5 years), and you will stop thinking this way.

    Two days ago, I was almost hit by a pickup truck at a cross walk.  If I walk a little faster, I wouldn’t be here typing.  Back at you.

  • Anonymous

     Bikes feel the need to be aggressive because of cars’ sense of entitlement, which feeds into … plenty of blame to go around. But what gets reported on TV is perception, and perception is reality. So if people think only bicyclists hit pedestrians, cars aren’t reminded to be more careful too. There should have at least been a mention of the facts for context.

  • Anonymous

     With a name like “Streetsblog” I always assumed that the reporting here would have an agenda, and all the articles are incredibly fact-based, even if opinionated. Labeling articles commentary could detract from that. Maybe a better label, used at newspapers, is “analysis.” But then I would say that every piece here is equally thoughtful.

  • Turin

    If we’re posting personal anecdotes as incontrovertible evidence now, then I’d like to point out that I mostly walk in the city — I never ride a bike, but do occasionally drive. I have never, ever once had an issue with a biker. I’ve never come close to getting hit by one and have never had any kind of issue with a bike rider at all.

    I have had numerous issues with drivers, however. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost been hit by cars who are breaking the traffic laws in one or more ways. Taxis, personal drivers and even Muni drivers (some Muni drivers habitually turn in front of pedestrians against the light at certain intersections downtown — happens virtually everyday) have been far more threatening to my well-being over the years than bike riders. Fortunately, I’m very aware of my surroundings and have pretty good reflexes. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be dead today thanks to the driving population of San Francisco.

    You see, we all have our personal experience and perspective. That’s why we look at actual statistics and facts to determine the truth. And the statistics say that drivers are far more dangerous to pedestrians than bikers. That’s just the way it is, and all your resentment toward those who ride a bike won’t change that one bit.

  •  I never have issues with cyclists either, and I walk around Valencia Street and on 24th Street all the time – toddler in tow. And the drivers on 24th scare the crap out of me.

    I’m starting to believe that what is going on is that *everyone* is trained to look for cars, expects them, knows where they will be, and notices them.

    Not everyone however has been trained to look for cyclists. When a motorist is not aware of a cyclist – we get the “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” defense as the motorist hits the cyclist who was right in front of him but he didn’t see. When a pedestrian is not aware of a cyclist, it creates close calls that don’t exist with motorists that pedestrians see and then defer to.

    This is exacerbated by the fact that cyclists ride nearer to the curb than motorists.

    I don’t blame the pedestrians. They shouldn’t be in the position to need to defer to motorists OR cyclists in situations where they have the right of way. But the amount of close calls? “I Blame Society”. But noticing we hear about all these close calls but despite the Cherney incident and the one in the Castro, the overall rate of incidents is lower. Two factors – underreporting of stats because bike/ped collisions are less likely to create an incident that seems “reportable” and because the cyclists have been trained to look for peds (unlike motorists?)

  • Anonymous

    @daaccf0fbadcd6e8f44b666b57ee79aa:disqus We don’t decide policy by anecdotes. For every story you have about how you almost got hit by a cyclist, we could find 100 who have almost been hit by a motorist. Then add to that equation how many are actually hit and hurt by a motorist versus a cyclist …

    In the end, we decide policy by statistics, not by your (or anybody else’s) anecdotes. And when you look at the statistics, motorists by *far* present the greatest dangerous to not just pedestrians, but cyclists and other motorists. With limited resources, it is absolutely irrational not to focus on the danger motorists present as solving this problem saves the most lives and prevents the most injury.

  • LB

    As a street-wise pedestrian who doesn’t drive, but instead walks everywhere, I’ve learned to never assume any driver or bicyclist will come to a complete stop at a crosswalk, stop-sign or red light – especially when making a right turn.  Generally speaking though, I’ve noticed if I’m already completely in the crosswalk (as opposed to standing at the curb) *most* automobile drivers will observe the law.  And if they don’t, at least I can see them coming.

    Unfortunately, my experience with bicyclists has been much different.  So much so that whenever a cyclist stops for me at a crosswalk, I make a point to smile and thank them; it’s only happened a few times over the years and is therefore rare enough to be noteworthy. 

    What makes bicycles far more threatening for a lot of us (particularly the elderly) is that you don’t see them coming until they’re right on top of you.  Often they’re visually obscured by autos that have stopped in front of them, and are traveling too fast to be noticed; pedestrians are lulled into a false sense of security by any vehicles that are stopped.  Just recently, a bicyclist sped around several other stopped autos, through a red light (and crosswalk) as I was walking an elderly woman across the street.  We were almost to the other side when the bicycle came barreling through at a high rate of speed, barely missing us both.  Although she and I were obeying the laws, she had her head down and would’ve never even known what hit her.  We were lucky that time.

    I’ve also regularly seen large groups of bicyclists go speeding through Golden Gate Park, taking blind right turns at full-speed and plowing through stop signs as pedestrians patiently wait for the last straggler (on a bicycle) to make their way through.

    I realize there are conscientious law-abiding cyclists out there and I appreciate their courtesy and good sense.  I just wish more bicycle riders were aware how dehumanizing and dangerous their *habitual* disregard for pedestrians right-of-way laws are; whether they’d admit to it or not, I think many riders *expect* pedestrians to get out of their way, and don’t realize not everyone can – nor should they have to.  With a little mindfulness and patience, there’s room enough on the road for all of us.

  • peternatural

     I’ve seen badly behaved bicyclists like you’re describing, but my personal experience is totally different — bicyclists usually yield to others when they should. (E.g., they yield to me, when I’m a pedestrian, or to other pedestrians when I’m there to watch.)

    Your anecdote about the crazed cyclist veering around traffic, ignoring pedestrians in a crosswalk, and speeding through a red light sounds suspect. I’m sure it happens (occasionally), just like cars occasionally run red lights mid-cycle while speeding. I see that every few months — often enough that I avoid running any green lights myself (without carefully looking both ways first), but still quite rare. Most bicyclists stop at red lights. (In the past, more of them used to recklessly run the lights, but those ones have since been culled out by the laws of physics 😉

  • LB

    peternatural – If my story sounds “suspect”, it’s probably because the behavior I’ve described defies logic.  Yet it happened to me, just as it happened to the elderly pedestrian who was recently killed.  Maybe it’s worth mentioning that as the bicyclist passed in front of us, we briefly made eye-contact – and he seemed as surprised to see us as I was to see him. 

    I’m convinced he ran the red light because he wasn’t looking for pedestrians and therefore didn’t see us (there were only the two of us in the crosswalk and he didn’t have any cross traffic to contend with).  I don’t believe he was so much crazed as he was overly confident, nor do I believe he was intentionally *trying* to hit us – not that it would’ve made much difference had we been injured or killed. 

    The point of my story is how easily accidents can happen when people choose not to obey traffic laws.   And also how difficult it can be for the elderly and disabled (as well as the very young) to safely maneuver through our streets. But I’m glad your experiences have been so much different than mine.  It gives me hope.

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