Monday, December 24, 2007

The "Lone Nut" rides again

Let's take the bull by the tail and look facts in the face: one of the big problems with San Francisco's leftists---or "progressives," as they like to call themselves---is that they are just plain dumb. It's hard to come to any other conclusion, since the evidence is massive.

The editorial in last week's Bay Guardian (below in italics) is only the latest example.

The way city officials are describing the situation, it's going to be another 18 months at least before San Francisco can add even a single bicycle lane or road stripe or put in a single new bike rack. That's because a lone nut who thinks bicycles shouldn't be on the city streets sued San Francisco and forced it to do an environmental impact report on its Bike Plan.

After all this time---the original injunction against the city was issued by Judge Warren way back in June, 2006---and all the stories in the media about the Bicycle Plan, this is simply stupid. Of course I don't think "bicycles shouldn't be on the city streets," though I do think it's a risky way to get around, which is why I'd never ride a bike in SF or anywhere else. But if the PC young and the foolhardy insist on taking that risk, good luck to them!

But that opinion has nothing to do with the successful litigation that forced the city to follow state law and do an environmental impact report on the 527-page Bicycle Plan, which, among other things, would have taken away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes all over the city. If implementing any project---not just the Bicycle Plan---is going to screw up city traffic, the developer or agency sponsoring that project must propose mitigations. This is how it works for housing developments, for example. Why does the Guardian think it should be any different for the Bicycle Plan? Because bicycles don't burn fossil fuel?

That's infuriated some advocates, including Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano — and for good reason. The San Francisco Planning Department seemed to have no problem whatsoever forcing an EIR on the 55 Laguna Street development project onto the fast track, but the Bike Plan ... that's just creeping along.

Fast-tracking the EIR on UC's land-grab on lower Haight Street shouldn't upset Mirkarimi, since he is now leading the city's abject surrender to a greedy UC.

Note that the Guardian can't bring itself to attach "UC" to the "55 Laguna Street" description of that project, probably because, as on every other "progressive" housing project in the city, it has been negligent in covering the impending privatization of property that's been zoned "public use" for 150 years. Ammiano is also on board for the city's roll-over on UC, apparently because UC/Evans is targeting 80 of the 450 housing units for gay seniors. If Ammiano and Mirkarimi are serious about stopping UC, they can vote to not allow the zoning change needed to complete the deal. But the Guardian's reference to the UC project is just a red herring, not a serious argument, any more than the Murk and Ammiano are serious about stopping UC's land-grab.

And in the meantime, bicyclists and pedestrians continue to be run down at some of the most hazardous intersections in town, particularly Fell and Masonic streets and Octavia Boulevard and Market Street. City figures show that Fell and Masonic is one of the most dangerous places in town for pedestrians and bikers; the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition reports that at least eight collisions between cars and bike — all of them causing injury to the rider — have occurred at the intersection since April. It's not an acceptable situation, and with a little creativity, the city ought to be able to do something about it.

Do what, specifically? Anyone who's familiar with that intersection---I often walk from the Haight across that intersection to Fulton St.---understands the problem: some of the fast-moving, West-bound traffic on Fell St. that turns left on Masonic Ave. is a hazard to cyclists and pedestrians crossing Masonic. But that's true of many intersections all across the city. My observation: cyclists are often at fault, as they rush to beat the light in spite of the Fell Street traffic. As a regular walker on the streets of the city---I don't own a car---I understand the dangers motor vehicles present to both pedestrians and cyclists.

But cyclists---and pedestrians, too, for that matter---often conduct themselves as if the danger doesn't exist, and the Fell/Masonic intersection is no exception. In the five minutes it takes me to walk with the traffic lights across the panhandle on Masonic Ave., I often see cyclists taking foolish chances at that intersection. Fell Street is a major East/West traffic artery, and Masonic Ave. is a major North/South traffic artery. Exactly what the city can do to make that intersection safer for pedestrians and cyclists is not obvious, which is why the Guardian has nothing specific to suggest.

The lawsuit, brought by blogger Rob Anderson, claims the city failed to do a complete EIR before approving its Bike Plan. That's put everything — even the restriping of pavements for safer bike lanes — completely on hold.

The city did no environmental study of the Bicycle Plan at all. The Guardian's account suggests otherwise, which is deceptive, since that's a fact that is easily verifiable, if they were interested in the facts. The reality: the city fast-tracked the Bicycle Plan illegally through the process on the assumption that no one would challenge them in court here in Progressive Land. They got caught, Judge Busch ordered them to do the required environmental study, and the bike people and their progressive political allies have been whining about it ever since. The Bicycle Plan involves a lot more than installing bike racks or striping city streets for bike lanes. The most significant potential impact is taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make those bike lanes, which is what the bike people want to do on many of our streets.

