Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Your comments about biking are very disappointing and hateful"

Paul C wrote:
It might be hard for you to see the commonality since your choice of words about critical mass convey a deeply flawed understanding of what it is about. I invite you to participate in critical mass just once to see the positive energy shared amongst participants, the vast majority of whom are everyday riders, San Francisco residents, on their average beater bikes. The positive energy also extends to the law enforcement officers on the ride. Bicycling in San Francisco (and in most cities in the U.S.) is more unsafe than it should be. Dangerous conditions are caused by neglect of our roadways and bike lanes, poor design of roads and intersections for bike and pedestrian traffic, and dangerous drivers. I do not deny that this gathering is disruptive, but it seeks to demonstrate that bicycle riders are as an important part of street traffic as any other vehicles. It shows that there is a strong contingent of bicyclists in San Francisco who choose this form of transit, and whose concerns should be heard by city hall and drivers on the roadway. Cyclists are at an extreme disadvantage in both of these venues. I will not argue that this is as important or monumental as the civil rights movement, but this act of civil disobedience demonstrates that many choose an alternative path from the mainstream automobile culture. Bicycling is a healthy, fun, convenient, and environmentally friendly way to get around our city. This group deserves the respect and consideration needed to ensure rider safety.

Rob Anderson wrote:
So Critical Mass is all about "positive energy"? You concede that it's "disruptive" but still seem to think that making it harder for commuters to get home from work is a good thing. Hard to see how angering those who drive and take the bus---many of whom are city voters---advances the cause of cycling. Seems like mostly bad PR to me, but don't let me stop you from indulging yourself at the expense of everyone else. Why isn't Critical Mass done on the weekend? Seems like the point would still be made without screwing up a weekday commute. Speaking of expense, I wonder how much it costs city taxpayers for the 40 cops on overtime who "escort" Critical Mass? Cyclists are not at any disadvantage at all at City Hall, since the mayor and the board of supervisors have given the SF Bicycle Coaltion everything they've asked for so far---without, however, consulting the city's voters. Maybe you and your politically juvenile pals should put Critical Mass on the ballot as an advisory measure and see how it does with city voters.

Tom Hilton wrote:
Absolutely right--comparing Critical Mass to the civil rights movement is obscene. Critical Mass is an event in which people who think the law shouldn't apply to them gather in numbers sufficient to guarantee that it doesn't. It's pure selfish joyriding, and any supposed environmental agenda is 100% rationalization. (What's more, all of the improvements in bicycle safety---which I support---have been achieved in spite of Critical Mass, not because of it.)

Terry Z wrote:
$3000 Bikes? Critical mass is 99% beaters, mine was $300 and I think that's rather pricey for the crowd on average. But anyway, this Paul dude is right. Rob - you should check it out some time. I'll buy you a beer if you do.

Anonymous wrote:
Your comments about biking are very dissapointing and hateful. I'm sorry you feel the need to stoop so low.

Rob Anderson wrote:
"Hateful" and "low"? How so? Could you be more specific? Interesting too that, like a lot of my pro-bike critics, you make your comment anonymously.

juannie wrote:
my wife and i are taking my 3 year old son on the halloween critical mass in a little trailer and we will laugh and laugh it's so much fun. critical mass is the absolute best fun you can have on a Friday night. stop by and partake, and stop being a cranky old man for a few hours.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Yes, I occasionally see cyclists pulling their small children in those little canvas trailers. I saw a husband and wife team towing their child only recently in front of my apartment building, as they cruised through the intersection without stopping at the stop sign, a bit of reckless negligence that shocked even me. It's one thing for you crackpots to put yourselves in danger as you disrupt commuting traffic---and anger motorists---but to put your child in the same danger is simply child endangerment. I may be a "cranky old man," but you are an unfit parent.

Michal Migurski wrote:
Seconding Terry---not many $3K bikes out there from the rides I've participated in. Besides, if you're going to play the class warfare card, what kind of "working people" drive to work in downtown SF? The parking costs alone will buy you a decent bike in a month, so I highly doubt we're talking about janitors and rustic shopkeeps here. Regarding hateful comments, calling bikes a "recreational accessory...to a political lifestyle" (as the Chron quoted you today) is a low, cheap shot. I use mine for my SF/OAK commute, which doesn't sound recreational to me. I certainly agree that the Civil Rights/Critical Mass comparison is a bit specious, but what can you do? It's not Tim Holt's fault he's a hack. I'll be there today riding in the mass, because like a lot of cyclists I agree that the best way to make streets safer for riders is to periodically remind drivers that they're not the only ones on the road, which seems to require getting them to slow the heck down for a few minutes. (Not commenting anonymously, apparently unlike a lot of your pro-bike critics)...One more thing---bikes ARE commuting traffic. The uniform vehicle code says so, but drivers can't seem to remember.

