Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bicycle Coalition's ballot bluff

It doesn't surprise anyone who's actually familiar with the Bicycle Plan---a huge, ambitious project that will affect hundreds of city streets---but the environmental impact report ordered by Judge Busch is going to take a lot longer than the city's bike people expected. They are very cross about that, as we learn in this week's Bay Guardian (Backpedaling):

Bicycle advocates and some members of the Board of Supervisors are calling the bureaucratic delays unacceptable, and they're actively exploring ways to speed things up. Frustrations are running so high that some activists are now talking about taking the plan directly to voters, noting that initiatives are generally exempt from the strictures of the California Environmental Quality Act, under which the bike plan was successfully challenged last year by antibike activist and blogger Rob Anderson.

The talk about putting the Bicycle Plan on the ballot is a bluff, but exactly who do they think they are bluffing? Even Leah Shahum, Steve Jones, and Andy Thornley must have an inkling that the bike people aren't very popular, even here in Progressive Land, except in a few prog enclaves in the Mission and the Haight-Ashbury. It wouldn't be the "strictures" of CEQA that they would have to worry about; many city voters would love the opportunity to rebuke the arrogant folks responsible for Critical Mass and other annoyances on our streets, like the ban on the right turn onto the freeway at the Market and Octavia intersection. And if the people in the city's neighborhoods ever find out what's actually in the Bicycle Plan---like taking away neighborhood street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes---it's defeat would be assured. This "anti-bike activist" says, "Go ahead, make my day. Put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot!"

Jones writes that Ross Mirkarimi wants to blame Mayor Newsom for the latest delays, but that won't wash. If Mayor Newsom was responsible for the delay, it would simplify their political problem, but the fact is the mayor has given the bike people everything they've asked for, except for his veto of the Healthy Saturdays ordinance a few years ago. And he vetoed that only because, unlike the politically obtuse bike people, he understood that there is serious opposition in the avenues to closing the park to autos on Saturdays. In any event, Newsom quickly arranged a "compromise" measure that closed a different part of the park to autos on Saturdays, and even that still rankles with people in the avenues.

It appears that those who are actually responsible for doing the EIR on the Bicycle Plan understand that it's a big undertaking, since they are dealing with a 527-page Plan that will affect hundreds of streets all over the city:

But project staffers say their work is both complicated and unprecedented. "No one has ever done an environmental review quite like this," Oliver Gajda, bicycle program manager for the MTA, told the Guardian. "It's a fairly complex document that no city has done." That's because San Francisco's bicycle plan is the first to be successfully challenged under CEQA. Gajda said the latest delays stem from expansion of the work scope and in coordinating with various neighborhood plans in the city and with other agencies like the port and redevelopment districts. "We're trying to capture everything we can foresee in the entire city," Gajda said. "We are trying to make this the most solid environmental document possible."

Gajda understands that if, like most EIRs, the EIR on the Bicycle Plan is nothing but a cut-and-paste, pro forma exercise, those pesky "anti-bike activists" will challenge it in court, Judge Busch will send them back to the drawing board, and that will further delay the implementation of their bogus "improvements" to our city streets.

Gajda now admits what we've been saying for almost three years now: The Bicycle Plan is a huge project for which the city should have done an EIR in the first place. Instead, with the SF Bicycle Coalition and the Bay Guardian cheering them on, both the Planning Commisssion and the Board of Supervisors irresponsibly voted unanimously to implement the Plan---and make it part of the city's General Plan---with no environmental review at all.

To view an online version of the Bicycle Plan: Go here, click on "Bike Updates," then scroll down and click on "Bike Plan Environmental Review," and scroll down to "Draft San Francisco Bicycle Plan." I've been describing the Bicycle Plan as a 460-page document, but the online version is 527 pages.

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24 Comments:

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, we get it-- you don't like the bike people.

"many city voters would love the opportunity to rebuke the arrogant folks responsible for Critical Mass and other annoyances on our streets"

Are you trying to conflate the bike plan, the bike people, critical mass, and the bike coalition with that?

