Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bike movement in SF: more anti-car than pro-bike

georoad wrote:
I'll tilt at your windmill, Rob. One "fact" you claim is that cyclists are exposed to more pollution. However, there are quite a few studies showing that the concentration of most emission gases is higher inside the vehicle than outside. One category important to human health that more than one study shows is higher outside is particulate matter (many measure at two sizes). However, every other category is higher inside (including buses, large / small cars, import / domestic). Here are some links (google "pollution levels inside vehicle", also... [more links omitted]

So while walking is going to have higher exposure than cycling (since it is slower), walking and taking the bus (or walking and driving) is likely to have even more than cycling alone.

I know of your impeccable honesty, and look forward to your hearing of your continued fact checking.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Actually, I don't recall ever mentioning this. Do you have a citation from my blog? It seems like a minor issue at best, but your argument is counter-intuitive. More important: If the Bike Nut Community (BNC) gets its way on city streets, traffic in the city will be made unnecessarily worse for everyone, with more air pollution as a result, as motorized traffic idles in traffic jams, squeezed into fewer lanes after the BNC creates bike lanes by eliminating traffic lanes and street parking.

georoad wrote:
So the Level of Service argument. Certainly having all the autos makes public transit worse; if I choose to pick up my groceries on bike rather than car, Level of Service is not as good a measure as Trip Generation. If I have 4 errands to do, starting up the car each time, the mean and max flow of the road is less important than all the intersections that I have to idle at anyway.

When you are taking the bus, focus on how much time other vehicles use of your time compared to the traffic signals--

Starting up motor vehicles is always the most polluting, as the catalytic convertor and engeine warm up. Trip generation is a better representation of the environmental impact of motor vehicle exhaust than the flow rate of Level of Service.

In addition, Level of Service makes the assumption that motor vehicles are the end all/be all. Public roads are for public use; the public expense for the bike lanes is a miniscule compared to the land use decision for on-street parking.

Costs for automobiles and motor vehicles is dispersed more than the cost of cycling. The latter is borne nearly 100% by the individual, where society and the weakest of society bear the detriment of motor vehicles.

Rob Anderson wrote:
"Certainly having all the autos makes public transit worse."
You can't separate out the different "modes" of travel in the city that way. If you set out to make it harder for people to drive cars in the city, you are also going to make it worse for buses, cabs, and even emergency vehicles. Of course my assumption is that cars are here to stay. The pollution issue around cars, by the way, seems well on the way to being solved, as the electric/hybrid technologies are increasingly practical for automobiles.

The notion that a lot of people will ever be willing to do serious grocery shopping on bikes is further evidence of how out of touch with reality you are. It's not going to happen, nor does it need to happen. Cars are a great invention, and they are here to stay. Bikes will never be a serious means of transportation for a large number of people. My impression is that both mountain biking and biking in the city is more of a speed/thrill trip than a serious means of transportation. Cyclists in the city like to speed down the hills in my neighborhood toward downtown. Even people cycling in the flat parts of the city seem to get a kick out of going fast. My conclusion: Bikes are really nothing more than a recreational accessory---and an accessory to a political lifestyle here in Progressive Land.

wenk wrote:
Mr. Anderson, why do you even bother wasting time replying to someone like this "georoad" person? Both of the georoad comments here are all but unreadable, with complete lack of any semblance of logic. Most people with at least an eighth grade education know the simple difference between "your" and "you're"---georoad apparently doesn't.

Our dear Mother Earth is unaware of where the fouling of her air comes from---if one measures the air quality above a Critical Mass route it will be the worst pollution for that day.

But of course the cyclists are innocent, they didn't emit those noxious gases. They merely stalled the cars.

Chuomo Fosset wrote:
oh god rob, get over it. biking is on the rise, here and all over the world. It's the best way to get around most of the city and people are figuring that out. It's not going away amigo....

Rob Anderson wrote:
There's no hard data showing that biking is "on the rise" here in Progressive Land. If bikes are the "best way to get around most of the city," why do most people in SF drive or take Muni? Bikes seem to be more of a PC fad than a serious means of transportation, but cars are here to stay.