Rob Anderson wrote:
I didn't refer to "janitors or rustic shopkeepers," but to all the working people who are trying to get home from work, whether by car or by public transportation. My "recreational accessory" gibe seemed to annoy a lot of you bike people. Okay, I'll modify the thought to make it more exact: "I think bikes are primarily either a recreational accessory or an accessory to a political lifestyle. Only political ideology could motivate people to risk life and limb just to get to work." Most cyclists in SF ride bikes because it's the politically correct thing to do, not because it's a safe and sensible way to get around the city. Note too that Critical Mass itself involves nothing but recreational cycling.

Anonymous wrote:
Yes, The leaders of this "progressive city" have given the bicycle (the most efficient and cleanest form of transportation) its just due. They like other leaders in the country (corporate and political) are recognizing the mainstreaming of a serious issue, Our Dirty Air. The math is simple; more bikes and trains and less cars = better air and less asthma. But you and your injunction threw a wrench in our spokes so to speak. Hopefully, Mayor Bloomberg in N.Y. doesn't face such opposition as you, your attorney, and Judge Busch from his ivory pulpit preventing healtheir living and that is the simple essential we're talking about. The Chronicle painted the right picture of you. That Adequate Review stuff is just a disguise. The 99% part of the plaintiff title is a blatant example of your bias. Your quote in the Chronicle is perfect representation of the real you. I'm sorry you think of the bike as a "recreational accessory." So, you pissed me off again and will get me to act. I'm going to ride my bike (the only thing I've transported myself on for the last 15 years) down to critical mass. Congrats, Rob. You just caused 1 more cyclist to clog the streets this Friday, uh wait a minute, isn't that what cars do 24/7?

Rob Anderson wrote:
What's going to be your argument when, as is beginning to happen now, motor vehicle engines no longer run on fossil fuels and don't pollute the air? I can only assume that Mayor Bloomberg of New York City will, unlike SF's political leadership, follow the laws of New York State as he deals with his city's traffic problems. Judge Busch ruled in our favor because he's in an "ivory pulpit[sic]"? In fact, he ruled against the city because it was obvious to him that the city was proceeding illegally in implementing the Bicycle Plan. You can read about his decision here.

jenny wrote:
Why is it that cyclists think that stop signs do not apply to them??? Why is it since a year of living in the city only ONE cyclist has announced themselves while coming from behind while walking with my child in in the park. I have also seen parents with trailers run stops, you are a moving vehicle, get a f**king clue, obey road signs for your childs sake!

Ari K wrote:
I ride across town to work in the financial district. I am one less car. I am one less elbow on the 38. I am one more parking space available to you. I give you a better chance at making a light. My wife tried riding to work, but was scared of a section in fisherman's wharf. You know Rob, that section you sued the city to prevent painting a bike lane on? So my wife tried the bus, but it's too slow for her. So she drives to work, every day, from out in the avenues to the heart of the financial district, where she parks. She's one more car ahead of you that makes you miss the light. She's one less parking space available to you, making you circle the block. She goes to work at 9, and leaves at 5. She is one more car that makes downtown a standstill during commute. She would rather be on her bike, and she tried, but that one section you sued the city and won, kept my wife in the car. You really do a service for your fellow drivers. When they are stuck in traffic, circling for parking, and breathing in fumes, they have you to thank. thanks Rob.

Rob Anderson wrote:
I haven't owned a car in more than 20 years. I get around on foot and on Muni very well. Like everyone else, if I have to be somewhere, I leave early enough to get there on time.