Critical mass may be an annoyance to some, but the prevailing traffic conditions on the street are an annoyance to EVERYONE. Think about that before you cast bicycling in an entirely negative light.

Speaking of lights, the 'no right-turn' at market/octavia makes perfect sense for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. Would it be more convenient for motorists to be allowed the turn? Yes, but safety, it appears, takes priority over motorist's convenience in this case (a dangerous new 'anti-car' precedent, I'm sure).

"he understood that there is serious opposition in the avenues to closing the park to autos on Saturdays"

So are we to understand that opening a mile-and-a-half stretch of JFK to recreational use amounts to "closing the park to autos on Saturdays"? You could at least be honest with your propaganda.

I understand that you think bicycling is too dangerous an activity to do in the city, but that doesn't explain why you would oppose measures to make it safer. More people are biking here all the time and they need those safety improvements.

Conditions could be much safer for cyclists, but thanks to you and your coalition conditions remain the same. Every time a cyclists gets injured or killed, I think about your lawsuit.

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, of course the city's bike people, no doubt with some exceptions, are in favor the Bicycle Plan---though few know what's actually in it---and Critical Mass. The SF Bicycle Coalition lists Critical Mass on its online calendar, albeit with a weasly disclaimer. I don't find "traffic conditions" on the streets of the city annoying at all, probably because I walk or take the bus wherever I go. Critical Mass, on the other hand, deliberately screws up traffic for commuters and city residents.

The right-turn ban at Market and Octavia is not in fact justified, since that intersection is no different than hundreds of others in the city.

City voters rejected closing JFK twice on the same ballot in 2000, which is one reason people in that area were annoyed with the so-called compromise brokered by the mayor's office. People in the avenues also complained that the Sunday closure impinged on the neighborhoods as park visitors took up parking spaces with their cars. It's not clear that that complaint has any merit with the "compromise."

I don't oppose making cycling in the city safer, but I do oppose doing it at the expense of the overwhelming majority who use city streets on Muni, in cars, and in emergency vehicles. For my part, I do think it's a dumb way to get around the city because of the dangers involved.

There was only one cyclist killed on city streets in the past year, and it's not clear who was at fault in that accident. Many more cyclists are injured, but there's no way of knowing how many, since there are no hard numbers available. As one of the Bicycle Coalition's own people has pointed out, most cycling accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles. The problem is that when something goes wrong for a cyclist---something on the street, a pothole, an equipment failure, etc.---he/she has no protection at all during a fall or a collision. This will always be the case, whether there are also motor vehicles on the street or not.

 
At 1:44 PM, Anonymous wenk said...

Rather than think of the lawsuit "every time a
cyclists gets injured or killed" one should
think of why more cyclists aren't injured or killed. Cyclists don't have to be insured, registered, licensed (which should require a test to indicate that they understand CVC 21200), wear helmets (even the Hell's Angels
lost the helmet battle for motorcyclists) or
comply with the traffic safety laws. A small minority wanting privilege at the expense of everyone else.

As a pedestrian I've seen so many inconsiderate morons on two wheels that it appears the only reason there aren't more bicycle accidents is because most car drivers are cautious and considerate which makes up for the cyclists arrogant stupidity.

One gets the impression that cyclists are vying
for a Darwin award (Aside to Rob: didn't the AVA
used to print the annual award results? A-and did
you ever meet Wanda Tinasky?). Here are some things that have happened on the streets of SF:

- Guy is pedaling down Folsom about 25th and there's a van stopped in the curb lane so he just swoops around it without even looking. The car he flew in front of swerves across the yellow center line into the oncoming traffic lane in order to avoid hitting the idiot. Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic or otherwise the driver would have had make a real tough decision, clobber the bike or run head on into another car.

