ABC7's pedestrian safety coverage courts controversy

ABC 7 screencap

ABC7 News Investigative Team’s new “investigative report” on pedestrian safety stirred controversy this week as street safety advocates called out the video for its insensitivity towards pedestrian deaths and lax attitude towards unsafe drivers.

Streetsblog SF and others in San Francisco said the report engaged in “victim blaming.” 

ABC7’s pedestrian safety coverage comes on the heels of a number of high-profile traffic collision deaths, including that of 6-year-old Sofia Liu, killed on New Year’s Eve. Since then, the Walk First program to create safer streets has garnered more attention, culminating in Mayor Ed Lee’s announcement today to partially fund safety improvements to the city’s most dangerous intersections, to the tune of $17 million -- improvements that languished due to funding gaps since the program was announced in April.

But making all the needed improvements though would cost $240 million, according to city estimates, and that funding has yet to be identified. Suffice to say, the traffic enforcement debate still rages in San Francisco, with emphasis on the word ‘rage.’

“We’ve seen ‘blame the pedestrians’ from police and in the media,” Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said at a pedestrian safety hearing in January. Police Chief Greg Suhr that night apologized for his officers’ lax enforcement of drivers, and focus on pedestrians, and pledged to change policies to focus on drivers going forward.

It’s too bad ABC 7’s I-Team didn’t get that memo.

“In San Francisco, simply stepping off the curb can be deadly,” ABC reporter Dan Noyes narrates in their video report. The word ‘deadly’ is capped off with a Hollywood-style musical flourish, like a horror movie moments before the big scare. 

“Pedestrians are making mistakes over and over again,” Noyes narrates. The video cuts to pedestrian after pedestrian looking at cell phones, jaywalking, or otherwise engaging in unsafe behavior. It’s fair to say the piece, headlined “I-Team investigates what’s causing pedestrian deaths,” places responsibility of pedestrian safety squarely on the shoulders of pedestrians.

In the report, Noyes stops many pedestrians and calls them out for looking at cell phones -- but doesn’t attempt to stop a single driver to do the same. Exacerbating the approach, the I-Team asked for San Franciscans to call out unsafe behavior via Twitter with the hashtag #DidntLook, which was emblazoned over the image of a pedestrian crossing the street.

That may have been what sparked the reaction that followed.

“Should peds look so that last memory is the car who killed them? What should peds do when facing pending death, push a car away?” Kate McCarthy, president of Walk SF, wrote via Twitter. 

Twitter user Sonn St Paul told Noyes “your editorial staff #didntlook at this before giving the okay, huh?” Noyes replied, “We’ve investigated cars and bikes, now it’s pedestrians. 

Beyond the pedestrian advocates and Twitter users, StreetsBlog SF’s Aaron Bialick was probably the harshest critic of the piece

“Noyes didn’t let facts get in the way of producing a pedestrian-shaming piece,” he wrote. “ABC did put some of those pesky facts in the segment, like the SFPD statistics that two-thirds of pedestrian crashes are primarily the fault of the driver. But why should the I-Team’s ‘investigation’ allow rigorous data to spoil the slant of the segment?”

“Noyes is capable of better stuff,” he wrote.

The Guardian spoke with KGO-TV/ABC7 Vice President of News Tracey Watkowski, who defended the piece.

“Our goal for the story is to raise awareness for safety overall in San Francisco,” she said. “It’s all about everyone sharing the road. We’ve done a lot of stories on drivers, and we stand by this story.”

Chief Suhr addresses pedestrian safety after a hearing in January.

When we told Watkowsi that the story seemed to echo the anti-pedestrian slant that Chief Suhr had just apologized for, and that the police (and mayor) are now shifting away from with new outreach efforts focusing on drivers, she again defended her news team.

“Pulling in an event with Greg Suhr would not have made the story better,” she said. “For us it was about overall safety.”


People are way too distracted these days, putting themselves and everyone else at risk.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

It is fascinating to me how the SF Bicycle Coalition sides with the City and cops in calling for cyclists to adhere to the strict letter of the law, but Walk SF twists itself into all sorts of contortions to absolve pedestrians of the responsibility to look both ways before crossing the street.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 5:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

Walk SF basically says that pedestrians should not have to look both ways before crossing the street and whatever happens, it is the motorist or cyclist's fault.

The Bike Coalition calls for enforcement against bicyclists in a bid to appear reasonable. Could you imagine the AAA calling for cops to issue more speeding tickets?

All road and sidewalk users need to be mindful of their environment because they are sharing space with all other users. It is more important to me that shared space users show a mutual respect for the rights of all to use the shared space safely than obedience to the letter of the law.

I could care less if a pedestrian crosses between crosswalks so long as they don't endanger others when they do so. When pedestrians leap off of the sidewalk into the bike lane with a smart phone in one hand and a Starbucks in the other, however, that ped is not showing respect for cyclists as they share space.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

stop signs and lights, they are disrespecting others.