Jon L wrote:
Rob, I saw your quote in the Chronicle this morning "Bikes are really nothing more than a recreational accessory---and an accessory to a political lifestyle here in Progressive Land". I hope you weren't misquoted. I applaud you for contributing to the public forum that makes our democracy work. If you don't mind, I'll make a contribution as well. I ride a bicycle for recreational purposes about once every two weeks. The rest of the time I am on my bike, pedaling to work, running errands or visiting friends. I agree that it is beyond the pale to impose my political beliefs on drivers while I am riding and that is why I too disagree with the adversarial behavior we have seen in the Critical Mass rides. My sole concern riding is to be safe, so I obey all rules of the road and I practice my freedom of expression to other riders who brazenly flaunt the most basic traffic laws, by running red lights & stop signs. I'm the guy who yells: "Stop signs are for stoppin" & "Sidewalks are for walkin." When I began riding, I'll admit that seeing this behavior made me somehow think it was acceptable and I was one of the runners, because I desperately tried to maintain my momentum. (Here's a little secret, its easier to pedal if you maintain speed. And it becomes more tempting to keep that speed the longer you ride & the more tired that your legs get.) So even though I may wish that I was free to ride without stopping, I have come to accept that I don't live in that world. I read the vehicle code for bicycles, CVC 21202. (I recommend this to everyone.) The SFPD has a laissez-faire attitude toward bicyclists who violate traffic laws. Cops need to cite bicyclists and Critical Mass would be a great place to start. Civil disobedience has a price and if anyone really believes in the idea that traffic laws should apply to bicyclists should be willing to pay the price that the law imposes. Fight for what you want in the courts. Fight for what you want in the legislature. Being a bully in the street does not make anything better. That's why we have a rule of law.

So here's my other beef. The city was sued to delay implementing the bike plan. Bike lanes let drivers know where I will be on the road. This is safer for the bike rider & less frustrating for the driver. The routes that exist now steer riders onto better suited streets and away from most residential streets. I wish we had railroad right of ways or canal paths in this city like they have in the East Bay. Bike paths could be placed there & completely remove the bike/driver interaction. That's not the city we live in though. So when the environmental impact report comes back, let's get on with developing a sensible network that works for drivers and riders. FYI, I may be in the ride tonight. I'll be the one riding as close to the right curb as practicible, stopping at all lights and signals, yielding to pedestrians and signalling before all turns and lane changes. The last I rode, the pack lost me after the first mile. Thanks for listening.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Again, the city was clearly proceeding illegally when it made the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan and began implementing it without doing any environmental review. Before the city eliminates traffic lanes and street parking to make more bike lanes, they need to do some serious study, including traffic studies. Assuming the EIR on the Bicycle Plan is adequate, the city will then create more bike lanes where that is appropriate.

Anonymous wrote:
I only read as far as the tripe comparison to Rosa Parks. You[Tim Holt] are an idiot. You ride with idiots. I have never despised a group of people more. Despite the honest and supreme intentions of some, the outlandish, rude and often disgusting behaviour of quite a few riders has left me cold, uncaring and unfeeling for this cause. I too ride a bike and though I've been happy to see some of the changes, the methods to get those changes and the offshoots of some of those methods piss me off no end. Extending peoples bus rides home, harassing women and children in cars, preventing pedestrians (who have rights too) from stepping off the curb while the ever-so-proud hooligans overtake the streets is not my idea of anything good. It's stupid. I hate it. Until you get rid of the a**holes this will never be more in my eyes and I will never join.

georoad wrote:
Ari K: unfortunately, Rob Anderson is actually the one in the bus behind your wife's car. Or walking on the sidewalk. Apparently he does have a driving license as he has referred to driving "friends" cars. With regards to riding, try a no-cost bicycle traffic class where you learn how to ride in SF with or without bike lanes. I likewise invite Rob Anderson not only to a bicycle traffic class, but a critical mass ride. Perhaps after opening his mind so he could understand that bikes are the best form (for safety, economically, environmentally) of personal transit.

Catherine Bednarczyk wrote:
"Bikes are really nothing more than a recreational accessory." Are you serious? Believe it or not, there are people out there who find it unnecessary to use an automobile for their commutes and do NOT consider their mode of transportation as mere accessories. I have no beef with you, I just find it ridiculous that you would make such a comment. I've saved the little money I have left over after paying my bills, utilities, and overall necessary expenses to purchase a decent, albeit a little rusty, commuter bike because I do not have the necessary means to purchase a form of transportation that costs more than my yearly income. Someday, after school, I will purchase a car, but at the moment my bike is my car and I find it offensive that you made that comment.

Rob Anderson wrote:
I amended/clarified my "recreational" statement above: "I think bikes are primarily either a recreational accessory or an accessory to a political lifestyle. Only political ideology could motivate people to risk life and limb just to get to work."

Devin Kruse wrote:
re: Bikes are really nothing more than a recreational accessory. I guess until we run out of gas the car luddites will never get it. Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was vilified by motorists for widening sidewalks and replacing car lanes with bike and bus corridors. He's been accused of trying to eradicate the automobile from the French capital. But the new bike scheme has been so successful that his poll numbers are shooting up.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Again, what's your argument going to be when engines run on non-polluting fuel? We live in San Francisco, not Paris.

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30 Comments:

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Nyson U said...