In a sense, it's absurd to have an environmentally positive change — a city policy promoting bicycling — held up by environmental law. But the California Environmental Quality Act and the way the city is interpreting it still have roots in the era when automobile traffic was considered the most important form of urban transportation.

The automobile is in fact still the most important form of transportation in San Francisco. According to the DMV, there are 465,150 motor vehicles registered in the city. Millions of tourists rent cars to visit SF every year, and 35,000 commuters drive into the city every weekday to work. Muni has 600,000 boardings every weekday, while, according to the 2000 Census, only 2% of city residents commute by bicycle, which makes bikes the least "important form of urban transportation" in San Francisco.

The whole point of CEQA and EIRs is to calculate the impact projects are going to have on the environment before they are implemented. The Guardian assumes it already knows the answer on the Bicycle Plan before the study is completed, probably because cycling is now virtually the only political issue city progressives have left, since they've botched both the homeless issue and the housing issue.

For example, CEQA requires cities to evaluate how projects would impact traffic — and San Francisco has always used a yardstick called "level of service," or LOS, which refers to the number of cars using a particular intersection and the speed at which those cars can proceed. If a project slows down car traffic beyond an acceptable level, there's an environmental impact that has to be addressed. But that's a backward analysis; the city's job shouldn't be to find ways to facilitate more cars on busy streets. And it allows bizarre interpretations: if, for example, the addition of a bike lane on a street reduces the available space for cars, that ought to be looked at as a positive environmental step; the city interprets it as a negative impact.

This can be stated more clearly: what LOS studies measure is the time it takes traffic to move through intersections. If a proposed project will degrade the LOS rating for a particular intersection, that is, make the traffic worse and cause traffic jams, a project's sponsors must address/mitigate that problem. If they can't, the project can't be implemented as proposed. Of course the bike people and the Guardian think that's "bizarre" only because they're anti-car (the Guardian's Steve Jones, a dedicated bike nut, calls cars "death monsters"). And "reducing the available space for cars" means taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes, which is viewed as "a positive environmental step" only when you're anti-car. The law now reasonably sees creating traffic jams as a "negative impact."

But there's nothing in the law requiring the pro-car approach. The Planning Commission could simply adopt new rules that define the level of service on streets differently. Instead of tracking how many cars go through an intersection, the city could track the number of people — including people on foot, people on bikes, and people in buses — and made a determination that pedestrian and bike safety and the quality of the travel experience for non–car users is as important as the degree of auto traffic. That simple change would render much of the Anderson suit moot: new bike lanes, for example, would no longer be a potentially adverse impact. The city could move forward with much of its bike plan, now.

My understanding of the law is that the city can't simply dump the LOS standard without replacing it with something else that makes sense. If the Planning Commission---which, like the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously to adopt the Bicycle Plan---could simply wave a wand and change the law, they would have done it by now. But you see where the Guardian and the bike people are going with their LOS "reform": once they do away with LOS, they can take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes wherever they want, even if that creates traffic jams all over the city, which, bizarrely, they don't see as an "adverse impact."

Another thing the bike nuts never consider: if you screw up traffic for cars, you're also going to screw it up for Muni and emergency vehicles.

The Guardian and the bike people pretend that I'm alone in insisting that the city follow the law in implementing the Bicycle Plan, but I don't believe that the majority of city residents will agree with them on LOS "reform," one of the many issues the EIR must cover if it's not going to be challenged in court. A majority of city residents are unlikely to support allowing the city to make traffic conditions all over the city worse on behalf of a small minority of bicycle zealots, which is why the SF Bicycle Coalition doesn't dare put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot.

Don't accept Bike Plan delays
The city's job shouldn't be to find ways to facilitate more cars on busy streets

EDITORIAL
The way city officials are describing the situation, it's going to be another 18 months at least before San Francisco can add even a single bicycle lane or road stripe or put in a single new bike rack. That's because a lone nut who thinks bicycles shouldn't be on the city streets sued San Francisco and forced it to do an environmental impact report on its Bike Plan. And that report has been delayed and delayed again as city planners have been unable to complete it.

That's infuriated some advocates, including Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano — and for good reason. The San Francisco Planning Department seemed to have no problem whatsoever forcing an EIR on the 55 Laguna Street development project onto the fast track, but the Bike Plan ... that's just creeping along.