Everyone needs to obey the rules and be considerate.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

No no no. Marcos thinks that since bicyclists are well... bicyclists, they shouldn't have to obey any traffic laws they don't like. Not to mention that their fight to do those things is a civil rights action on par with defeating Jim Crow, legalizing gay marriage, and ending child labor.

Remember when a cop stopped Steven for running a stop sign on his bicycle, Steven proceeded to give him a chewing out? It's hilarious how people like Marcos and Steven love to lecture everyone else on safety, responsibility, courteousness, and the need to share the road, and then turn right around and feel they don't need to any of those things because well... they're bicyclists.

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Posted by estate planning on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

I think that obeying the laws and being respectful and considerate are orthogonal concepts. One can be respectful and considerate to other shared space users while not following the law.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

So in other words you feel you should only obey laws that you agree with. Got it. Why don't you just say that instead of pulling out your thesaurus and writing rambling drawn out screeds that take 50 words instead of the simple 10 that are needed?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 10:18 pm

they disagree with as long as the driver has a subjective feeling that he is being "respectful".

Works for me.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 7:31 am

No harm, no foul works for me.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:24 am

be driving within inches of cyclists while of course remaining "respectful".

Hey, works for me. If they wobble and we collide, I'll tall them that marcos says it is OK.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:38 am

Obviously putting other road users at risk is not respectful.

Crossing the street between crosswalks when there is no traffic is not worth devoting scarce enforcement resources to.

Cyclists coasting through a stop sign when there are no other road users or peds is not worth devoting scarce enforcement resources to.

A motorist not signalling to change lanes when there are no other road users is not worth devoting scarce enforcement resources to.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:48 am

law that wasn't even a law until a few months lago.

I can drive within 6 inches of a cyclist and hot hit him or her. According to you, that means I can ignore the law and that it should not be enforced.

No double standards - what is good for peds and cyclists is good for drivers too.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:00 am

Yes violating the 3 foot rule is putting someone in danger because the quality of the pavement is such that 3 feet is a bare minimum for safety.

Sorry about that wrong answer, please see Rebecca backstage for some lovely parting gifts, thanks for playing!

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:35 am

and so YOU get to decide which laws are worth obeying?

How convenient. And I am going to do exactly the same thing i.e obey only the traffic rules that I think matter, and that does not include the 3 foot rule.

You reap what you sow.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:59 am

and so YOU get to decide which laws are worth obeying?

How convenient. And I am going to do exactly the same thing i.e obey only the traffic rules that I think matter, and that does not include the 3 foot rule.

You reap what you sow.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:59 am

No, everyone gets to make their own judgements and should only be held accountable for breaking the law if they actually, not theoretically, put others in material danger through their conduct.

We cannot afford to devote scarce enforcement resources to the power trips of authoritarians and cops.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:13 am

own personal preferences, prejudices and pecadillos.

I am comfortable with their actions.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:25 am

I'd thank you for sharing, but nobody asked you what you were comfortable with, now, did they?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:37 am

but that doesn't stop you spinning them 24/7 pon any local blog that doesn't ban you.

I'm here to call you out on your BS. Deal.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:55 am


Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 11:06 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 11:19 am

But it was my original post that garnered their attention, clearly they feel compelled to respond ad nauseum to the agenda I set while I rarely feel compelled to respond to their crap these days.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 11:33 am

You can hardly bleat that he is doing the same.

Go out and get some fresh air.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 11:51 am

You speed every time you get behind the wheel. You only obey the laws that you think should apply to you and violate the ones that you think are inconvenient.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 8:08 am

Does the commenter mean that the two concepts are not necessarily related? Because I think there *is* a statistical relationship between the two, and a marked one.

Bike riding on the sidewalk** is both illegal for those older than twelve, and when done in the presence of pedestrians tends to represent a tacit statement that the bike rider's interest in safety is more valid than the pedestrian's. This is most clear when the bike rider is wearing a protective helmet and speeding, as is not infrequently the case.

Riding on the sidewalk sometimes becomes sensible because road and traffic conditions are so absurdly skewed against the bicyclist. I think that in those cases "respect and consideration" requires at least acknowledging pedestrians when they are present and modifying the action accordingly.

Depending on the circumstances, this ranges from a complete dismount or stopping while seated and bracing oneself against a wall, etc.; adjusting speed to limit conflict in the use of the sidewalk; to--when conditions allow it--maximizing the space for the pedestrian and slowing to the safest practical speed.

There should never be an expectation on the part of the bicyclist of the pedestrian to yield, but this is particularly true when they have small children or animals with them. (Also it should be considered that they may have unknown disabilities such as deafness.)

Now, as for jumping a red light when there are no pedestrians in the way and the bicyclist would otherwise be forced to wait at a light which perhaps will not change at all until a more massive vehicle trips a sensor in the road--or at least be compelled to wait until, though legal, his or her transit will be through a more crowded and dangerous intersection--I think that is not disrespectful or inconsiderate at all. Same for stop signs.

Interesting point that Greg raises below about the AAA not representing the interests of auto drivers very well. Do they best represent the auto and oil industry? (Does the AMA best represent doctors--or hospitals and pharmaceutical companies?)