Tyrell Shoji wrote:
Here's a great article. Though you might need a WSJ account to read it. Shows what smart people are doing in smart cities! SF soon to follow.

Rob Anderson wrote:
There are several points made in the article that counter your notion about bikes and "smart people": As the author notes, the Netherlands and Denmark are "flat, compact, and temperate," not a good description of conditions in San Francisco. Note too that, once the government made driving in downtown Amsterdam so difficult, shops began moving out of the heart of that city, a problem SF will be facing if it continues down the anti-car, bike nut road.

And the last anecdote in the article tells us about a mother from Amsterdam trying to get her 8-year-old daughter to ride her bike to camp on the busy streets of Columbus, Ohio. Seems like the little girl has more sense than her mother.

Tyrell Shoji wrote:
Seems like the girl was a victim of the pathetic monkey-culture that you advocate, not the other way around. You can't change the facts, Rob. Your hate will eventually eat you up if it hasn't already.

You just can't change the facts, and the facts are that people want to ride bikes. They don't because the city and the "car-nut-culture" are hostile and dangerous.

Frankly I think this has more to do with the US, and California in particular, than the mode of transit people choose. People are generally pretty inconsiderate here whether behind the wheel, on the bus, or biking and you'd get a lot more progress made if you went after that problem rather than making up fantasies about rogue bicyclists terrorizing the populace.

I can skunk that fantasy in one nip---go downtown any time during the day and witness the number of agressive cars running red lights---often pushing their way RIGHT THOUGH groups of pedestirans while the cops do nothing. Tell me what's a bigger problem, that one or a few coco's riding on the sidewalks?

They are both problems that should be dealt with, but neither happens because of "bike nuts" or "car nuts," it's because of inconsiderate buffoonery in the culture in general. krokus, fast flip. Dig?

Chuomo Fosset wrote:
When I say "Bikes are the best way to get around much of the city," I say it because it's a fact! 100% of people who try biking in say, the Mission agree with this---I suggest you take a poll.
Many still won't do it for three reasons:
1) Agressive and unsafe motorists
2) Street crime, especially bike theft which the cops do nothing about
3) Lack of bike lanes to keep the cars out.
4) Lack of safe bike parking
All of these are facts man. Do you prefer the status quo? Why not make things better by letting people have what the want? Better bike infrastructure and less cars! Facts are facts!

Rob Anderson wrote:
No, what you are claiming are not "facts" but only your opinions. The problem with all your claims is that there are few reliable figures on how many people ride bikes in the city. The best figure is the 2000 Census, which found that 1.8% of city residents commute by bike. But even that number is unreliable, when you consider that since 2000 there's been the dotcom bust and the 9/11 attack, a double whammy that devastated the city's economy. SF actually lost population after 2001.

Yes, of course the Mission is the most bike-friendly area in the city, because it's really the only part of the city that's flat.

I'll say it again for you remedial readers: I really have nothing against "better bike infrastructure" in the city. What I object to is putting that infrastructure in place---removing traffic lanes and street parking---without doing any environmental/traffic studies beforehand. That's what our successful litigation against the city's implementation of the Bicycle Plan was all about. The city now has to do an EIR before it makes any more bike lanes, which is what both the law and common sense require.

"Better bike infrastructure and less[sic] cars"? This is the problem with the present bike movement in SF---it's as much anti-car as it is pro-bike. You bike people seem to think it's a zero-sum game, that only by being aggressively anti-car can you promote cycling in the city. This is an unwise strategy, since the city now has 460,150 registered motor vehicles, not to mention the thousands of tourists---tourism is our largest industry---and commuters driving in and out of the city every day. Those are the facts that you folks are failing to take into account, which makes your anti-car approach both unwise and politically unsustainable.

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20 Comments:

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also in the WSJ article: Only 4% of SF streets have bike lanes, yet 2% of the pop gets around by bike.

The 2% figure is from 2000, before the hipster thing where almost all young people are riding bikes.

