Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cars and the city's economy

Anonymous wrote:
Rob,
Caught some of last night's cityvisions radio show that you were a guest on. Even when the host on the show asked who/what the coalition for adequate review was, you managed to not answer. Give your readers the truth: CFAR is none other than Rob Anderson. At the end of the show, you also proved how delusional you are by stating that bicycling will never be a major part of a transportation system in an American City. You obviously haven't been paying much attention to what has been happening in San Francisco over the past 10 years---check back in 10 or 15 more for a real reality check. And your argument that motor vehicles are the life-blood of San Francisco's economy is pretty pathetic and totally lacking in evidence. Have the economies of cities throughout Europe that have made radical changes to accomodate bicycles---including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Berlin---collapsed? No, of course not!

Rob replies:
The Coalition for Adequate Review (CFAR) isn't obligated to release its membership roster, any more than the Sierra Club or the SF Bicycle Coalition. Tell you what, Anon, we'll swap rosters with the Bicycle Coalition---they give us their membership list, and we'll give them ours.

Are you saying that the city should completely redesign its streets on behalf of cyclists now on the assumption that in 10 or 15 years it will make sense? Pretty dumb planning, Anon. In the meantime, we're supposed to ignore the realities on our streets, where 98% of the population do not commute by bicycle.

No one is talking about "collapsed" economies. Muni aside, motor vehicles are in fact crucial to the city's economy. Check out the numbers provided by the Visitor's Bureau (http://www.sfcvb.org/research/): 15.8 million people visited San Francisco as their primary destination in 2006; they spent $7.8 billion dollars here, with $473 million of that going into city government coffers in the form of taxes and fees; more than 4.5 million people stayed in city hotel/motels in 2006, and 25.8% of those people rented cars; the 14% bed tax ("transient occupancy tax") alone will generate $210 million for the city in fiscal year 2007/2008.

It's bad enough that the city has a serious homeless problem that repels tourists in the downtown area. If you crackpots have your way, the city will continue to make it more difficult and expensive to drive in the city---remember the one million hotel guests who rent cars---which will be another reason for people to not visit San Francisco.

Apparently you would rather live in a European city. Don't let the screen door hit you on the ass on the way out of SF, Anon. Check it out: you live in the United States of America, a major American city, where the bicycle is nothing but a very minor means of transportation for a small minority of mostly politically motivated people.

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33 Comments:

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No need to swap rosters - just swap numbers. The SFBC has 8000+ members. How many memers does CFAR have?

And yes, I'm saying the City should redesign SOME of its streets to encourage bicycle travel.

No, I wouldn't rather live in a European city - I'd rather live here and see our City make good on its long-stading commitment to sustainability practices, including the Transit First Policy, which very clearly states that bicycle travel should be prioritized over travel by car.

 
At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, so 74.2% of tourists did not rent a car when they were here in 2006 and 80.2% arrived by plane. I suspect if we had better transit fewer people would rent cars, but I'd be very interested to know how many visitors rented bikes?

Blazing Saddles alone has a fleet of over 900 bikes, and while it's certainly the largest, it's far from the only rental shop in the city. How many cars are available for rent in the City? Is it more or less than the number of bikes?

On weekends the ferries will often have more riders with bikes than without and you only need to take a look around Fisherman's Wharf or the Golden Gate Bridge to see thousands and thousands of bike riders.

Mr. Anderson here seems to marginalize biking by talking about how few bike commuters there are, but how many more people are there who drive to work, but enjoy riding bikes on the weekend? There are a lot more bikes out on the weekends and it's not just the tourists.

I agree that bikes will probably only ever be a small minority of commuters and I hate the attitude of the Bike Coalition that treats riding a bike as an either-or situation, ignoring anyone who isn't willing to set fire to their car and ride a bike full time.

I believe if the Bike Coalition got off their high horses and focussed on encouraging occasional bike commuting (a few times a month? perhaps weekly bike to work days all summer long?) they could encourage more bike commuting than through their current militant behavior.

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Most of the people who didn't rent a car probably drove their own cars to the city. And many of those who "arrived by plane" rented cars at the airport. No one rents a bike at the airport and then rides down Bayshore to stay at the Mark Hopkins. If some of these visitors rented bikes, they were surely only recreational cyclists taking, for example, a spin in Golden Gate Park during their visit. This is the important distinction---between recreational cycling and using a bike as a primary means of transportation.

 
At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If some of these visitors rented bikes, they were surely only recreational cyclists taking, for example, a spin in Golden Gate Park during their visit."