- Girl is riding on the sidewalk of 22nd St and
has to slow as she passes in front the Revolution Cafe because of people outside. The bike begins to wobble as she loses momentum so she gives it a kick as she nears the intersection and accelerates as she rolls into the handicap cut.
She slides out of control into Bartlett St and collides with the rear section of a car that had stopped, verified that
it was safe and then made a right turn from 22nd onto Bartlett. She went over sideways and caught herself at the last minute before hitting the pavement. About five of the "revolutionaries" sitting at tables there leaped up and began chasing the car down the street. Here the cyclist had violated three traffic laws: riding on the sidewalk, running a stop sign, and hitting another vehicle, but to these people she was the victim!

- Gal is heading out Valencia and comes to 24th just as the light turns red. She SPEEDS UP thnking she can zip through the intersection before the cross-street cars begin moving but she doesn't take into account the pedestrians who start crossing with the green.
So the cyclist gets stuck out in middle of the intersection, blocking traffic in both direction (and thus increasing the
air pollution) until the crosswalk clears.

- There are a lot more examples, cyclists blowing stop signs in front of cars and giving them the finger as they fly through, cyclists screaming at cars ahead of them making a right turn--the cyclist moving into the auto driver's blind spot but is too stupid to slow and wait, cyclists not waiting until the traffic clears to cross a street but pedaling to the middle and then waving their arms frantically to stop the cars because they want to go now, a cyclist on Valencia riding slowly out in the car lane so she can chat her boyfriend who is in the bike lane; they glare at the driver who honks. One doesn't have to look for this stuff, it happens all the time.

These people are the true NIMBYs, the new arrivals who bring some kind of mid-America ideas of what old groovy progressive Frisco is all about and by association how groovy and hip they now are because they've lived here a few years. These people abuse the tolerance and good-nature of those who've made a real commitment to live in SF, a commitment that requires losing these myopic ideas formed in mid-America.

Unfortunately most of them will not do that; it's a big reason why a loser like Chris Daly can find a constituency --people like him who have only recently moved here and will not give up the unrealistic pretensions they bring with them.

 
At 2:25 AM, Anonymous those dudes said...

anonymous wenk -
yeah, we get it - your life sucks. next topic please.
--those dudes

 
At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bicyclists are a minority, yes, but transportation is not a winner-take-all prospect.

Or is it?

Right now cars dominate the roadway and cycling is done by an ever-increasing number of people.

Bicyclists are not asking to dominate the roadway, like motor vehicles do now; they're merely asking that the city give them a little space for their means transportation as well.

Will it be the end of the world when we dedicate 97 percent of roadway provisions to motoring instead of 99 percent of them, in order to make room for bicycling? Doubt it.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Transportation is a zero-sum game here in San Francisco, where most streets have only two lanes. True, we're not talking about the end of the world; we're talking about making traffic worse for the 98% of city residents who don't ride a bike to work. Nor do I think that "an ever-increasing number of people" are riding bikes in SF.

 
At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2 lanes of traffic and 2 lanes of parking, typically.

It's not a zero-sum game, either, because each person who goes by bicycle needs only a small fraction of the space and resources of a person who goes by automobile.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When people get on bikes, it makes traffic better, not worse.

 
At 9:54 PM, Anonymous DXW said...

You may not think that "an ever-increasing number of people" are riding bikes in San Francisco. But they are - when the MTA took counts at 30+ locations throughout the City in the summer of 2006 and again in the summer of 2007, there was an overall increase of 12% in the number of people riding bicycles.

 
At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"- Guy is pedaling down Folsom about 25th and there's a van stopped in the curb lane..."

Sounds like the van was sitting in the bike lane. The bicyclist should have checked before going around.

"- Girl is riding on the sidewalk of 22nd St ..."

People ride on the sidewalks because the car traffic on the street is dangerous. Giving them a place to ride legally (a bike lane, for example), helps mitigate this.

Here are some things that I've seen:

Motorist on 6th and Market runs red light and into cyclist. Cyclist taken away in ambulance.

Motorist at 7th and Market fails to yeild right of way, hits cyclist, who lays injured on the sidewalk.

Motorist crossing Market on Gough St collides with delivery truck and bounces into crosswalk, running one person over, then into the window of a brazilian steak house. Cyclists stop to asess the damage.

