When I talked to Rachel Gordon the other day about the article on the front page of today's San Francisco Chronicle, she told me she thought it was a personal thing that I had about bikes and people who ride bikes in the city. I tried to convince her otherwise, that there were doubtless many who agreed with me, people who have only lacked a forum to speak up about the issue until now, and, finally, that there will surely be a lot more speaking up about the SF Bicycle Coalition and its unwholesome relationship with our city government if the court orders the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, thus making its contents widely known. (I also made the point that cycling in SF is only one of many issues I have written about on my blog.)
These folks posted messages of support within the past few days:
Comment #1: "Rob, I just want to express my gratitude to you for having the balls to stand up to these relentless people who would shut down our streets to the people they were built for: motorists!"
Comment #2: "Cyclists are rude and out of hand in this city as a rule. I DO NOT DRIVE. I WALK. And I am constantly dodging cyclists, not cars. They do blow through stop signs and lights regularly. I see it in my 20 minute walk to work everyday, several times. These are not messengers, or exceptions."
Comment #3: "I used to race bicycles and as a result was on the road training daily. I always tried to ride responsibly and share the road, use signals, obey traffic signals, etc. I was nearly run over several times and hit once by drivers not using turn signals nor paying attention so I always use mine and try to be as aware as possible. I have a deep respect for bicyclists. That is, if they have it for me. These days I see more and more bicyclists doing exactly the same things as this reader points out and passive aggressively trying to "own" the road. Just recently I was driving up Fell and got half way into the 2nd lane from the left in order to pass a bicyclist. As I was passing he darted out into the road nearly hitting me at which point he got behind me and started giving me the finger. This idiot was at fault. He wasn't paying attention. I should also mention he wasn't wearing a helmet. People like this rider and the general passive-aggressive nature of Critical Mass are just giving bicyclists as a whole a bad name."
Comment #4: Athos writes: "I used to be pro-bike. I ride my bike in the city regularly, and I also have children that ride in the city at times. However, I've noticed an increasingly aggressive and antagonistic attitude on the part of bike riders and their political lobby. Although riders are supposed to observe traffic laws, I encounter many riders who blow through stop signs if they see the slightest sign of hesitation from a driver who arrived at the sign first and should have the right of way. Because I also ride a bike, I'm particularly careful around bicyclists, but I'm often embarrassed by their behavior. And I'm finding that more and more riders are riding side by side, outside of bike lanes, and won't budge for drivers patiently waiting to pass. 'Share the road.' Right. Let's be realistic---most of us do need to rely on cars most of the time.
Bicycles may be the answer for some small percentage of the population---and that's terrific---but the more likely answer is improved public transportation. Even so, San Francisco is not a kid friendly city in the first place, and it's often necessary to drive children half way across the city for school and activities due to tight schedules. Driving a car in the city is already difficult. This is one of the reasons many people with kids feel like they have to move out of the city. Bikes are also no solution for the elderly, disabled, or people that have to carry large or heavy goods around. And let's not forget rainy and cold weather. I'm all in favor of bike riders and bikes, but pushing through an overwrought plan that makes it even more difficult to drive a car or operate a business is myopic and doesn't account for the needs of the vast majority of people."
On the other hand, Dave Gates disagrees:
"Indeed, there are certain bike riders (mainly the messengers) who are problems, but put things into perspective a bit - this is simply NOT a car city. giving the right of way to a few bikes is not going to kill you. YOu shoul not be driving in SF unless you need to leave the city or are doing an especially large shopping run. You say "most of us do need to rely on cars most of the time" - that's a flat out lie unless you live in the extreme sunset district. Secondly, you say the bike plan makes it more difficult to drive and run a business? First of all, bike lanes will make running a business easier by giving you loading zones where cars used to be. It will also make streets safer and more attractive which INCREASES business. The only businesses that don't directly benefit from bike lanes are car-repair shops, but do we really want more of those? Secondly, keeping bikes in a lane (most riders obey them) will make traffic more smooth, not more difficult. Better transit is certainly part of the solution but more bikes, better bike lanes (especially exclusive ones) and rewards to business who make bike racks and showers a possibility will do a great service too!"
SF is "not a car city"? According to the latest DMV numbers, there are 373,115 autos registered in SF, along with 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles and motorbikes, for a total of 452,813 motor vehicles registered in the SF city limits. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes for the 1.9% of the city's population that commutes by bike---according to the 2000 Census---is only going to make traffic worse for everyone. In fact many---if not most---small businesses in SF depend on customers who arrive by automobile. Ask the merchants on Market St., between Van Ness and Octavia Blvd., about how taking away street parking in front of their businesses has affected their bottom lines.
And it seems like a lot of cyclists are adopting the attitude that bike messengers supposedly display. My impression, though, is that the bike messengers downtown, while aggressive to the point of recklessness, are not passive aggressive and/or anti-car. They just routinely take chances negotiating downtown traffic in the process of doing the job of being a bike messenger. Many cyclists have apparently adopted what they think is a bike messenger attitude but without the excuse of having a job to do. When cyclists act like jerks on the streets, they seem to think they are rebels who are striking a blow for the liberation of an oppressed class, i.e., people who ride bikes!
Labels: Bicycle Coalition, Bicycle Plan, Cycling and Safety, DMV, Traffic in SF