The netherlands was flat, was temperate, and compact 40 years ago, but it wasn't until THE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR BICYCLING WAS SUPPORTED that it became part of the establishment. The high ridership has a lot more to do with policy than anything else.

But SF is mostly flat; and cyclists can ride around the hills; it's definitely as compact as any part of the netherlands, and it's definitely in the temperate zone.

What other lame excuses do you have?

 
At 11:10 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

San Francisco is "mostly flat"? Not the San Francisco I live in. And "almost all young people are riding bikes"? Not so. It's really only a small minority of the most politically motivated young people.

The whole point about bike "infrastructure" is that it has to be done very carefully, given the relative smallness of the city and the amount of traffic on city streets. Otherwise, traffic will just be made worse for everyone, including Muni and emergency vehicles.

Which is exactly what the city and the SFBC didn't do. Instead, they pushed the Bicycle Plan through the process with no debate and no environmental review. Now the court has ordered the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which is what should have been done in the first place.

 
At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew you'd like that 'mostly flat' comment, Rob.

Yes, pull out a topo map of SF and you will see that most of the land area is not hills, but is basically flat. Remember, this is from a bicyclists perspective isn't daunted by little hills and such.

That being said, there are certainly hills here; quite good ones, I might add. But they can easily be ridden around if you want to avoid them.

Market St. is basically flat from the Ferry Bldg to the Castro, with a little incline after Van Ness.

The mission is flat, the sunset is flat, the panhandle is flat, SOMA is flat, the FiDi is nearly flat, the Embarcadero is flat, The Wharf, The Marina, and Cow Hollow are flat; Bayview/HP is flat, the Richmond is flat, The GG bridge is flat, the park is basically flat, etc.

And people still ride where it isn't so flat (Polk Gulch, The Haight, Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Noe Valley, Hayes Valley, North Beach, Bernal Heights, Potrero Hill)!

Plus countless others who take their foldies on BART from the East or their racers up from the South on CalTrain.

The MUNI buses, also have racks for bikes that people use. Lots of people wanting to use bikes here. Why do only 4% of roads have bike lanes?

How many young people do you know? Where are you getting the idea that only a tiny proportion ride bikes in the city?

YES! Bike infrastructure has to be done carefully-- I couldn't agree more.

Great, do an EIR, no problem; but don't come up with half-baked assertions that people don't want to ride bikes here because it's hilly and the like.

People ride here DESPITE serious infrastructure support, despite hills, and despite the danger of automobiles.

You don't consider bicycling a serious form of transportation, and that's fine. We don't expect you to get out the Schwinn for Bike To Work Day.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I knew you'd like that 'mostly flat' comment, Rob."

Yes, because you're kind of a know-it-all, Anon. Of course hills aren't a problem if you're strongly motivated to risk life and limb on a bike in SF, depending on where you want to go.

You refer to "countless others" and "Lots of people wanting to use bikes here." Could you provide some actual numbers? Of course you can't, because the numbers don't exist, any more than there are actual numbers on how many people injure themselves by riding bikes in SF. The people you know who are highly motivated to ride bikes in SF "DESPITE serious infrastructure support, despite hills, and despite the danger of automobiles" supports my notion that riding a bike in the city is mostly for, well, those who are highly motivated to do so for ideological reasons, not because cycling is such a great way to get around in SF.

There are numbers available on how many people drive in SF. According to the DMV, for example, there are 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF. And there's a number available on how many people in SF commute by car: 214,660. And for those who commute by transit: 130,311. And those who commute by "other" means ("bicycle, taxi, etc."): 15,014.(Countywide Transportation Plan, July 2004, from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority)

You have a touching faith in the ability of bike lanes painted on city streets to make those streets safer for cyclists. They apparently do so in a marginal, statistical sense, but common sense should tell you that those painted lines can't protect you from a bus or a car that fails to see you on your bike. Nor can they protect you when you are "doored" or go over the handlebars.