Motorist makes illegal right turn onto freeway at Octavia st., colliding with cyclist who is in the bike lane.

etc.

Sure, people screw up all the time when operating bicycles and cars, but at least with bicycles you're not talking about losing control of 5,ooo lbs. of steel and plastic that's capable of speeds completely unsafe for an urban environment.

Maybe if bicyclists had more laws that took into consideration the nature of their vehicles, and more infastructure support, they would be better behaved. As it stands right now, especially, in light of the bike pan injunction, they must feel like nobody gives two s**** about their safety.

Motorists see them as obstacles, police see them as nuisances, the city would like to support them but can't... is it any wonder people are joining the bike coalition in droves?

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"People ride on the sidewalks because the car traffic on the street is dangerous. Giving them a place to ride legally (a bike lane, for example), helps mitigate this."

Yes, statistically there are fewer accidents where there are more bike lanes, but cycling is inherently more dangerous than being in a car or a bus for obvious reasons. Simply painting bike lanes on the street doesn't protect cyclists from other vehicles, potholes, or other street hazards.

"Motorist makes illegal right turn onto freeway at Octavia st., colliding with cyclist who is in the bike lane."

The hazards faced by cyclists at this intersection are no different than they are at hundreds of other intersections in the city where they share lanes with motorized traffic. The only reason the city made the sensible right turn onto the freeway illegal is because the bike nuts---aided by then-Supervisor Matt Gonzalez---made an issue of it when the intersection was still under construction. In other words, they did it just because they could, not because that intersection posed unique safety problems for cyclists.

"As it stands right now, especially, in light of the bike plan injunction, they must feel like nobody gives two s**** about their safety."

Poor babies! Self-pity anyone? Cyclists as victims, a new class of the oppressed for progressives to defend! In our lives, we all make choices that can be more or less unsafe. Riding a bike in the city---or anywhere, for that matter---simply involves more/different dangers than driving in a car or riding in a bus, whether in an "urban environment" or elsewhere. If you are incapable of understanding that, the biggest danger to your health and safety are your own cognitive limitations. And it's okay for you to write "shit" in your comment, Anon. After all, you're already anonymous. Go for it!

"Motorists see them as obstacles, police see them as nuisances, the city would like to support them but can't... is it any wonder people are joining the bike coalition in droves?"

More crybaby bullshit. The city would have supported cyclists more skillfully if they had simply done an EIR on the Bicycle Plan in the first place, which is what the law requires. Instead, they tried to rush it through the process---urged on by the SF Bicycle Coalition---with minimal public notice, awareness, or debate. But we busted the city, and the court ordered them to obey the most important environmental law in the state.

Now people in the city's neighborhoods will learn what the SFBC and its enablers in City Hall want to do to their streets---take away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes for a small minority of the city's population. I can't tell you how much I'm going to enjoy it when the DEIR comes out, and that becomes clear to the folks in the city's neighborhoods.

 
At 2:32 PM, Anonymous DXW said...

Rob,

You state that "cycling is inherently more dangerous than being in a car or a bus," as if it were fact. But any data-based evidence shows that exactly the opposite is true. For more, see this summary:

http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm

 
At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks anonymous, for pointing out the idiocy of Wenk's posting. As a cyclist I get sick of being conflated with people who do not know how to ride a bike (ie. riding a bike on the sidewalk...in the Mission???). And I get sick of car drivers who think it's no big deal to turn without a signal/looking, which happens ALL. THE. TIME.

I know Rob's answer to this problem is that everyone needs to trash their bike and buy a Hummer so they can be seen by clueless motorists and that motorists should be excused for their manslaughtery ways, but I'm not buying it. (How hard is it to operate a turn signal?)

Actually Rob would rather, if we can't afford a Hummer, that we ride the bus everywhere, some of us spending half our lives on the bus or waiting for one as a result. I know when I lived at Valencia/18th, the fastest way to work (civic center) was by bike, not bus, BART or walking, though that corridor is well-stocked with transit options.

