Rare pedestrian deaths exploited by bicycle foes

Rare pedestrian deaths exploited by bicycle foes

Enough already.

It is alleged that bicyclist Chris Bucchere sped downhill toward the intersection of Market and Castro streets on March 29, plowed through the crosswalk and smacked straight into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui, who hit his head. Hui later died at the hospital.

By any standard, if Bucchere did indeed do this, as his purported postings on Internet sites indicate, the behavior was reckless and dangerous. If he did, in fact, burn through a red light, then he should be criminally prosecuted for the death of the pedestrian.

But consider what else has happened in the past few weeks.

Someone shot a 17-year-old boy multiple times as he got off a bus in Visitacion Valley. Another young man was found shot and killed underneath the Bay Bridge. An alleged drunken driver smashed up several parked cars before flipping his SUV on the Muni tracks.

None of these incidents received the same level of press coverage that Bucchere's case has. The only case that comes close is that of Binh Thai Luc, who allegedly killed five people in a home near City College of San Francisco.

On one level, we understand why the story of a bicyclist killing someone in the heart of one of The City's most famous neighborhoods -- and then posting comments about it in an online forum -- makes for such good copy. It's just so exotic.

But another word for exotic is rare. Bicyclists just don't hit people very often; according to The City's Department of Public Health, cars hit people 811 times in 2010, while bicyclists hit people just 18 times. And when they do, they don't have the momentum to do the same level of damage.

Still, we get it. It's a fascinating story, precisely because it doesn't happen very often.

But there's also a slightly less savory quality to the case of Chris Bucchere. There is an audience out there -- mostly older, mostly cranky -- that loves to marinate in the notion that drivers in The City are victimized by political correctness run amok. [...]

Where are these `legal' drivers, anyway?

Happy Distracted Driving Awareness Month, everybody.

Here's an Internet trope that frequently pops up whenever bicycles are mentioned in the news. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

I'm a pedestrian, a cyclist, and I drive a car. Bikes might be only 1% of the traffic, but they're responsible for 99% of the traffic violations I see every day. Car drivers are licensed, responsible, and obey the law. Maybe one in 50 drivers break the law.

What kind of fairy tale land do these people live in where the vast majority of motorists obey the law? Here's what I see every single day I'm on the road.

During lunch today, I biked around the block at my office. I counted 12 cars leave the office parking lot -- every one of them ran a stop sign and every one of them rolled through a red light and every one of them failed to signal their turn. Two of them nearly mowed down a crowd of pedestrians walking to lunch and violated their right of way. (An aside -- besides stopping short to avoid getting hit by the speeding cars, I betcha this right-of-way violation was not noticed by the walkers. If I had pulled the same move on my bike, however, and startled them as I whizzed closely by, they almost certainly would have gotten a little upset at scofflaw cyclists endangering their lives. We call this "modal bias.")

For those keeping count, that's at least 38 moving violations by 12 drivers in the span of about 90 seconds. Instead of the one in fifty proportion of scofflaws to legal drivers I've seen in online claims, these guys are batting 1.000. [...]

So tell me -- where is this land of make believe where drivers don't constantly endanger the lives of everybody around them?

Please understand I don't get particularly uptight about the scofflaw behavior itself. If I did, I'd probably be unable to function, and I imagine it's part of the reason most of us ignore the lawbreaking. It's the rank hypocrisy that people believe they're much more law abiding inside of a car that drives me a little nuts sometimes. [...] When's the last time Matier & Ross published anonymous tips about a random car fatality in San Francisco?

Previously, previously, previously.

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Why You Can't Get a Taxi

Why You Can't Get a Taxi

Many defenders of regulation argue that restrictions are necessary because cabdrivers make so little money as it is. But there's very little evidence that restricting the number of cabs improves the lot of the people who drive them, rather than the lot of the companies that, by and large, own the licenses. It's simply too easy for new would-be drivers to show up at a taxi service and compete cabbies' earnings down -- in these days of GPS, you don't even need to be familiar with the area. So any excess profits from restricting entry tend to accrue not to the drivers, but to the people who own the right to drive. Last October, two New York City taxi medallions sold for $1 million apiece.

"In New Haven, nearly every taxi is owned or controlled by [the same] person," Robert McNamara, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which litigates against these sorts of rules, told me. Restricting entry "hasn't made the drivers better off."

Nonetheless, the public fights usually get framed as consumers-against-drivers. And regulators respond with a patchwork of policies to pay off various constituencies -- entry restrictions in exchange for lower fares, "fuel surcharges" in exchange for laws requiring drivers to take you anywhere in the city.

Almost all the everyday complaints about cabs trace back to this regulatory cocktail. Drivers won't take you to the outer reaches of your metropolitan area? The regulated fares won't let them charge you more to recover the cost of dead-heading back without a return customer. Cabs are poorly maintained? Blame restricted competition, and the inability to charge for better quality. Cabbies drive like maniacs? With high fixed costs for cars and gas, and no way to increase their earnings except by finding another fare, is it any wonder that they try to get from place to place as fast as possible?

[...] The real threat to [Uber] is the promulgation of new regulations that would make business expansion impossible by cutting off the supply of licensed limos, and other regulations designed to shut down Uber entirely -- that is, just the sort of measures being proposed in D.C.

Previously, previously.

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