Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Are you running as a Republican?"

Anonymous writes:
Rob, are you running as a Republican? You've almost got this revisionist thing down. First you quote Robert Hurst out of context hoping to support your opinions. But now that he himself has commented on how you got it wrong, he is just "flab gabbing" And before you continue on your tear against Those Dudes, you should look up the definition of a valid argument, because you are only making yourself look more idiotic when you have been challenged numerous times about your accusation the SFBC was involved in the recent traffic counts and have failed to provide any evidence, responded with ad hominem attacks (another term you should look up) and you just once again proved Those Dudes point by launching into a conspiracy again based on nothing but your hatred of the SFBC.

Rob responds:
I did not quote Robert Hurst out of context. The big chunks I cited on the original post came from the latest edition of his book, which I read carefully ("The Art of Cycling." An earlier edition had the title "The Art of Urban Cycling"). Hurst is a dedicated bike guy, but one of the important messages of his book is to inform readers about the real dangers of cycling, to get the right equipment and, more importantly, to get in the right frame of mind before you ride your bike in traffic.

In his responses to that post, Hurst is trying to have it both ways---to be realistic about the dangers of cycling while supporting the city's bike people against Rob Anderson, their only media critic in SF. The bike people who comment on this blog consistently downplay the dangers of cycling. In his book, Hurst, a bike messenger and lifelong cyclist, writes paragraphs like this:

Is cycling dangerous? Yes. Yes, it is. Deadly, no, but definitely dangerous. This is actually a controversial thing to say. There are those who bristle at any suggestion that cycling is dangerous, because they fear it will scare noncyclists away from ever ditching their cars and trying a more healthy form of transport. This is a good point, but it doesn't change the fact that cycling is dangerous. This is not some urban legend that needs to be debunked. It is reality, and we need to embrace it.

True, Hurst goes on to say that he thinks facing the dangers is worth it for the pleasures and benefits of cycling: "I believe it's silly to overlook the dangers of cycling in traffic, and there's a faction of cycling advocates who seem to want to do that. On the other hand, I hope I made clear in my book that the benefits of bicycling far outweigh the risks. Also, I think building a lot of new multi-use paths in SF is a damn good idea."

The "faction of cycling advocates" that downplays the dangers of cycling are apparently dominant in San Francisco's bike circles. Hurst displays his ignorance of what's being debated here in SF---the Bicycle Plan---with his "multi-use paths" remark. There are no such paths contemplated in the Bicycle Plan. Instead, the controversial parts of that 527-page document are about creating new bike lanes by taking away street parking and traffic lanes on city streets.

No one can honestly claim that these remarks by Hurst are out of context.

And then there's Hurst's clear warning about children and cycling: "While John[Forester] claimed that that even children could ride safely on busy streets using the vehicular-cycling principle, our way is unquestionably for adults...The streets demand from us an awareness and maturity that would be very rare in a child."

Seems pretty clear, right? No problem with context, since Hurst writes clear and forceful prose. But in his comment to this blog, Hurst backtracks on the issue:

Let's be realistic here, we already have a ton of kids on the streets, careening around wildly. If we could get some of those kids out onto bikes, where they would be far less dangerous to innocent bystanders and themselves, and gaining an appreciation of moving under their own power for a change, the world would be a better place. The kids would be healthier in many ways. Your city would be a better place. But you're right, traffic is no joke and demands to be taken seriously, even by kids. Which of course could be an argument in favor of teaching them just that in classes or a program of some sort.

This contradicts what he says about children and bikes in his book, which he half-heartedly endorses with "But you're right, traffic is no joke and demands to be taken seriously, even by kids." Even by kids? Especially by kids, according to his book. He wants to have it both ways here---downplaying the dangers of kids on bikes in traffic, while supporting his bike comrades in SF against me. That's what I call real "flab-gab."

I'm skeptical that the day/days of MTA's annual bicycle count on city streets is not widely-known in the cycling community. I admit that I have no evidence to back that skepticism up. But my distrust is based on the symbiotic relationship the SFBC has with the bike zealots in city government---the SFBC got $300,000 in public money to do the public outreach for the Bicycle Plan---and the way they and city government tried to slip the massive Bicycle Plan through the process without proper review. This is not an argument, just a suspicion.

And I'm running as a Democrat.

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4 Comments:

At 2:16 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Having read Hurst's book, I think you did quote him out of context.

On the danger: Hurst follows his comment on the dangers of cycling with exactly the same point you have managed to ignore every time I have made it: the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers. Calling his correcting you on this "flabgabbing" simply establishes you as rude.

As for the quote about children, I think he makes it clear that we shouldn't send children off to do urban cycling without supervision, something I agree with. But the argument that we shouldn't teach our kids to ride, for their safety and their health, well, obviously, Hurst believes in teaching people to ride, or he wouldn't write books about it.

I really find your position on bicycles hard to fathom. I can understand someone objecting to particular locations for bicycle lanes. I can understand people who object to some behaviour on the part of some cyclists (though anyone who considers motorists or pedestrians any more law-abiding or safety conscious probably hasn't noticed how people behave in traffic). But objecting to cycling per se, particularly given the mountain of evidence for its enormous health benefits, simply seems perverse.

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, I didn't quote Hurst out of context. As I pointed out, he accepts the dangers of cycling because of what he thinks are the benefits. But, unlike you and other commenters, he doesn't deny the dangers. And in his book he makes it clear that riding a bike in traffic isn't suitable for kids. He's very clear on this in his book, but in his comments he backpeddles, so to speak, to support the bike nuts in SF. "Mountains of evidence" are piled up in your mind, but then you are a fanatic about bikes. The rest of us have our doubts.

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob, when you use the word "dangerous", you use it, quite explicitly, to mean something no responsible person would engage in. When Hurst uses the word dangerous, he (equally explicitly) refers to a worthwhile activity with risks that we need to approach with care and awareness. I would use the words "serious business" rather than danger, but I pretty much agree with Hurst that using the word dangerous the way he does, it makes sense to describe cycling as "dangerous". But claiming that he uses "dangerous" in the same sense you do quotes him out of context, as reading what he actually say in his book versus what you actually say on your blog makes quite clear.

As for the evidence about the health benefits of cycling: the evidence exists, Rob, as a matter of objective fact. You can access it using Google. A majority vote wouldn't make it go away, even if you spoke for a majority of people anywhere, a claim your actual record at electoral politics opens to some doubt.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I know it's a strain for you, but you need to read what I actually wrote---and what Robert Hurst wrote:
"Is cycling dangerous? Yes. Yes, it is. Deadly, no, but definitely dangerous. This is actually a controversial thing to say. There are those who bristle at any suggestion that cycling is dangerous, because they fear it will scare noncyclists away from ever ditching their cars and trying a more healthy form of transport. This is a good point, but it doesn't change the fact that cycling is dangerous. This is not some urban legend that needs to be debunked. It is reality, and we need to embrace it."

Sounds like Hurst was writing about people exactly like you, John, people who downplay the dangers of cycling. As Hurst says, it's unlikely you'll be killed while cycling but you can surely be injured in many ways. In his book, he points out that anyone who cycles long and often enough is going to take some falls and be involved in accidents. The whole point of his book---aside from promoting the benefits of cycling---is to prepare people for the dangers and not be in denial about them. Your semantic quibbling shows that you are evidently in denial about the obvious dangers of riding a bike.

 

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