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Streetsblog Publisher Responds to Complaints about Story on SFMTA Cycling Numbers on Valencia

The post in question was based on SFMTA's own numbers obtained via a public records request

2:12 PM PST on January 5, 2024

SFMTA sent out a Twitter thread Thursday claiming that preliminary data on the center-running bike lane on Valencia Street indicates cycling has increased "... about 3 percent higher than baseline pre-pilot conditions.” Mission Local did a good job covering the statement.

SFMTA plans to share the data behind that figure sometime in February.

The SFMTA thread takes a not-very-veiled shot at "SFMTA Data Shows Cyclists Stopped Riding Valencia Because of Center Running Bike Lane," a post we published Wednesday. The post was based on SFMTA's own 2023 data, obtained via a public records request, that showed a roughly 50 percent decline in cycling. You can read the post or go straight to the SFMTA document, the "Mid-Valencia Pilot 1 Month Evaluation Summary."

Streetsblog San Francisco editor Roger Rudick analyzed the data with help from advocate Luke Bornheimer and other editors on the Streetsblog team in California. Rudick emailed the SFMTA comm's team on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 2, requesting comment on their numbers and the huge decline in bicycle counts. 

Instead of answering, SFMTA wrote the thread asserting that "Reporting incomplete data without the proper context does not support a collaborative and thoughtful process around resolving concerns." It's unclear if that refers to Streetsblog, bike advocate Luke Bornheimer, or both.

Following SFMTA’s thread, both Rudick and I received texts and emails from the handful of advocates who still support the Valencia center-running bike lane, demanding that we retract our story. They told us that other organizations will be publishing stories with different data. We look forward to analyzing that data.

At this point in time, however, there's no justification for printing a retraction. SFMTA hasn't provided counts or explained what "pre-pilot conditions" actually means. Is that from just before the official opening of the lane in August? Is it a month-to-month comparison from the previous year? If so, what months are we talking about? Is it against an average of several months or years? All they have promised is that data exists that shows a vastly different picture than the September drop. 

If SFMTA has hard data to back up the claim that they had a 3 percent increase in the three months following a 50 percent drop, we look forward to seeing it and writing about it.

We'd also like to know why so much data is being withheld from the public in the first place, rather than being made available on a rolling basis. Put another way, if transparency is the stated goal, it shouldn't be necessary to make a public records request in the first place.

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