Intrepid KTVU Reporters Expose the Shocking Story of Bike-Share!

Frank Somerville puts on his skeptical anchor man face to introduce KTVU’s electrifying exposé about “government bikes.”

KTVU sure blew away viewers yesterday with its latest muckraking segment on the government scandal that is bike-share.

My mind, for one, was blown by the audacity of KTVU’s comically disingenous attempt to paint bike-share as nothing more than an “obscure government agency’s latest spending spree,” as anchor Frank Somerville introduced it.

“Even its strongest supporters concede there’s no actual scientific data showing the multi-million dollar plan will improve our air quality,” he said.

Well, KTVU reporter Mike Mibach didn’t really seem interested in actually answering whether bike-share has helped reduce driving in any of the 500 cities that have launched it — not even DC’s Capital Bike-Share (yes, that’s the label on the sample bike shown in his segment). In DC, bike-share shattered expectations in its first year with 18,000 registered members logging over a million trips — double the projections. According to survey data, the system led to an overall increase in transit and bicycling use, and an average savings of $891 per year in transport costs for users.

But according to KTVU, it’s all just a waste and the SF region shouldn’t try to get results like that. Nope, we should just sit back and watch as NYC launches a 330-station system (which got 4,000 people to sign up within the first 24 hours of membership sales).

We won’t do too much more of KTVU’s homework, but there are studies from many other cities showing how bike-share complements transit systems and leads to greener transportation habits — in places as far-ranging as Minneapolis; Hanghzou, China; and Paris, where motor traffic has declined by 25 percent since 2007, when bike-share launched there.

KTVU apparently went to some lengths to frame bike-share as an unprecedented boondoggle. Karen Schkolnik, grant programs manager for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is shown in the segment responding to a question about whether people have sold their personal bikes to rely on bike-share, which has nothing do with reducing driving and air pollution (and isn’t the point of bike-share). “I don’t know that that question has been asked that way,” you see her say in the segment. In what sound like his “gotcha” tone, Mibach follows up with: “In a word, no.”

Schkolnick told me those sound bytes were the only pieces sliced out of an hour-long interview. “The studies do show that not only does driving go down, but individual use of personal bicycles also goes up, in general,” she said. “In terms of people selling their bicycles and just using these, there’s no data showing that people do that, and that’s what I was trying to explain, and somehow I don’t think that came across effectively.”

When it comes to drumming up controversy around bikes, we know we can count on KTVU to put fearmongering over facts.

  • Imagine if these numbskulls devoted some airtime to LOS rules and other counterproductive regulations that actually do worsen air quality in the name of preserving it.

  • Bike share may be a good idea – and this piece a half-truth at best – but it’s the BAAQMD’s own fault that they are obscure and not trusted by the public or news media.

  • Anonymous

    pretty typical of local media these days. going all jihad on mass transit, etc on behalf of car owners makes for good ratings, regardless of actual facts. just look at the attacks the Examiner-owned media are making on SF transit daily!

  • greenhombre

    Reaching for a Peabody, obviously.

  • GuestCommenter

    Another death knell of automobile culture’s preeminence.

  • Anonymous

    It’s easy to understand the self-serving motivation behind Channel 2’s policy of smearing alternatives to the private automobile: like the rest of the region’s corporate media, KTVU is substantially funded by automobile companies. In my experience, it’s entirely common for the station to run more than a dozen car commercials per hour during their biased “news” broadcasts.

  • 1 in 5 commercials on television is a car commercial and you the think the corporate media isn’t going to attack bike sharing?

  • Anonymous

    It was funny how doubtful they were that people riding bikes would improve air quality, especially as the camera showed cars driving down the highway on a hot day with visible exhaust. You shouldn’t need “scientifically proven” studies to show that more people riding bikes reduces car emissions.

  • Given the tiny scale of the program in question, I’m inclined to agree with KTVU here. We’re spending a lot of money on bike sharing, yet we’re not going to have much to show for it.

  • Mario Tanev

    This is frankly nothing short of embarrassing. Local TV news is a lame excuse for news – it’s just an engine for advertisement.

  • Jake Wegmann

    $7 mm is a lot of money?! That’s chump change for a transportation project that could accelerate the spread of bicycling in the City.

    Last I checked, the Caldecott Fourth Bore project was up to $439 mm. And last summer, guess what happened? Oops! The budget went up by $27 mm because of unforeseen construction difficulties.

    Could have launched almost four bikeshare programs for just the cost of the overage.

    Why does so something so piddly as the bike share program, which at least is about clean transportation, get so much scrutiny, while massive road projects with massive overruns get none at all?

  • I hope someone from Streetsblog noticed this piece that seemed only intended to fan the flames of the war on bikes in the NYTimes a couple days ago:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/nyregion/sharing-bikes-and-fury-in-new-york-neighborhoods.html?_r=0

  • You seem to be arguing against a point I never made. I’m comparing the $7 million figure to the amount of bike sharing we’re getting for that money — and it doesn’t look good.

  • Jake Wegmann

    OK, maybe you didn’t make that point, but I’m making it.

    Why get bent out of shape about $7 mm? Why NOT get bent out of shape about $439+ mm?

    The point is, why not pick fights that actually mean something?

  • The point is, why not pick fights that actually mean something?

    Because you care about bike sharing and want to see it succeed?

  • that works out to $10,000 bike. you could get more advanced bikeshare technology for under $2,000 bike. you could buy about 25 solid Trek bikes for each San Francisco bikeshare bike.

    Check out new technology: http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2013/05/02/social-bicycles-brings-sharing-to-two-wheels/?mod=wsj_nview_latest

  • Forthright

    LOL @ “1 in 5”

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