You're entitled to your faith, but when it comes to taking away traffic lanes, for example, to make bike lanes---a direct physical impact on the city's environment---the law requires that the city first do an EIR. You concede that point, but your designated political leadership had to be sued to make them comply with the law, a bit of arrogance typical of the cycling community individually and collectively.

Your ardor and fact-free comment only confirm my opinion that riding a bike in the city is more of a political statement than a serious means of transportation.

Yes, all the politicos and a lot of other phoneys will be out for Bike to Work Day this month, but the number of people who regularly commute by bike is pretty small---and I bet it always will be, since most people have more sense than that.

 
At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a 1995 Rodale Press survey found that Americans want the opportunity to walk or bike instead of drive: 40% of U.S. adults say they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available."

So what you call 'bikethink' may be based on something after all, no?

 
At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" You refer to "countless others" and "Lots of people wanting to use bikes here." Could you provide some actual numbers? Of course you can't, because the numbers don't exist" "

So if something hasn't been measured it doesn't exist?

The numbers don't exist, but the people do!

Are there people that like to go out and eat at restaurants? No, we don't have the numbers so we can't say anything about them yay or nay, right?

Since when is riding up hills tantamount to 'risking life and limb'?

People ride because a bike is the best way to get around a compact city; not because of ideology.

So 200k people commute by car, great. That's less than a third of the city's pop.

Bike lanes ARE traffic lanes.

Did you happen to read that over 30% of people that rode to work in Los Angele's last bike to work day are still riding? And that's Los Angeles! If it was so dangrous, why would they keep doing it? You'd think they'd all be dead by now, right?

Remember, when I take my bike out instead of a car that reduces the level of danger on the street. It reduces congestion (allowing transit to move better), it makes the trains less crowded, it keeps all that crap and noise out of the air, and I'm only asking for a couple feet of road space; a tiny fraction of what we routinely give to cars.

I can take the 'danger' because the life and health benefits clearly and decisively outweigh them. Health and safety studies show that the real dangers are sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, stress, violence, and car accidents. I'm not going to make the situation worse by piloting my 160lb self in a 3000lb vehicle through a dense city.

I'd rather bike to the places I'm going to walk in; walking always being the primary and most important mode of travel for large numbers of people.

I'm pretty sure there is data on bicycle injuries in SF, by the way.

 
At 1:33 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What people say to pollsters and what they actually do and/or think are often two different things. A few years back the SFBC touted a telephone poll by David Binder in which people said they'd like to see more bike lanes in the city. What Binder didn't ask: "Would it be okay if the city took street parking and traffic lanes in your neighborhood to make those bike lanes?" I suspect if that question was asked, the poll results would have been different.

In any event, my BikeThink idea---the ideology of bikes---is more about the assumptions underlying the thinking of bike people, especially the self-righteousness resulting from the fact that bikes don't burn fossil fuels. Enter "BikeThink: The Ideology of Bikes" in my blog search engine and you'll get the original post from last year.

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Roxy "Pep" Chwenson said...

"I really have nothing against "better bike infrastructure" in the city."

I see we're making progress with you Rob! Excellent.

 
At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Tony Spilatro said...

Rob, Your logic doesn't make much sense, buddy. You claim that installing bike lanes and bike racks means less space for cars...but what about the space taken up by additional cars being put on the streets?

Cars don't make sense as a viable transportation option in a city that's only 7 x 7 miles. With every additional car that goes on the road, that's a couple more seconds added to the car-driver's commute, a couple more seconds added to your already long wait at the traffic lights.

Cars are going out of style, buddy. The fact that they take up so much space, and that ever individual was taught to own and drive one made them a very inefficient means of getting around - unless you live in the suburbs of houston, for example, where the land is flat and stretches for miles. Unfortunately, we live in california. Get used to it, and enjoy the high prices at the pump (going higher!).

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Cars are the dominant means of transportation in this and every other American city. According to the DMV, there are 378,576 cars registered in SF, along with 63,438 trucks, and 18,136 motorcycles/motorbikes. Seems like a lot of people haven't gotten the word about their obsolete means of transportation.