Rob, I'm sure quite a lot of the tourists rented cars for recreational purposes as well, for example, a trip to Golden Gate Park during their visit. If you are going to dismiss tourists renting bikes as "recreational" then you must also dismiss any car rentals by tourists that are "recreational" as well.

You also make a distinction here between recreational biking and biking for transportation. Since many tourists ride bikes as part of their trip, for a spin through Golden Gate Park using your own example, and tourists are an important part of the local economy, and as you have said cyclists are crazy to think cycling with traffic can ever be made safe. The logical conclusion would be to permanently close Golden Gate Park, or large portions of it to auto traffic.

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The topic under discussion is redesigning city streets under the assumption that cycling is a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people as opposed to the 460,150 motor vehicles registered in SF, the 35,000 people who commute to the city to work every workday, and the aforementioned one million tourists who rent cars, not to mention the millions who drive their own cars to visit SF. The Bicycle Plan doesn't want to redesign our streets just to enable tourists to bike on Masonic Avenue. The assumption is that this tiny minority is equal in importance to the 98% of the population in SF who use Muni and/or drive cars.

I personally would never rent a bike, because I think cycling is dangerous. when I visit Golden Gate Park to go to the de Young, I usually drive with a friend right into the great new garage under the Concourse.

I don't object to anyone else risking life and limb to ride a bike in the city, though I do think it's irresponsible for city government to recommend that people do so, especially children as per the Bicycle Plan. What I object to is redesigning city streets on behalf of the folks with this dangerous hobby.

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I personally would never rent a bike, because I think cycling is dangerous."

Spoken like a true NIMBY! Your true colors comes shining through as you completely discount the the 3/4 of tourists who do not rent a car and the majority of cyclists who ride for pleasure an fitness, not commuting.

"The topic under discussion is redesigning city streets under the assumption that cycling is a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people"

Why don't you come right out and say you only want to design streets for car drivers, though more people take transit.

 
At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't object to anyone else risking life and limb to ride a bike in the city, though I do think it's irresponsible for city government to recommend that people do so..."

Cyclists have a legal right to the road and it would be irresponsible for city government not to try and make cycling as safe as possible, just as it does for motorist with stop signs and lights.

If you think cyclists should not use the road, perhaps you should put your efforts to changing the laws that give them that right instead of using environmental laws to chip away at their ability to exercise that right safely.

 
At 8:39 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

"The topic under discussion is redesigning city streets under the assumption that cycling is a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people"

No, the topic under discussion is redesiging SOME city streets (about 200 miles of the 1000+ miles of city streets) under the assumption that cycling COULD BECOME a more widely used mode of transportation. As was pointed out on the cityvisions radio show the other night, professional polls by David Binder Associates already indicate that 5% of San Franciscans use a bike as their primary mode of transportation, and 16% sometimes use a bike for transportation. Continuing to cite year 2000 census figures as an argument that nobody bikes is pretty lame.

 
At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Anderson

You keep stating that bicycles will never be a viable means of transportation within SF, but if you look at the current revitalization strategies recommended by Jerry Brown and the State Attorney Generals Office pro bicycle policy in any cities general plan is actually an integral part. More importantly though you are dead set on maintaining the status quo ante with regard to cars, the same Jerry Brown is fighting hard to remove the need for cars from urban centers. Decreasing the dependency on cars is a major part of the strategy to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Biking is one part of a bigger picture. The attorney generals office realizes that there is no “magic bullet” the only way to address issues like global climate change is by adopting many strategies that work together.

Are you comfortable riding your bike in SF? Obviously you are not. Are you a minority in the bike community in SF? Yes. As you your self have pointed out there are other methods of travel within the city.

Remember next time your stuck on the 101, “Your not in a traffic jam, You are the traffic jam”.

Mike

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

"Cyclists have a legal right to the road and it would be irresponsible for city government not to try and make cycling as safe as possible, just as it does for motorist with stop signs and lights."
Yes, of course. I've never questioned cyclists' right to be on the streets. Nor have I questioned the idea that the city should try to make cycling as safe as possible. The argument is about how much room cyclists should occupy on our busy streets and whether safety for cyclists should trump all other considerations.

"If you think cyclists should not use the road, perhaps you should put your efforts to changing the laws that give them that right instead of using environmental laws to chip away at their ability to exercise that right safely."
You need to brush up on your reading and comprehension, since I've never said that "cyclists should not use the road." I'm merely "using environmental laws" to thwart safey for cyclists? Like a lot of commenters on this blog, you evidently know nothing of either CEQA or the litigation against the city. Why does the city get to ignore the most important environmental law in the state?