*real or fake? Reader must decide.
**which I do on an intermittent basis

Posted by lillipublicans* on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:05 am

The law cannot help you if you perceive danger where there is no real threat.

Your orthology is impaired. Orthogonal is a concept from spatial geometry is not the same word as the linguistic concept of orthological.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:12 am

the guest troll who criticizes you meant to suggest you are not more intelligent than they are. That is by far the larger error.,

Posted by lillipublicans* on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:30 am

seeking to present an image of themselves that is smarter than the reality.

The joke of course is when they get it wrong.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:55 am

Separation of non-orthogonal concerns in software architecture and design

Separation of concerns represents an important principle for managing complexity in the design and architecture of large component-based software systems. The fundamental approach is to develop local solutions for individual concerns first, and combine them later into an overall solution for the complete system. However, comprehensive support for the integration of interdependent, possibly conflicting concerns related to synchronization behavior is still missing. In our work, we propose a sound solution for this complex type of composition, employing well-known UML description techniques as well as a rigorous formal model of component synchronization behavior. Based on this foundation, we describe a constructive synthesis algorithm which reliably detects conflicting concerns or generates a maximal synchronization behavior for software components with multiple interactions. An optimized implementation of the algorithm has been integrated into a CASE tool to illustrate feasibility and scalability of the presented technique to the example of a moderately large case study.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

But essentially he invariably advocates a double standard e.g.

Enforce laws for drivers but not for cyclists

It's OK for the left to take "direct action2 but it's not OK for the right to take direct action

And so on. It's the classic leftist error. They are so certain that they are right that they would be dangerous if they weren't so ineffective and lame.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:13 am

Was the Boston Tea Party not the right taking direct action? Did the Boston Tea Party and the revolution not get the goods for the landed white male gentry?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:34 am

because there is a great crime or sin being committed.

A foreign imperial power in your back yard jusitfies a direct response. A few condos going up that you personally do not like - does not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:57 am

The United Kingdom was no more a foreign imperial power in the 13 colonies any more than the US is a foreign imperial power in California.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

Californians can vote on who is in DC and can also vote to secede the Union.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

The British did not vote for the King either. The colonies did not vote for the British Parliament.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 7:35 pm

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They've supported so-called "graduated drivers licenses" which deny full driving privileges to young drivers, supported the unreasonable 55 mph speed limit and opposed later efforts to undo it even after much of the country started coming to its senses, supported red light cameras and even speed cameras, supported increasing traffic fines because of revenue-generation potential, supported lowering the BAC level to be convicted of drunk driving to a ridiculous 0.05%, and supported primary seat belt laws which allow cops to stop you for not wearing a seat belt as a primary reason for the stop.

SFBC has a long way to go before they represent bicyclists as poorly as AAA represents motorists. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

I stand corrected. Walk SF is the outlier.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:54 am

How would I go about getting them installed?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 10:19 pm

unless it's done in pursuit of progressive priorities.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

GPD is not progressive. GPD is an angry liberal. The hypocrisy you ascribe to progressives is actually common among liberals -anti-smoking/pro-pot, anti-surveillance/pro-cameras, feminist/anti-sex worker, anti-censorship but anti-pornography, progressive taxation except when it comes to sin taxes on soda and tobacco, etc. To me, being a progressive involves having a coherent philosophical underpinning. As such, I don't think these folks are progressives at all.

But that's beside the point I was making. I was just saying that AAA is lousy at representing the rights of motorists. Whether you agree with their positions is beside the point.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 12:35 am

Liberals want to get real things done in the real world. Everything isn't black and white in the real world. It is okay to photograph red light runners if it saves thousands of lives. It is okay to use cameras to give out tickets if it saves even more.

Progressives spend all their time arguing with the demons in their head and forget to actually do anything that impacts the world.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

and situational morality.

The worst part is that it doesn't even save lives. The research is entirely inconclusive that cameras save any lives at all, let alone thousands.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

This is more of your political beliefs getting in the way of facts. Speed cameras save lives, I can give you literally hundreds of references to support that fact. You won't even bother to look because you don't want your beliefs challenged by facts.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

Have you changed your political philosophy at all since you were 21?

You say that being a Progressive involves having a coherent political underpinning. Do you honestly believe that you have not learned anything new and that the world has not changed a bit since you were 21?

Most Progressives I know are trapped in amber, just like what they want to do to San Francisco. They hate technology and progress, they don't want anything around them to change, they are nostalgic about the past and fearful about the future. Progressives are usually not hypocritical but they have a simplistic Black and White view of the world that is not reflective of how the world really is. They cannot handle ambiguity. They are intolerant of other people's beliefs, to the point that they cannot stand to even have friends of differing points of view.

I embrace Progress and change, that is all there is in life. Everything changes all the time and if you cannot change with it, you start to wither and die.

Many of those foolish dichotomies you attribute to "Liberals" are not true in my opinion. All the Liberals I know are pro-sex workers and pro-pornography, while being simultaneously pro-feminist. I kind of doubt you actually know any real life liberals.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

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