San Francisco Magazine claims to offer “insightful and award-winning editorial coverage of national, regional and local issues,” but a recent survey from them asking cyclists to catalog their scofflaw behavior suggests they’re more interested in controversy and division rather than any real insight.
SF Mag asks cyclists to complete a survey full of “when was the last time you beat your wife” type of loaded questions. Most cyclists will go into the survey, I think, and answer questions about running stop signs and red lights honestly.
Given the nature of the questions in the survey, I almost guarantee SF Mag will skip the nuances on why you ran that red light and publish something along the lines of “87% of San Francisco cyclists break the law!” without any correspondingly insightful discussion on how important this might be for traffic safety, or statistics on the vast majority of car drivers who also break the law and, perhaps, some insightful discussion on why motorists, as a rule, don’t acknowledge their own scofflaw behavior, while cyclists generally admit to it.
Perhaps I’ve completely missed the point of SF Mag’s survey, and they’ll publish a story on how honest cyclists are compared to the lying dirtbags we all become when we’re behind the wheel of a car. That’s a much more difficult story requiring real research, and that’s something I’d expect from an insightful, award-winning publication. Simple Internet surveys with pre-determined results is the sub-par hack ‘journalism’ you’d see at the SF Examiner when it was operated by Philip Anschutz and his Clarity Media Group.
When the UK Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) tried this same cheap stunt just two weeks ago regarding British cyclists, The Guardian broke the press release embargo and called the motoring organization out on their outright lies. BikeBiz also broke embargo to leaven IAM’s lies with truth and prepare cyclists for anti-cyclist controversy. In a followup at the Guardian, a professional pollster expresses his deep disappointment that an organization committed to road safety would stoop to misleading headlines.
I took the SF Mag bicycle survey, but because I suspect it’s intended purpose is to mislead the public on the truth of cyclist safety, I lied on my answers, just like motorists consistently and reliably lie in surveys on their own driving behavior. In the survey, I am a completely law-abiding cyclist. You do whatever you want, but I suggest you answer the same way and make the SF Mag writer dig a little harder on his story and earn his pay. I’ve also let SFMag know how I feel about this via Twitter.
H/T to Jenny.