For the most part, Critical Mass is a fun, positive affair. I have zero sympathy for people who drive cars into SF (mostly from the suburbs) who have the nerve to feel so entitled that they can't leave 30 minutes later or earlier one Friday a month. They are arrogant fools and far more selfish than the bikers.

However - I am bothered when the "mass" fails to let pedestrians cross and when Muni is held up. I know there are supposed to be no "leaders" but people in the crowd really need to stop the bikes from time to time (as I did last night) to let people walk across.

 
At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Nyson U said...

Rob is right about gasoline - that's not the prime issue, it's the clogging of the streets and the safey and asthetic problems with cars that make them a problem in cities. This is regardless of what they run on.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Positive" for you, perhaps, and your narcissistic comrades. I don't see why it's "arrogant" to expect to drive in SF without encountering a bunch of assholes deliberately screwing up traffic. The reality is that, for the most part, driving in the city isn't that bad, except during commute hours when a lot of folks are trying to get to the bridges and/or the freeway. Matt Sanburn's article in the SF Weekly a few years ago still applies to driving in SF (("Driving San Francisco Sane," June 29-July 5, 2005). He points out that, even though SF is one of the most densely populated areas in the country with the most cars, it's still not too hard to drive here---yet. If the bike nuts have their way, however, traffic lanes and street parking will be removed wherever they want to put bike lanes, which will make driving in SF a lot harder to accommodate a small PC minority.

 
At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Michal Migurski said...

Rob, you write:
"Only political ideology could motivate people to risk life and limb just to get to work. Most cyclists in SF ride bikes because it's the politically correct thing to do, not because it's a safe and sensible way to get around the city."

There are two holes in your statement: one, there are plenty of motivators for cycling in the city. For me, it's speed, health, and fun. For any trip less than ~3 miles (further for rush hour commutes) that doesn't follow the BART line, a bike is simply the fastest way to get around - faster than MUNI, faster than cars. The health and fun benefits seem self-explanatory to me.

Second, you're completely overstating the risk factor. It's just flat-out not as bad as you think, especially thanks to the growing bicycle network and the political efforts of the SFBC. The more successful the bicycle lobby is, the less dangerous city biking gets. I wonder if this is why you're so hopelessly stuck on this fallacy - it's the only argument you've got that doesn't hinge on asserting that all cyclists are granola-crunching, self-denying, braindead birkenstockers.

Also, this:
"What's going to be your argument when, as is beginning to happen now, motor vehicle engines no longer run on fossil fuels and don't pollute the air?"

I'll totally buy you a beer when these futuristic wonder-cars make up a majority of the vehicles in SF. =) I'm also curious to hear how their clean-burning engines will help them occupy less space, or help their drivers to be more observant.

You sure spend a lot of time whooping up cars for someone who doesn't own one and depends on public transit. Don't you wish the MUNI could run a little faster without all the damn cars in the way?

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Speed, health, and fun"? The reality is that no one really knows how many cycling accidents happen in SF, since there's no system for gathering that information. If your bike accident doesn't involve another vehicle, require a police report, or involve an insurance company, the information isn't recorded anywhere. Nor do the city's emergency rooms keep such records. I know a number of people who've hurt themselves cycling in accidents that didn't involve other vehicles. Google "accidents and bicycles" and you come up with some not very reassuring information, especially about the danger of cycling without a helmet---for children in particular. Which is why I object to that part of the Bicycle Plan that calls for proselytizing schoolchildren as young as nine about the joys of cycling as a lifestyle. That's just irresponsible.

Nor is it clear that cycling is healthy for your lungs, since you're inhaling carbon monoxide and diesel fumes.

And then there's the "speed" aspect of cycling, which isn't often discussed. Clearly many cyclists get off on the speed/thrill aspect of cycling, what you might call the "fun" factor. Cyclists seem to be risk-takers, given their often death-defying behavior on city streets. Mountain bikers are more candid than city cyclists about the speed/thrill aspect of their hobby.

In any event, what's the hurry? Recall that Camus once pointed out that speed itself can be a form of violence (true, he died in a car accident, but he wasn't driving).

I don't see myself as someone who is "whooping up cars." I just think it's delusional to think that cycling in a major American city is ever going to be a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people. And I certainly think it's a dumb idea to redesign city streets to cater to a small minority of residents who are in the grip of what is really a political ideology, which call "BikeThink."

 
At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Michal Migurski said...

"The reality is that no one really knows how many cycling accidents happen in SF, since there's no system for gathering that information." - Sounds like we can't assert one way or another how risky cycling is, so you ought to stop claiming that it's inherently a death wish. I myself have been in a bicycle accident on SF streets (a cabbie made an illegal left-hand turn, into me), so I am well aware that bad things happen. However, "data" is not the plural of "anecdote", so there you go.

