Monday, September 18, 2006

Gun Violence in SF: the Cultural Context

From the SF Chronicle online, Cinnamon Stillwell writes:

To read a newspaper or watch TV these days, one would think that all of black America was represented by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan. Meanwhile, the true intellectual giants of the black community are rarely heard from. Such great minds as Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Star Parker, Niger Innis, La Shawn Barber and John McWhorter largely languish on the sidelines of public attention, while conservative black activists such as the Rev. Jessie Lee Patterson and Ted Hayes suffer the same fate. It is only on the Internet that conservative black journalists, bloggers and organizations seem to be flourishing. But with mainstream black figures such as Juan Williams and Bill Cosby basically echoing the same solutions to the challenges facing the black community, perhaps that will begin to change. Indeed, Cosby and Williams may very well represent the coming moderate consensus. Neither is an ideologue: They would simply like to see the African American community return to its roots in excellence, achievement, family and faith.

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Bikes in SF: The debate goes on

Anonymous wrote:
The CSM article cites the SFBC[San Francisco Bicycle Coalition] as a 6,000 member organization. I thought the numbers were closer to 9,000.

Rob Anderson wrote:
According to their website, they have 5900 members. But in the internet poll that accompanied the recent Rachel Gordon story in the Chronicle ("Cycling Supporters on a Roll..." Aug. 21), only 1800 people responded. The pro-bike responses out-polled those who were critical of the influence of the SFBC 54% to 46%, which, by my reckoning, means only 972 votes for the SFBC, not a very good turnout for an organization that claims thousands of members.

Kai Raouseman wrote:
"only 972 votes" not a good turnout? That's almost 20% for one random article in the paper. As an SFBC member, I can assure you they made no effort to ask their members to vote in that survey. Ironically, you did! Which is the only reason I found out about it. Thanks for that!Message to Dan Woon - bravo on a great article! Don't waste your time justifying yourself to Rob!

Rob Anderson wrote:
The SFBC did in fact alert their email list to the Chronicle poll in an August 21 bulletin that even I received. Anyone who has thought for a minute about polls understands that results are often skewed by the questions asked. As I point out, if the question had been, "Is it okay for the city and the SFBC to take away traffic lanes and street parking in your neighborhood to make bike lanes?" the results would have been less favorable to the SFBC. I gave Dan Wood some soundbites he could have used to better effect, like "Bicycles are only a cut above skateboards as serious transportation 'mode' in San Francisco." I tried to tell him how the SFBC has an improper relationship with our city government. As an advocacy group that endorses Critical Mass, it's improper, for example, for DPT to hotlink to the SFBC on its website. And it was improper for the city to contract with the SFBC, an advocacy group, to do "public outreach" for the Bicycle Plan update. But I didn't point out to Wood---who is based in L.A. and doesn't really know city politics---that getting Chris Daly to endorse something doesn't butter many parsnips in SF, except for the fringe left.

Good on you, Kai, for reading my blog and finding out about the poll. Judging from the comments I get, a lot of my readers are people who disagree with me. The fact that 46% of those polled by the Chronicle actually agreed with me is more remarkable than the SFBC turnout, since I am the only media outlet in the city that has been critical of the SFBC and the Bicycle Plan. It shows not that they read my blog, but that a lot of people aren't buying into the SFBC's fantasy vision of the city's transportation future, i.e., that bikes are ever going to play a serious role as a transit "mode" in San Francisco. If, as I hope, the court orders the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, that 46% will grow, when people in the neighborhoods learn what the city and the SFBC really have planned for their streets.