And in the meantime, bicyclists and pedestrians continue to be run down at some of the most hazardous intersections in town, particularly Fell and Masonic streets and Octavia Boulevard and Market Street. City figures show that Fell and Masonic is one of the most dangerous places in town for pedestrians and bikers; the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition reports that at least eight collisions between cars and bike — all of them causing injury to the rider — have occurred at the intersection since April. It's not an acceptable situation, and with a little creativity, the city ought to be able to do something about it.

The lawsuit, brought by blogger Rob Anderson, claims the city failed to do a complete EIR before approving its Bike Plan. That's put everything — even the restriping of pavements for safer bike lanes — completely on hold.

In a sense, it's absurd to have an environmentally positive change — a city policy promoting bicycling — held up by environmental law. But the California Environmental Quality Act and the way the city is interpreting it still have roots in the era when automobile traffic was considered the most important form of urban transportation.

For example, CEQA requires cities to evaluate how projects would impact traffic — and San Francisco has always used a yardstick called "level of service," or LOS, which refers to the number of cars using a particular intersection and the speed at which those cars can proceed. If a project slows down car traffic beyond an acceptable level, there's an environmental impact that has to be addressed.

But that's a backward analysis; the city's job shouldn't be to find ways to facilitate more cars on busy streets. And it allows bizarre interpretations: if, for example, the addition of a bike lane on a street reduces the available space for cars, that ought to be looked at as a positive environmental step; the city interprets it as a negative impact.

State senator Carole Migden has discussed legislation that could exempt bike plans from CEQA, and while we're nervous about any exemptions to the state's premier environmental law, that might make some sense. But it might not even be necessary.

San Francisco's city planners are still looking for ways to accommodate cars — all of the city's development policies are based on the assumption that the number of private vehicles in San Francisco will increase over the next 10 years. An assumption like that leads to mandates for more parking, wider roads, and (maybe) fewer bike lanes.

But there's nothing in the law requiring the pro-car approach. The Planning Commission could simply adopt new rules that define the level of service on streets differently. Instead of tracking how many cars go through an intersection, the city could track the number of people — including people on foot, people on bikes, and people in buses — and made a determination that pedestrian and bike safety and the quality of the travel experience for non–car users is as important as the degree of auto traffic.

That simple change would render much of the Anderson suit moot: new bike lanes, for example, would no longer be a potentially adverse impact. The city could move forward with much of its bike plan, now.

CEQA doesn't require cities to accept public safety hazards — and the law clearly creates exemptions for situations in which lives are at risk. Mirkarimi has proposed legislation to change the LOS system, but it has languished; the supervisors need to move on it if the city planners won't. You don't need an EIR to tear down a freeway that's about to collapse — and you shouldn't need an environmental review to fix the most dangerous intersections in the city, including Fell and Masonic. City planners should simply define those hazardous sites as imminent dangers to public safety and immediately start changing the traffic lights, rerouting cars, and redefining bike lanes to put an end to the carnage, now.

Tuesday December 18, 2007

Labels: , , ,

3 Comments:

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous wenk said...

Saying that Chris Daly (to single out just one of the three Machine Politics progressive supes) is "plain dumb" seems to be giving him credit for a bit more intelligence than his actions warrant. From Daly's own words one can see that he missed out on some early stages of mental development.

The psychologist Jean Piaget observed that children begin to understand the concept of volume at about age seven. Prior to this a child will claim that a tall thin glass holds more liquid than a short squat glass even if shown the liquid being poured from one glass to the other. Chris Daly, as indicated in his blog, has never passed this stage of brain growth necessary for conceptual reasoning.

One merely need check the third entry of Aug07 under the pompous heading "Victory in Defeat" (Chris Daly probably wants the movie of his life to be entitled Triumph of Will) where Daly writes of "the agreed-upon allowance of asbestos prevalence in the air – 16,000 fibers per cubic foot" in reference to construction in Hunter's Point.

Then Daly begins ranting about how there has been "routine exceedances of the 16,000 fibers per cubic meter we set to shut down construction – 23,300 fibers per cubic meter last Friday, 33,900 only one week ago, 51,500 on July 2nd."

Chris Daly's exact words in both of the quotes. The math is simple, the concepts are almost rudimentary but they are lost on Daly: the volume of a cubic meter is thirty-five times greater than the volume of a cubic foot. Thus the "the agreed-upon allowance of asbestos prevalence in the air" cited by Chris Daly would be 560,000 fibers (35 * 16,000) per cubic meter.

No wonder Chris Daly flunked out of Duke, they probably require an 8th grade math equivalency in order to graduate.

 
At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what the heck does bicycling have to do with being 'pc'??

 
At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Nypewell Yaste said...

Hey Rob - I think you'd get a long well with this guy:

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2007/12/26/beltline_1227.html

You guys could probably have fun butt bouncing each-other!

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home