About that right turn onto the freeway from Market... motorists who want to make that turn are a hazard because:
a) Market street goes downhill into the turn and people can pick up speed going into the turn
d) Bikes going downhill gain greater momentum and collisions are more likely to be lethal, regardless of who is at fault.
b) People, when approaching a freeway onramp, tend to get into a freeway driving mindset before they actually enter.
c) People taking the freeway are more likely to live outside the city in less-bike friendly areas and not be as attuned to watching for bikes.

The intersection sucks, but don't blame it on cyclists. It could have been designed much better if the bike lane had been taken into account at the beginning of the planning process, instead of having to implement a quick remedy to the deadly right-turn problem. I do think the needs of car drivers only were taken into consideration from the start, and this is what backfired.

 
At 10:35 AM, Anonymous holim said...

@rob


what do you think the EIR will say?

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

affect!!! not effect!!! the plan will AFFECT hundreds of city streets. Making mistakes like that shows almost immeasurable ignorance.

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for the correction, Anon. Anything to say about the substance of the post? I didn't think so.

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

DXW writes: "You state that 'cycling is inherently more dangerous than being in a car or a bus,' as if it were fact. But any data-based evidence shows that exactly the opposite is true. For more, see this summary: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm"

I Googled that address and came up empty. Google "cycling and head injuries" and see what you get. The problem with looking for cycling accident numbers---in SF, at least---is that there is no such data base. The notion that cycling is safer than being in a car is counter-intuitive, since you have no protective layer of steel---or even aluminum---when something goes wrong and you go over the handlebars. Especially if, as is the case for many cyclists in SF, you aren't wearing a helmet.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

holim wrote: "what do you think the EIR will say?"
I know what it should contain---serious traffic studies of every street where the city wants to take away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes. If doing that will make traffic worse for everyone else---surely the case on busy streets---the law now requires that the city mitigate the negative effects on traffic. This is why the city's bike people are so desperate to do away with Level of Service (LOS) traffic studies (see the editorial in this week's Guardian). Their immediate problem on that issue: LOS is an important part of the Bicycle Plan, so they will have to study the effects of elmininating LOS, too, before they can do it.

 
At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Sepulon Tok said...

Hey Rob, i reeeeaallly need to pee. Do you mind if I come over and pee on you? Thanks! be right there. I know you love it!

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Is this considered clever in the city's bike nut circles? Good thing you put your name---Sepulon Tok---on it, Seppy. Now all your pals can see what a witty fellow you are.

 
At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Hal said...

Sepulon's a friend of mine and I think he's friggin' hilarious. He actually rides a Vespa Scooter and once punched a cyclist who cut him off, I saw it happen! But I think his point is that you're wasting everyone's time.

I agree that Critical Mass is arrogant as hell, but tying up millions of taxpayer dollars for your silly lawsuit is a lot worse! You're the one with ego issues! I think we should make you pay the city's legal costs if you care so much.

PS, I drive and I have no problem with more bike lanes. Sheesh

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I'm sure Sepulon's a riot, but he evidently has nothing to say on the issue under discussion. What "tax dollars" are being tied up exactly? And why is it "silly" to insist that SF follow the most important environmental law in the state? You only have to pay your opponent's legal costs if you lose. Since we won, the city will have to pay our legal costs, but thanks for sharing your feelings.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger gruth said...

You're the guy who brought the lawsuit about cycling and the EIR? While, I was the guy at the Monday night bike plan meeting that called you an "asshole" when you wouldn't move your papers so that my 8 month pregnant partner could sit down. I didn't even know that you were the plaintiff -- had I known it at that time, I'd have had even more choice words. I agree with Sepulon -- you're the metaphorical equivalent of a fire hydrant.

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There was no need for me to move my papers, since you and your wife had seats that you promptly proceeded to occupy. Of course you're a bike guy, given your sense of entitlement. Get out of my way, I'm a cyclist! The fact that your wife is pregnant has nothing to do with it, crybaby.

 

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