Cars are here to stay, pal.

I personally don't have to worry about the price of gas, since I haven't owned a car in 20 years.

 
At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Tyrell Shoji said...

Well, not New York either. Cars are definitely NOT the dominant form of transportation in SF. They are used for errands here, at night, and when commuting out of town.

Just because people own them does not mean they use them all the time, or even to commute. Very few people who both live and work in the city use them to commute. You'll need to conduct a proper survey before you can dispute that! Throwing around your numbers is basically meaningless.

 
At 3:11 PM, Blogger T.C. O'Rourke said...

I don't put much stock in the ideas of the anti-cyclists, but I do like to keep tabs on notable debates none the less, as our society is pretty dumb overall.

Sort of the same way Jewish groups keep tabs on the neo-nazis. The later is fairly hated, but you can never be too careful.

Anyway, I was relieved to see your blog is an unnavigable collection of comments and responses, mostly your replies to anonymous posters.

Keep up the good work!

T.C.

 
At 3:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your attempted navigation of my blog was superficial, T.C. It's rather easy to negotiate, both chronilogically and by topic.

 
At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Jim from LA said...

Interesting discussion here; thanks. I've been interested in bike politics since going to school at UC Irvine, where bike riders blew through traffic lights and stop signs most of the time, and might give you the finger while running the red light. I couldn't figure out how being rude advanced their cause (not to mention breaking laws that presumably they would like motorists to obey).

Now I'm living in a bike friendly community near Sacramento. Things here are a lot more harmonious, although you can get cussed out by cyclists while picking up litter on "their" trail.

 
At 5:22 AM, Blogger wee mac said...

OK so some thoughts from across the pond.. I used to live in a few SF years ago and though i bike as my main form of transportation I don't think i would have cycled there at the time.

Now over to Dublin where I live - since they introduced the bike lanes (albiet quite slowly and piecemeal at the time a few years back) there has been a massive increase in the amount of people cycling. Why? Simply because the approx two foot lane has given the cyclist space & it has made it safer. People who've never really cycled to work now feel like they actually can without having the fear that would be inimately sharing that same space with a car or bus or worse a truck. Sure there's no guarantee that won't happen anyway but they're much higher with a bike lane than without one. Surely that can be agreed on at least.

Here it pisses rain and you have to carry raingear with you but it's still the quickest way around the city (vs car or public transport). If you don't have the bike lanes people can't use them & you're back to more cars.

From here (and correct me if i'm wrong) but it sounds like cyclists are pissed off cos it's taking so long to get the cycle lanes and now it's delayed even further. Frustrated might be a better word.

Regards and g'luck,

Steve

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Steve:
The assumption of your comment seems to be that SF doesn't have any bike lanes now, but it does. I don't know Dublin, but I do know SF, which is a relatively small city at only 49 square miles. And it has mostly two-lane streets in the neighborhoods. The streets that have more than two lanes are the busiest streets. Hence, taking away a traffic lane and/or street parking has to be done very carefully if it's to be done without making traffic a lot worse.

In this smallish city, we have 460,150 registered motor vehicles, literally millions of tourists driving into the city every year---tourism is our main industry---35,000 commuters driving into the city every weekday to work, and 1000 Muni buses on the streets. Now we could completely revamp our transportation system to ensure the safety of cyclists, or we could maintain the more or less sensible balance we have now.

But whatever we do we have to do it very carefully. Of course we're going to have more bike lanes on city streets once the EIR on the Bicycle Plan is completed and the injunction is lifted. By forcing the city to do this in a more thoughtful manner and to follow a process that forewarns city neighborhoods is what we have achieved with our litigation.

 
At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in grade eight and i want to know ""what land use changes would there be if if people within a community chose to use bicycles instead of cars""?

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You would have to outlaw cars altogether to make that happen. If pigs had wings, they might take over the runways at the SF airport, too.

 
At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what land use changes would there be though?

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Who cares? Why don't you ask the bike fantasists at the SFBC?

 

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