Regarding "BikeThink" - the streets can be whatever we design them to be, whatever will serve the people best. Personally I believe that the 20th century redesign of city streets to cater to CarThink was a grievous mistake. Watch this video of Market Street in 1905 - the main street of downtown SF is freely shared by horses, trams, pedestrians, bicycles and cars! It's crowded, animated, and beautiful. We could succeed in knocking the automobile from its perch as the sole king of the streets, to enjoy that kind of close-packed urban experience again.

 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Dave Jowlles said...

Rob -

Occasionally you have the opportunity to say something intelligent and then you totally screw it up. I actually agree with you for the most part about Critical Mass (especially when busses and pedestrian access is concerned), but you get totally crazy when you start ranting about biking being a "political statement" or "not safe".

Michal is very correct in everything he said and I just want to echo it. Cycling is, without question, the fastest and most convenient way to get around most of this city. That is simply a fact. You can't "disagree" with it. You can say you're scared of it, or not in good enough shape, or too fashion conscious, or desire a different type of comfort, or just plain don't like biking! But don't get on people's backs for promoting it. By all means, if cyclists are rude and causing trouble, then bring it up! But please stop making up weird things to classify everyone who bikes as some kind of anarchistic leftist!

 
At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Dave Jowlles said...

Oh - another thing. Check this out.

I think if we had a law like that it would make things a lot clearer for people, and be easier to enforce. Makes a lot of sense!

 
At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Yuri Ry said...

Rob - you're so ironic! If you really think that people are "risking life and limb" to bike to work, then how can you possibly be against Critical Mass?

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Michal: I don't recall using the "death wish" phrase, but if you don't think riding a bike in SF is more dangerous than, say, riding Muni, I can only wish you good luck on the streets! This is 2007, and autos---and buses---are here to stay, and I think that's a good thing.

Yuri: Say, what? You are so obscure! Not clear what you mean here.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Cycling is, without question, the fastest and most convenient way to get around most of this city. That is simply a fact."
No it isn't, Dave. That's an opinion. Tough to debate someone who doesn't know the difference. My opinion is that cycling in the city is more dangerous than taking Muni or driving a car. In any event, I don't care if you folks insist on risking life and limb to get to work or run your errands. What I object to is redesigning city streets on behalf of you and your PC pals. And I object to Critical Mass, a disruptive and juvenile demonstration by the same people.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Dave Jowlles said...

Rob - it's not an opinion - experiments have been done. I will bet you anything you want that if you biked from your place downtown it would be at least 2x faster than Muni. If you drove and had to look for parking you'd probably break even, if you paid for parking, the car would win. A taxi (assuming it actually shows up) would also be faster.

Anyway, technically speaking, of course biking is more dangerous than those other methods. In the same way that walking outside your front door is more dangerous than staying on your couch. It's a tolerance thing, I guess.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Speed is obviously not the only consideration when choosing how "convenient" one's choice of transport is. Being shot out of a cannon would probably get you to your destination every faster than a bike. Safety and convenience are certainly my primary considerations, which is why I take Muni and walk.

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger speeddemon0117 said...

Though I may not live in San Francisco or even on the west coast for that matter, I think redesigning city streets to make cycling safer would be a good idea. Like it or not, motorists do have to share the road with cyclists.

Blog of a discontented conforming non-conformist

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Sharing" the road is a good idea, but, according to the 2000 Census, only 2% of the city's residents commute via bicycle. On the other hand, according to the DMV, there are 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF. And every year there are more than a million visitors to SF hotels who rent cars. Thousands more commute into SF to work every day. Since SF is a relatively small city geographically---with many two-lane streets---taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes needs to be done very carefully.

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Ari K said...

Rob sued the city to stop painting bike lanes and doing anything else for bikers. He won.
The outcome was that those people, my wife included, who might have felt safe biking, decided against it.
This group of potential bikers is divided into two categories:
A. Those that bike or bus.
B. Those that bike or drive.

Rob’s impact for group A is null to the rest of the city.
The same can't be said for what he did to group B.

It's ironic that Rob, as a stoic bus rider, has such a protectionist attitude for cars. I've been commuting by bike in this city for 15 years. My impression is that cars slow the bus commute, not bikers. Rob's words fall flat when he says leave enough time for the bus because people in group B are not going to take an inefficient bus no matter how much encouragement Rob can give them. So they are back in their cars, slowing down the bus commute ever more for him and his fellow riders.

