Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The bike zealots want your children


Anyone who doubts my contention that the bike people are exercising undue influence on San Francisco politics needs to read the San Francisco Bicycle Plan, which the Planning Commission has unanimously voted to make part of the General Plan without any CEQA review by giving it a general rule exemption. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that only projects that have no possibility of having a significant impact on the environment qualify for such exemptions.

The Planning Commission did this even though a moment's reflection---and a cursory reading of the document---indicates that the Bicycle Plan proposes many physical changes in the city's environment: in lane markings, eliminating traffic lanes, eliminating parking, mandating changes in parking for both bikes and cars/trucks, lane sharing between bikes and cars (thus slowing traffic), allowing cyclists to bring bikes onto Muni buses, altering streets in the city in favor of cyclists, etc. But reflection is not one of the Planning Commission's strong suits, since they essentially operate as a rubber stamp for the Planning Dept.

Over and above the physical changes to the streets and buildings of the city advocated in the Bicycle Plan, one of its most sinister aspects, once it becomes part of the General Plan, is how it compels every department in city government to do its bidding, including indoctrinating children in the public schools in the desirability of riding a bike in the city, even though it's an intrinsically dangerous activity for adults, let alone children. In "Section 5: Education and Enforcement" and "Bicycle Education for Children, Youth and Adults," the Plan mandates that the city "develop bicycle-safety curricula for use in the San Francisco Unified School District and San Francisco public colleges." But that's disingenuous, since the bike zealots have more in mind than just teaching the city's children about bicycle safety.

Under "Children and Youth," we learn their real, rather disquieting, agenda:

Bicycling and walking are the only independent transportation modes available to children. Bicycling allows children to explore their neighborhood, get exercise, and gain a valuable skill that is useful for a lifetime. Before the age of nine, most children do not have the maturity and developmental skills required to ride a bicycle in urban traffic situations...In addition to technical skill and traffic laws, bicycle safety education for children should promote bicycling as an enjoyable transportation method with positive lifestyle, health, and environmental benefits. Programs and practices that will make bicycling to school easier and safer, such as the Safe Routes to Schools Program, should also be promoted.

Mere buses are not "independent transportation modes," presumably because kids are not at the wheel and in control. (Hey, kids, want to be free and independent of adults and have fun? Ride a bike in the city on the same streets as cars, trucks, buses, and SUVs!) In short, it's soon going to be part of the city's General Plan---with the force of law---to have the public schools indoctrinate children over the age of nine in riding a bike in the city as a "positive lifestyle." Hence, not only is the Planning Dept. dominated by bike zealots, but other city departments must soon follow their lead---including the Department of Parking and Traffic, the Police Department, and the San Francisco Unified School District.

The Bicycle Plan devotes a number of pages to analyzing "collisions" that bike riders have with motor vehicles. Even their own data show that many adult cyclists routinely engage in unsafe/illegal behavior on city streets. But there's a big lie underlying their extensive "collision" analysis: the bike zealots know that most injuries---45%---happen to cyclists in "solo falls," and only 18% involve another vehicle. This is according to the Bicycle Coalition's own expert, Bert Hill, who teaches classes in bicycle safety (see "Mission Not Impossible," by Paul McHugh, Feb. 17, 2005, SF Chronicle). Funny, but I can't find that information in the Bicycle Plan.

It's evidently not enough for adult cyclists to foolishly put themselves in danger by riding a bike in the city; they also want the city's children to risk life and limb by doing the same as part of a "positive lifestyle."

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