It’s pretty amazing how we’ll believe things like “four out five dentists recommend Crest” and similar without any question, but when someone states data that you fundamentally disagree with because it doesn’t fit into your world view then the questions about the validity of the polling data is suddenly suspect.
A while ago I received a copy of one of the polls that were conducted late last year. Lots of people reported receiving these phone calls and apparently there were multiple polls being conducted around the same time. The one that I received was indeed done by a legitimate polling operation and this one was funded by the City of Alameda. The polling was performed over five days in December and the sample size was 600 people. In case someone is going to discredit that amount because it’s too small, in comparison the Gallup polls, which is considered a legitimate polling operation, have a sample size of 1000 to represent the entirety of the United States. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%.
The percentage of people over 50 polled was 56%. Between 30-49: 34% and between 18-29: 10%.
Going into the Central Avenue meeting it’s pretty important that the results of the polling data is read accurately. So let’s look at what the polling data said specific to bicycle and pedestrian safety and infrastructure in Alameda.
So it’s easy to just look at the “Extremely Important” and “Not Too Important” and say “See look, 42% thinking that adding bicycle lanes isn’t a priority,” but you have to take in account the gradient of support. “Extremely Important” respondents are those that will be highly active to make something happen. “Very Important” respondents will probably also work hard to push for a particular policy position as well. It’s the “Somewhat Important” people that should be pushed into the support column but isn’t because these are people who would be thrilled to have whatever it is that they said is “somewhat important” but it’s not going to be something that they kill themselves to go to public meetings for or perhaps even cast a vote for. It’s not that they don’t think it’s important like the “Not Too Important” people it’s just that they’re not going to extend themselves to advocate for it.
So if you account for all of the respondents who indicated an issues was “Extremely Important,” “Very Important,” and “Somewhat Important” then those that believed that “Increasing the number of bicycle lanes” is important comes in at 58%.
More importantly though the people who believed that “Creating a safe space on our streets for bicyclists and pedestrians” (what the Central Avenue project is supposed to do) is at 85%.
Given that phone polling tends to skew a little more conservative I would say these are extremely compelling numbers that reveal that most Alamedans believe that we should be doing more to create safer streets (“space” to me indicates by design and not by enforcement). Hopefully the City Council will take this into consideration as opposed to how do we get cars from point A to point B faster at the expense of residents that use other modes of transportation.