At least you would think Rob’s win was a win for drivers— but it just helped to ensure gridlock for them.

Possibly the only positive thing Rob’s win did was get more people to join the bike coalition.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Ari:

I don't understand why you think you can make an informed comment about the Bicycle Plan litigation without reading anything about the subject. We sued the city because it did no environmental review of the Bicycle Plan before it began implementing it, a clear violation of state law (CEQA). The court ordered the city to stop implementing the Plan until it had completed an environmental review. After the city does that---and assuming the EIR it's now working on is adequate---it will continue to create bike lanes in the city where appropriate.

The litigation was not about the virtues, real or imaginary, of cycling in the city or the benefits of making it safer for cyclists. It was about the city's gross violation of California's most important environmental legislation.

Our concern was that redesigning city streets---without proper study beforehand---on behalf of a small minority was likely to make driving in the city unnecessarily more difficult and traffic worse for everyone. In a city that already has a lot of traffic, taking away traffic lanes without adequate study can make traffic worse for everyone, including Muni. Got it?

If you enter "Bicycle Plan" in the search window for my blog, you will find a number of earlier postings on the subject that will help you get up to speed, so to speak, on the subject.

 
At 1:52 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Four points:

1) I can't attest to commute times in San Francisco, but I can tell you that in a test in Toronto, where I live, a cyclist beat both a car and the TTC (subway and light rail) hands down.

2) The projection of non-polluting cars provides a classic example of achievements in a future tense.

3) Believe it or not, we get to choose whether or not to depend on and cater to the car, or at least we get to choose as log as the oil holds out.

4) You have to balance any supposed risks of cycling against the risks of an inactive lifestyle.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If you think speed is the main consideration when choosing your transportation "mode," then by all means stick to your bike. Most of us, however, consider other variables, like safety, comfort, and convenience. I don't want to risk serious injury or my life when I go to work or run errands. Nor do I want to be soaked in sweat when I arrive at work or any other destination. Even though I don't own one, I have a drivers license, and I think cars are a great invention and they are here to stay, whether they are powered by fossil fuels or not. Those who think that motor vehicles, however powered, will ever be more or less obsolete in the US simply display their complete lack of comprehension of their own country and countrymen, which is why you and the bike movement will always be on the political fringe.

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

I don't live in the United States or hold US citizenship, and have no particular desire to do either. I do, however, have a healthy respect for what Peter Brook called the American advantages of courage, humor and the ability to face hard facts. If we discover cars do not make sense for economic, ecological, or health reasons, then I expect most Americans will face the facts and find a solution; and that solution will logically include an increased reliance on human-powered transportation.

On the subject of facts: you keep insinuating that bicycles endanger their riders. The physics contradict you: the body of an 80 kg cyclist traveling at 15 km/h thrown into a solid object over the handlebars (the worst possible case) would absorb about 6300 newtons (1400 lb) of force. Even with an energy absorbing car body and seat belts, a driver crashing into the same object at 50 km/h (30 mph) would absorb 14274 Newtons (3209 lbs). Unless you have some statistics to provide to contradict the physics, I can only assume you have no facts or logic, only a conviction fueled by what you evidently want to believe.

In fact, the main danger in moving about the city by any method comes from inattentive, drunk, tired, or just plain dangerous drivers of motor vehicles. And you don't remove that hazard by taking bicycles off the road.

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I've already cited some "hard facts," John, which you completely ignore. Many San Franciscans have already made transportation choices: there are 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF. According to the visitors bureau, more than one million tourists rent cars every year while visiting SF. According to the 2000 Census, less than 2% of the city's residents commute by bike.

Your discussion of physics is wonderfully irrelevant. If anything goes wrong while you're on a bike, you're obviously vulnerable not just to other vehicles but to landing on the pavement, especially if you're not wearing a helmet. (Google cycling and head injuries.) According to one of the SFBC's own people, most cycling accidents don't even involve another vehicle.

Unfortunately, there are no "hard facts" about most injuries to cyclists in SF, and I suspect the SFBC likes it that way. If the real dangers of cycling were widely known, a lot of air would go out of a lot of tires.

No one is talking about "taking bicycles off the road." Maybe you should examine the physics of focusing your eyes on the screen while reading something you don't really want to read.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

If you don't have injury statistics to offer, and you don't regard the physics of accidents as relevant, what basis do you have to talk about the "real" dangers of cycling, or to suggest that anyone would rather keep the "real" truth secret?