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Los Dudos:

The David Binder poll cited only polled 400 people, whereas the Census polls thousands of people. Hence, it's a better data base than Binder's poll. Redesigning city streets---like Masonic, Second Street, Fifth Street---for cycling on nothing but the hope that more people will ride bikes in the future is a pretty dumb way to do planning.

 
At 5:21 PM, Anonymous those dudes said...

Did you catch the article in the Chronicle the other day about the census? Seems the Census Bureau may have undercounted San Francisco residents about by a cool 100,000 in its most recent population estimate. Census = lame.

 
At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are you saying that the city should completely redesign its streets on behalf of cyclists now on the assumption that in 10 or 15 years it will make sense? Pretty dumb planning, Anon."

Actually, that doesn't sound like dumb planning at all.

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great. I'll be sure to bring this up when the issue of banning cars from the city comes up.

 
At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about an injunction against any new parking spaces, garages and curb cuts until a full EIR can be done on cars?

Motorists are a minority user of San Francisco streets compared to Muni's half-million-plus daily riders (and all the additional folk who ride to SF on AC Transit, SamTrans, GG Transit, Amtrak, and any other bus op) and Rob points out that we should be planning for the majority and not the minority of street users.

 
At 9:49 AM, Anonymous rb said...

Rob,
I have another point for you about masonic and fell. I ride on the bike path to the park off city streets with my 8 year old son. We only use bike-paths away from cars yet the intersection at fell and masonic is incredibly dangerous. We have almost been hit several times walking across the intersection wearing Day-Glo jackets and a huge orange flag. The multi use paths in the park do not impede traffic and we follow all safety rules yet we have been endangered. How does making a dangerous intersection safer negatively impact you. I can only see a positive result

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob:
Unless your country has changed more in my absence than I thought, the citizens of your city have a right to make choices you disagree with, to vote for those choices, and (within the limits of the applicable laws) to have those choices respected and implemented.

If the laws of California actually do state that cities and their residents have to promote and support car use, then that certainly puts you out of step with the rest of the world. If the laws don't say that, then I'd say that, to at least some degree, you have used the review process to delay a decision you simply disagree with. Unless you can persuade voters to change their minds, you can at best delay the implementation of he bike plan, while rising gas prices make driving less and less popular. I don't think that would really achieve much; hardly enough to justify the time, effort, and resources you have put into it.

 
At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rb,

Are you seriously saying that you consider your son's life more important than letting motorists speed through that intersection?

You have the typical and arrogant attitude of all cyclists: trying to make motorists drive safely and obey traffic laws so that you and your kid can get through a crosswalk in one piece? Don't you realize that's going to force drivers to waste precious second by driving safely?

It's you and your kind that are destroying America!

 
At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Tetchie Crazyon said...

Bob - you always talk about how many tourists rent cars, but you don't have the statistic about what they use them for.

I seriously doubt anyone rents a car unless they plan to leave the city (go to napa etc..) Obviously I can't prove it because I don't have the stats either, so I won't blab the crab here, but NEITHER SHOULD YOU!!!

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Tetchie:

The one million car renters comes from the Visitors Bureau website and it simply records the number of hotel guests (25% of more than 4 million) in the city who also rent cars. The point about that number is that, regardless of what they rent cars for, it means more than a million cars on city streets from that demographic alone. The 3/4 of the 4 million hotel guests who don't rent cars doesn't mean they arrived in SF via Greyhound bus or bicycles; they probably drove their own cars to the city, which means millions of more cars on our streets. People visiting SF use cars to get around the city, not bikes. Yes, there are tourists on Muni but if you have either driven your own car or rented a car, why struggle with Muni---an unfamiliar bus line with a dubious reputation---to get to Golden Gate Park or the ocean if you already have a car in the hotel's garage?

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The 3/4 of the 4 million hotel guests who don't rent cars doesn't mean they arrived in SF via Greyhound bus or bicycles; they probably drove their own cars to the city, which means millions of more cars on our streets."

You have heard of this thing called "BART" right?

"People visiting SF use cars to get around the city, not bikes."

So the thousands of people riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge are just figments of our imaginations?

 
At 9:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

People are riding BART into SF to stay at the Palace Hotel, the Mark Hopkins, the Fairmont, etc? It probably happens, but I'd like to see some numbers on that. Maybe they are even riding their bikes onto BART---during non-commuting hours, of course---and coming to the city to dine at Zuni. Could be, but one suspects this would be a minority itinerary. "Thousands" of people riding bikes over Golden Gate Bridge? This may be a figment of only your imagination, since that's the first time I've heard that fantasy. Tourists---or Marin County residents?---riding their bikes over the Golden Gate to stay in city hotels/motels. Could be, but I'd like to see some numbers on that one, too.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous murphstahoe said...

