As one of the Bicycle Coalition's few critics in San Francisco, District 5 Diary was surprised to read in the latest Argonaut that Warren Hinckle too is increasingly concerned about the undue influence that bike zealots have on city policy. The Hinkster describes this movement:
[T]he anti-car conspiracy...a fifth column in city government of mid-level planners and sundry bureaucrats who are possessed of an ideology about San Francisco becoming a carless society...One part of this crowd is the Bicycle Mafia---bicycle enthusiasts have cowed city planning and the Board of Supervisors into illegally changing the city's Master Plan and changing traffic routes in favor of bicycles without public notice...eliminating parking wherever possible, changing street designs, etc. ("Anti-Car Conspiracy," Argonaut, Dec. 2005)
Actually, "conspiracy" isn't the right word for how the bike zealots in SF operate, and "Bicycle Mafia" is hyperbole, more or less. Instead, the bike zealots have essentially won the battle of ideas by default at all levels of city government, including the Board of Supervisors---so far, at least. But the counter-attack is well underway, led by, among others, yours truly at District 5 Diary, articulating the notion that cyclists are taking up way too much room in the city's political life---and, increasingly, on its streets. Hinckle makes an important point when he characterizes these folks as being as much anti-car as they are pro-bike.
In any event, their strategy is to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive and park a car in San Francisco---raising parking fees, meter fees, parking fines, removing parking whenever and wherever possible, especially in new housing units, even though city law sensibly requires that builders provide one new parking space for each new housing unit built. They didn't really have to do much convincing to get the Board of Supervisors to vote unanimously to make the 400-page Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan---not the "Master Plan"---because there was no debate, except for the negative input they got from me and a few other folks just before they held the lemming-like 11-0 vote.
But the anti-car bike zealots haven't really "cowed" city government as much as they have completely co-opted and occupied it with like-minded folks. Until recently they have had things pretty much their way.
But the Bicycle Coalition is getting some stiff opposition to their attempt to convert traffic lanes into bike lanes on Cesar Chavez St, an east-west thoroughfare that runs from the freeway in the Mission to Noe Valley (see "Bikes vs. Cars on Chavez," Carolyn Jones, SF Chronicle, Oct. 7, 2005). And their attempt to foist bike lanes on Japantown on Post St. was firmly rejected by that community a few years ago: "The [Bicycle] Coalition has been pushing its plans to re-stripe Post Street...despite the community's continued opposition." (Japantown Task Force newsletter, Summer 2003)
And there were the short-lived traffic circles on upper Page St. that actually made those intersections more dangerous for everyone.
But the most serious and ongoing bad PR for the bike fanatics is the new freeway ramp across from Octavia Blvd. on upper Market St. It turns out, so to speak, that you can't make the logical right turn from Market St. onto the freeway, because last year the bike zealots got Matt Gonzalez to help make sure motorists have to detour and enter the ramp from Octavia Blvd: "City traffic officials didn't buy into their[Bicycle Coalition's] demand for a right-turn ban. So the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and others took their case to the Board of Supervisors, where then-board President Matt Gonzalez carried legislation in August 2004 to ban the right turn..." (see "Who's in the Right," Matier and Ross, SF Chronicle, Sept. 21, 2005)
The "legislation" was actually a resolution by the Board of Supervisors, resolution 0508-04, Aug. 17, 2004), but evidently it was enough to get the job done---and get it done with seeming permanency, even though, according to the resolution, the no-right turn ban is supposed to be only a six-month trial, during which the Dept. of Parking and Traffic is to collect data:
Further resolved, that the Department shall collect data related to traffic, bicycle, and pedestrian safety and flow during the first six months of the opening of the freeway ramp, and shall make adjustments to and shall implement any additional traffic control devices and signage as necessary to maximize the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists through the intersection, and the Department shal report its findings to the Board of Supervisors at the end of that period.
We'll track this and look for the report from DPT to the BOS around March of next year. One thing the study won't be able to quantify, however, is the sheer number of city motorists they're pissing off with this foolishness. But the Bicycle Coalition, in the person of spokesman Andy Thornley, is unrepentant and even wants to escalate the punishment for motorists who try to turn right onto the freeway with "strict enforcement with pretty harsh fines." (Matier and Ross)
This is the same Andy Thornley who told the SF Bay Guardian earlier this year that "We've done all the easy things so far. Now we need to take space from cars." ("The Slow Lane: In Bike-Friendly SF: Why Do Cars Still Come First?" SF Bay Guardian, Steven T. Jones, May 18, 2005) "Take space from cars" means converting traffic lanes into bike lanes and eliminating parking spaces whenever possible.
This kind of arrogance makes the the Bicycle Coalition politically vulnerable to a political backlash in a city that, according to the DMV, has 464,903 registered autos, trucks, and motorcycles/motorbikes. It's a specialized, bike nut version of one of those "circular firing squads," in Bob Haaland's phrase, that progressives like to form in San Francisco.
Labels: Andy Thornley, Anti-Car, Bicycle Coalition, Cycling, Matt Gonzalez, Right-Turn Ban at Market/Octavia