As for taking bicycles off the road: excuse me, but if you prevent cycling education, if you prevent measures like bicycle lanes that will make cycling easier, then fewer people will bicycle. You seem fine with that, but it does amount to taking bicycles off the road. I don't see why you resist this: every time I take my bicycle (as I will in a few minutes) I take my car off the road. The city I live in (Toronto) plans measures which will take more cars off the road.

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My evidence for the claim that ridng a bike in the city is dangerous is admittedly anecdotal, like this from the comment of a cyclist: "Many rides, I am nearly killed by a car. Sorry to 'disrupt' your commute the last friday of every month, but mine is disrupted every day by near death collisions." You can't have it both ways, John. You want to make it safer to ride your bike on city streets even as you deny that it's dangerous to do so.

In fact I've never advocated taking bicycles off the roads, discontinuing education, or not making more bike lanes. What I advocate---and what the litigation to which I was a party sought---was that the city do an environmental impact report on the Bicycle Plan before it took away any more traffic lanes or street parking. When the EIR is complete---and assuming it's adequate---the city will presumably continue to implement the Plan where appropriate.

Beyond that, I do in fact think it's unsafe to ride a bike in the city, which is why I don't do it. But, as far as I'm concerned, you and your like-minded comrades should be perfectly free to continue to risk life and limb on your bikes.

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

You said: "...I object to that part of the Bicycle Plan that calls for proselytizing schoolchildren as young as nine about the joys of cycling as a lifestyle. That's just irresponsible." Sounds like "discontinuing education" to me.

I also insist on the difference between intrinsic dangers and created dangers. Drivers doing dangerous and inattentive things create danger for me, and the proper responses to people who create danger for others include such drivers learning patience, care and attention, not me getting off my bicycle. And I insist that when you add up all of the real risk factors, including the dangers of an inactive lifestyle, cycling makes me and other people safer.

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't consider lecturing nine-year-olds on the joys of cycling as a lifestyle as "education." That's indocrination. Of course drivers need to be responsible, but people are people, and sometimes they don't behave responsibly when they drive. And sometimes they are drunk and/or stoned. Sometimes they are just crazy. Given human nature and the fact that cars---and trucks and buses---are here to stay, riding a bike on city streets will always be a more or less risky activity.

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Numerous studies have established that physical activity makes you healthier and mentally more alert. Since cycling clearly qualifies as a physical activity, it clearly follows that cycling has physical and mental benefits. You can call telling nine-year-olds about those facts "indoctrination" if you wish, but that does not change the facts. Nor does it change the overriding fact: you clearly object to providing facts and information to students that will lead them to make the socially responsible and healthful decision to use their bicycles when possible. The logical outcomes of such a policy include having fewer people bicycles on the street, otherwise known as taking bicycles off the street. Since you do and write everything you can to discourage cycling, and object to any and all measures, including education to encourage it, you must logically want to see bicycles off the street, and I do not understand why you resist this logic.

You wrote: "Of course drivers need to be responsible, but people are people, and sometimes they don't behave responsibly when they drive. And sometimes they are drunk and/or stoned. Sometimes they are just crazy." If you can condone homicidally irresponsible behavior by motorists, I see no basis for your objection to critical mass. If you object to cyclists' causing a minor inconvenience once a month, you should logically object much more strongly to the regular toll of inconvenience and outright carnage perpetrated by criminally irresponsible drivers.

You say "riding a bike on city streets will always be a more or less risky activity." No. Riding a bicycle makes you vulnerable; to the irresponsible and illegal activity you condone as part of "human nature", or to your own mistakes if you do not ride properly. You have not yet presented any evidence that riding a bicycle presents any undue risk; certainly not when compared to the risks of an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle.

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Since you didn't take my advice to Google "accidents and bikes," your argument that cycling is safe is completely fact-free. If you go to "neurosurgerytoday.org," you'll find some of the information I refer to: "Every year, more than 500,000 people visit emergency rooms in the United States with bicycle-related injuries. Of those, more than 65,000 were head injuries in 2006. There are about 600 deaths a year..."

The specific number of head injuries from cycling is 65,319, and of that number 34,358 of the head injuries are to children.

This is why I think cycling is unsafe, beyond my intuitive perception that cyclers are completely unprotected if/when they take a fall. Note that there's no indication that these head injuries necessarily have anything to do with other vehicles. In fact, one of the SFBC's stalwarts who teaches bicycle safety warned bikers that most injuries while cycling have nothing to do with other vehicles.

It's irresponsible of the city to encourage cycling, since it's an inherently risky activity. It's particularly irresponsible to encourage small children to do so.