Anonymous wrote:
Let's think about this a second; commuter bicycle trips in 2000: 1.9% commuter bicycle trips in 1990: .95% hmmm...percent of traffic that is commuter traffic: around 30-50% SFBC members in 2000: around 3000SFBC members in 2006: around 6000 comments: Bike trips for the commute doubled in ten years. SFBC membership, if we can assume it has some correspondence to people who use bikes in the city, doubled in 6 years. The population of San Francisco has not doubled in that time period, so more people are using bikes. I suggest these numbers indicate a growth trend in bicycle use. It must also be pointed out that there are around 400,000 registered autos in SF. But let's not forget that registering bicycles is not required and if SF is anywhere near the rest of the country in bicycle ownership that means there are 200,000 bicycles in this city.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Your numbers are unconvincing. Since the 2000 Census is the source of the 1.9% number, it's unreliable for two reasons: It's an old number, and the dotcom bust and the 9/11 recession happened shortly thereafter when the city actually lost population. Hence, there really are no reliable numbers. I've been back in SF since 1995, and my impression is that there aren't more cyclists on city streets. Being a member of the SFBC is just another way to get your PC politcal ticket punched here in Progressive Land, not a reliable indication of how many really use bikes as a serious means of transportation. Let's take a closer look at the motor vehicle numbers that you are a little fuzzy about. If you count autos, trucks, and motorcycles/motorbikes, as of Jan. 2006 there were 452,813 motor vehicles registered in SF (373,115 autos, 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes). Then you have to add the number of motor vehicles that enter SF on a typical workday, which, according to the SFCTA is 35,400. Add to that the total number of Muni vehicles: 1000. True, bikes aren't registered, and there are no doubt a lot of them in SF. But I suspect that most of them are parked more or less permanently in the laundry room or the basement with the treadmill, alongside cartons full of vegematics and fondue sets.

Anonymous wrote:
B.S.; it's just as likely that a car stays parked in the garage and taken out mostly for weekends. The car owners I know in SF use them precisely for that. If registration numbers are going to indicate daily drivers, then SFBC numbers are surely going to indicate daily bikers, in all fairness. Perhaps the bike does sit next to a Fondue set, but you certainly don't see a 6,000-member organization promoting "Fondue for everyday eating", now do you? So you're not making a fair comparison. The SFBC is a pretty mainstream group, considering the political bent of the city in general; not the lefty badge of courage suggested in your blog. Maybe if it was in Houston or Orange County your "radical" characterization would be palatable. I'm certain you are right about the flood of car traffic coming in from "other areas", but I don't see why people in the city should be discouraged from using bikes just because the suburbanites don't use them. When we fail to provide bike infrastructure, we discourage bike use; it's just that simple. So the 'burb warriors want to drive their car into the city for work? That's great! But they have no right to force their transportation priorities on the residents of this city, a large minority of whom are asking for more bike infrastructure. It's the kind of thing that, if unmanaged, gives us the tragedy of the commons we have at the moment. Rob, let's set some transportation standards. If the number of bicycle commuters is only 1.9%, then let's give them only 1.9% of the city's budget for commuter travel!

p.s. If there are "no reliable numbers" then you should think about refraining from using them in your arguments.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Yes, the SFBC is seen as a "mainstream" group in SF, but my critique points out that the people of SF don't really understand what it stands for politically: The SFBC is as much anti-car as it is pro-bike. Why, for example, did the SFBC oppose the undergound garage in Golden Gate Park? The new garage and remodeled Concourse took 200 parking spaces off the Concourse itself, along with 600 additional parking spaces off park roads. If it isn't anti-car, why on earth would the SFBC oppose that? The SFBC also endorses Critical Mass on its website, a monthly demo that deliberately flouts traffic laws. You can spin the numbers any way you want, but they all show that only a small minority of city residents commute via bicycle. The SFCTA itself---which is pro-bike and actually paid for the Bicycle Plan update---says 1% of city residents commute by bike. The 1.9% number is even less reliable when you consider that the city's population was more than 776,000 in 2000 when the last Census took place. It is now less than 740,000. I was here in 2000, and I don't notice any more bikes on the streets now, though admittedly I'm a biased observer. What "tragedy of the commons" are you talking about? San Francisco has always been a commuter's city, because this is where the jobs are.

Let's not forget the real issue here: the Bicycle Plan that wants to take away traffic lanes and street parking in city neighborhoods to make bicycle lanes. Given the vehicle numbers I cited in my previous response, this would be dumb transportation policy. And, just as important, I don't think it's sustainable politically once city voters figure out what the SFBC and its enablers in city government want to do to streets in their neighborhoods.

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