Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The next stop is your, pardner!

Last week the Bay Citizen published an article listing San Francisco's most dangerous streets for cyclists. They basically collected all the data on accidents including a bicycle and mapped them out.

I'd argue that the analysis is backwards. There's a certain probability of an accident at any given location if you are riding through it. In order to get that number, you have to normalize the number of accidents by the number of trips. The reason that places like Valencia and Market have the most accidents is that they are the most popular roads to ride on - and this is because they have been determined through experience and tribal knowledge to have the best balance of safety and utility. Certainly riding down 22nd Street from Sanchez to Church - a 28 percent gradient - would be a lot less safe, but there are no recorded accidents there!

The article also discusses fault, which brings up the issue of police bias. Over and over again we see instances where the driver made an error, but no citation is made. (Aside - I'm still trying to figure out the legitimacy of an argument made by Burlingame PD that an accident report assigning fault is effectively the same as a citation in terms of insurance *and* points on your license). Generally speaking, cyclists feel that the police often suffer from a windshield perspective and are dismissive of cyclists. The other day, I encountered an officer who doesn't share that perspective.

On Caltrain NB 267, a passenger boarded at Sunnyvale and started ranting, berating the other passengers. "You afraid I'm going to rob you? I should. Kiss my a**. I should kick your a**. You gonna call the po po? I'd f**k your shit up but I don't want to go back to jail."

This was a bad scene. We were in the bike car and there were some strapping guys in there, but this guy was a mean looking character, and young. I started fiddling with my phone trying to figure out if there was a surreptitious way to alert the conductors or police. I wasn't the only one - and the hooligan noticed. "You got your iPhone gonna try to get the po po to save your ass???"

Suddenly, the rider across from me said "OK - ENOUGH. THAT'S IT PARDNER, YOU'RE GETTING OFF AT THE NEXT STOP." I looked over and he was flipping open his wallet to reveal... a Police Badge! He waddled down the bike car in his Sidi's and between him and the 2 conductors who had finally arrived, set this guy straight and evicted him in Mountain View.

Best I can tell he's Menlo Park PD. He gets on at Tamien - as soon as the scene settled down we went back to discussing service cuts and he was concerned about losing his station.

Don't mess with the Bike Cop!


John C. Baker said...

As I said on Twitter, that's great (and exactly why cops get to ride the train for free). As for what the Burlingame cop said, I dunno about insurance, but as a former police dispatcher, I can tell you that accidents and related points do indeed show up on your driving record -- more so because you can't avoid the points through traffic school.

djconnel said...

You always have the most interesting commutes: brushes with death on an almost monthly basis. Yesterday I had the Australian won his cell phone for an hour (the train was running slow), this morning the guy who had a continual conversation with himself (I didn't ask what was in the cigarettes he occasionally fondled)... relative Dullsville.