Yes, of course I disapprove of "criminally irresponsible drivers." They should be cited and taken off the road whenever possible. But given the inherent dangers of cycling and the inherent nature of human beings, there will always be a small minority of drivers who represent a threat to the rest of us, whether pedestrians, cyclists, or other drivers.

Cars, buses, and trucks are here to stay; they are driven by flawed human beings; shit happens, and people get hurt. When that happens, cyclists are particularly vulnerable to injury, since bikes don't have the armor that even the cheapest car affords its passengers.

The monthly "minor inconvenience" of Critical Mass does nothing but alienate people, in particular city voters, which is a self-defeating tactic by a movement that supposedly seeks to extend its political influence.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Again, the logic in accepting the "flaws" in human beings that get people hurt or killed while railing against the "flaws" that create a minor inconvenience for motorized traffic once every month escapes me. If you could establish that every motorized trip filled a need which justified the dangers motor vehicles pose, if we had the appropriately rigorous demands (for training and education) of drivers, then you could say that we have done everything we can to reduce the needless hazard posed by motor vehicles. We have taken none of these measures. Until we do, I see no way you can argue that things "just happen". We as a society allow most motor vehicles to happen, by scandalous impunity for drivers who kill, inadequate licensing requirements, and so on.

As for the risks, the source you provided gives only the raw numbers. According to the National Safety Council, more people in the United States died from choking on food (875 deaths), and far more died (24,000) in motor vehicle crashes (this source gives a higher death toll, possibly by counting all motor vehicle related deaths. Motor vehicle crashes also lead to far more hospitalizations for traumatic brain injury than do bicycle crashes. If you eliminate the deaths your source claims a helmet would have prevented (and I certainly agree that young cyclists should wear helmets; the law where I live actually requires it) then more people died from drowning in bathtubs than died from riding bicycles properly helmeted. And, of course, you have steadily failed to balance any risks of cycling against the devastation caused by sedentary (motorized, TV watching) lifestyles. According to one reported WHO estimate, 300,000 Americans died at least partly from the effects of sedentary lifestyles.

Now, I hope you see the basic problem with quoting straight numbers: risk calculations have to take the number of people engaged in an activity, and the number of hours they spend doing it, into account. According to the National Safety Council statistics (cited above), cyclists have a one in four thousand chance of dying on a ride, where car occupants have a one in a little under one in 200 chance of dying in a car wreck, but I suspect these statistics. This source claims that "When bikes and cars are given each their own space, the risk of death is 500 times greater in cars..... regular cycling's net benefit to personal health outweighs its risk of injury by a factor of 20 to 1...".

Even given the uncertainties, I find the claim that the health advantages of cycling outweigh any risk of injury persuasive. If find it particularly persuasive when we eliminate preventable bicycle accidents from the numbers.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nothing I can possibly say is going to shake your faith in your peculiar religion, John. My assumption is that motor vehicles are here to stay---on the streets of SF and every other American city. Given that reality, there's no way we can make it totally safe for cyclists short of banning motor vehicles altogether.

Comparing fatality figures for cycling and motor vehicles is not the best way to compare the relative safety and convenience of cycling and driving, since millons of more people travel by auto than by bike---and they travel at higher speeds, too, so that when an accident happens of course the injuries are going to be more severe. As I pointed out, there are 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF; more than a million people who stay in SF hotels every year rent cars while here. Hundreds of thousands more commute in and out of the city to get to and from work. Those are big numbers, yet even so less than three dozen people---pedestrians, drivers, cyclists---a year die on city streets every year. And those numbers are slowly going down every year.

There are very few drivers that "kill," and, short of banning motor vehicles from our roads entirely, there's no way to prevent all accidents from happening.

Cars---trucks, buses, etc.---are marvelous inventions and provide millions of people great convenience and mobility. Naturally you bike fanatics resent having to share the road with bigger, faster vehicles, but that's the reality on the roads of the US.

Again, I don't know about your city, but there are no statistics on how many people are injured while cycling in SF. I suspect that the SF Bicycle Coalition doesn't want that number tallied and made public. Otherwise, it would have happened by now, since the city has given the cycling community everything else they've asked for.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Don't confuse your lack of an effective argument with inflexibility on my part, particularly when you do not address one of the health argument in favor of cycling.

I claim, based both on my own experience and on the published numbers, that the physical and mental health benefits of cycling far outweigh any risks of riding. Ignoring the harm done by sedentary lifestyles won't make them go away, and it certainly won't make the corresponding argument in favor of cycling go away.

I also claim that both cyclists and motorists will benefit from a safe street environment with proper safety measures, including proper training and discipline for the operators of motor vehicles.

 

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