What KTVU’s sensationalistic bike coverage lacks in integrity, it compensates for in consistency. The Fox affiliate’s segment on the proposed “Bike Yield Law” yesterday kept the bar low in manufacturing controversy, featuring a bedside interview with a single mother recovering from injuries after being hit by a bicycle rider earlier that day.
KTVU reporter Amber Lee glossed over the fact that the bicyclist who hit 36-year-old Virginia Melchor “wasn’t going through a stop sign” when the crash occurred in Golden Gate Park. The segment introduces Melchor immediately after showing Supervisor John Avalos explain that under his ordinance, people on bikes who fail to yield “will still have to be held accountable.”
Melchor’s crash is as tragic and unacceptable as any. But it has nothing to do with the ordinance. That didn’t stop KTVU from exploiting it.
KTVU didn’t bother to consult any experts on traffic law and street safety, but did feature SFPD Park Station Captain John Sanford and his binder full of complaints about bicyclists.
Sanford cited anecdotes, not traffic injury data, to justify his crackdown on innocuous bike violations at stop signs last month, which he called off after protest at a community meeting. Although Sanford’s views seem to be evolving, he told KTVU that “giving cyclists the opportunity to roll through stop signs can be very dangerous.”
But the point that continues to be missed by Sanford, KTVU, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, and Mayor Ed Lee is that failure to yield to pedestrians would remain illegal. The ordinance would simply codify the idea that SFPD should not direct its enforcement resources toward the vast majority of people on bikes who slow down and yield at stop signs. They are not the ones injuring people like Virginia Melchor.
Police data does show that drivers hit about three pedestrians a day, on average. And the number of people injured in traffic who need to be hospitalized for more than 24 hours is much higher than previously thought. Health Department researchers recently found that those cases occur every 17 hours, on average.
Those stories don’t make the cut at KTVU. Instead the news team is all about harassing bicyclists without helmets and hyping scandals like bike-share, 27-cent parking meter fees, and the re-purposing of handfuls of parking spaces. Improving public safety on SF streets doesn’t rate.
You can see why KTVU might be threatened by an ordinance like the Bike Yield Law. If San Francisco’s laws actually aligned with the safe, common-sense way that most people bike, there would be one less thing to sensationalize on the evening news.