My guess, and we are all mostly guessing here, is that the majority of those hotel guests flew into SFO and took a cab to downtown. Went to their meetings at the Financial District on foot or in a cab, took a cab back to the airport, and then flew home.

I would be surprised if I am wrong. For that sector of visitor, renting a car would be silly - renting is more expensive (rental cost plus parking) and far more hassle than a cab. A cab is a car and creates traffic like any other car, but requires a tiny fraction of the parking spaces.

 
At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"'Thousands' of people riding bikes over Golden Gate Bridge? This may be a figment of only your imagination, since that's the first time I've heard that fantasy."

Here I had thought you were stubborn, but you are just amazingly ignorant. Yes Rob, thousands of people cross the Golden Gate Bridge on bike each day.

During the week the bikes and pedestrians share the eastern side of the bridge, but on weekends there are so many cyclists and tourists the path on the west side is opened up for bikes and the eastern side becomes pedestrian only.

Are you seriously going to keep denying people ride bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge or are you going to accept reality?

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course people ride bikes across Golden Gate Bridge, but we're talking about the millions of visitors to the city who drive either their own cars or rented cars, not a handful of recreational and/or commuters who ride bikes on that bridge. People are riding over the bridge to stay at the Mark Hopkins and eat at Zuni? Not likely.

 
At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...but we're talking about the millions of visitors to the city who drive either their own cars or rented cars, not a handful of recreational and/or commuters who ride bikes on that bridge."

You mean the small minority of visitors who either drive or rent cars. The millions of bike crossings over the Golden Gate are not a handful.

"People are riding over the bridge to stay at the Mark Hopkins and eat at Zuni? Not likely."

Since car drivers are in the minority in this conversation, it seems Rob is grasping to find a demographic that reflects better on cars than cyclists.

Since you only want to deal with one hotel, which is located away from most attractions, on the top of a hill, only served by a cable car line with a $5 one-way fare, then yes, cars probably represent the majority arrivals. Though how many people come by car vs. taxi Rob?

More people ride bikes than stay at the Mark Hopkins though, and the majority of hotels in the city are not located in places hard to access by transit, nearly 2/3 of hotel rooms are within walking distance of Moscone Center and UNion Square (and walking distance from MUNI and BART)

 
At 9:04 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

So now it's millions of people riding bikes across Golden Gate Bridge. Bullshit. You haven't provided any numbers for your preposterous claims.

 
At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to find stats on bike ridership and the bridge, but the only figures I could find only give 9 million visitors and 40 million vehicles per year as estimates. Does anyone know how many bike crossings there are per year?

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Right. Make an argument and look for the evidence later!

 
At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because I hate it when Rob is correct, and he is, I found a 2005 estimate given by the California Bike Coaltion (never heard of them) quoted in an Examiner story that you can read on the Marin County Bike Coalition site here.

1,500 weekday average
4,800 average on saturdays and sundays

Add all of it up and you get 506,700 riders per year. It only takes two years to hit the million mark. Even if the estimates are way over, and the number of yearly bike crossings would go down as you go further back, that's still tens of millions of bike crossings in the last 70 years.

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's no real citation on the website to back up those numbers. But even if they are accurate, they are small potatoes compared to the number of cars that cross that bridge every year. Note too that the numbers go way up on weekends, which is further evidence that we're talking about bikes as a recreational accessory, not a serious means of transportation for a significant number of people.

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say a lot of cars cross the bridge, but how many of them are commuters vs. recreational crossings?

Since you aren't counting recreational activity for cyclists, then you must also discount all recreational cars trips as well.

Of the 25.8% of visitors who rented cars, how many rented them for business purposes vs. purely to get around the city. Since recreational travel doesn't count with Rob, nobody should acknowledge any of his statistics about car usage until he's subtracted all of the recreational car use.

 
At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Does anyone know
> how many bike crossings
> there are per year?

Easy to learn.

0. Add bike rental tax, and stick-it-to-the-evil-liberal-ferreners, like the room, car rental and food taxzez.

1. Add a congestion charge, maybe a buck a block, to pay for the congestion caused by those millinos of bikes clogging the bridge.

2. Obviously, adding a toll for the bikers to cross the bridge is essential. Gotta count 'em, of course, but more importantly, gotta pay for all the damage those damn cycllists cause on our beautiful golden gate gate bridge with those millinos of thundering wheels pounding and pulverizing the pavement.

Clearly, we need to protect ourselves from the evel doing evil liberal bikers by raising taxzez, as any good small-government, fiscal prudence conservative right wing-bat would require!

 

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