Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Demagoguery by the bike people

A guy named Peter Smith has started "San Francisco Bike Blog," a forum for the city's bike people so that they can, among other things, spread misinformation about the EIR and the Bicycle Plan. Both Smith's blog and the SF Bicycle Coalition's website have a clock/calendar counting the days since a new bike lane was striped in San Francisco: "820 days with no bike lanes. What's taking so long?" The folks at SFBC know what's taking so long---the Bicycle Plan is huge and requires a thorough EIR---but they like to pretend that the city is dragging its feet, that cyclists in SF are being victimized by bureaucratic delay.

But it's worth pointing out once again that the only reason the city isn't implementing a bicycle plan right now---it's been more than three years since the litigation was filed---is that the city and the SFBC tried to rush the 527-page Bicycle Plan through the process without doing any environmental review. That was clearly illegal, and the court ordered the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which it is now doing. The thing to remember next time you hear or read statements from the SFBC about delays in the EIR is this: They never thought the Bicycle Plan should have had any environmental review in the first place. But that won't prevent their constant demagoguing of the issue to whip up their membership's sense of grievance and victimhood.

Below is my comment to Smith's blog to his blog post from yesterday: "Justice was denied 823 days ago." He posted the comment, but he didn't reply, probably because even he realizes that he doesn't know what he's talking about.


Comment to San Francisco Bike Blog (
http://sf.bikeblogs.org/):

The injunction is a “travesty of justice” and a “failure of civil society”? The real failure was on the part of the city and the SFBicycle Coalition for pushing the 527-page Bicycle Plan through the process with no environmental review in violation of the most important environmental law in California, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

It always makes me laugh when you bike people hammer Mayor Newsom, who has given the SFBC everything it’s asked for, except for the veto of the Healthy Saturdays ordinance a few years ago. And he soon redeemed himself on that issue by engineering a “compromise” that did essentially the same thing. You’re coming in late on this issue, Peter, and you need to do some homework before you can have anything useful to say about it.

The text of CEQA is available online, as are many of the litigation documents. The SFBC’s website has a link to Judge Busch’s decision
, which did everything but accuse the city of lying about how it proceeded with the Plan. You could also read my blog, though that would be a painful experience for you. Just enter “Bicycle Plan” in the blog search engine, and you’ll get a lot of information on the issue[better yet, click on "Bicycle Plan" at the bottom of this post]. There’s no injustice here, unless you think—as apparently a lot of bike people in SF believe—that the city and the cycling community doesn’t have to follow the same laws as everyone else.

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19 Comments:

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

"But it's worth pointing out once again that the only reason the city isn't implementing a bicycle plan right now---it's been more than three years since the litigation was filed---is that the city and the SFBC tried to rush the 527-page Bicycle Plan through the process without doing any environmental review. That was clearly illegal, and the court ordered the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which it is now doing."

Of course this also means that no motor vehicle oriented carriageway widening, lane realignment, etc. etc, is permitted without a full environmental review.

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The streets are already here; they can't be widened; it's a zero-sum game on city streets, with a limited amount of space. The only "lane realignment" we're talking about with the Bicycle Plan is taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes.

 
At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus fuck, Rob! It can't be a zero-sum game if bicycles only demand a fraction of the space that automobiles do. That is nonzero sum by definition.

And, SF streets are the way they are (widened to accomodate cars at the expense of everything else, two lanes of parking lining both sides of most streets, high speed arterials, freeway feeders and offramps, etc.) because of 1950s-style traffic planning. It's not the fucking 1950s anymore, though, and the time of cars uber alles has passed.*

*that being said, I believe the bike coalition and their people do have a tendency to overstate the 'subversion of justice' angle on the EIR dispute, so we're in agreement there.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

A "fraction of the space"? To make a bike lane you need four or five feet, and to get that space on a two-lane city street, obviously you have to take away a traffic lane or street parking, which is unacceptable---and unworkable---on most city streets. The cars, trucks, and buses are here now in 2008. Taking away traffic lanes will only make traffic worse for everyone, including Muni and emergency vehicles---for 2% of the population?

 
At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

I love how you play the "including Muni and emergency vehicles" card, Rob. That's rich. I'm curious; which do you imagine is easier to get out of the way when there's an emergency vehicle flying down a narrow city street: a 5x10', 2-ton hunk of metal, or a person-sized, 20-lb. bike?

If you were truly concerned with street access for essential public services, you'd recognize that the best --hell, really the only--way to ensure it is to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

And as for:

"Taking away traffic lanes will only make traffic worse for everyone"

Well, that's pure conjecture on your part, and I look forward to the EIR providing some well-documented evidence to the contrary.

Now, if only there were such a vehicle that, in addition to reducing street traffic, could be propelled without the use of fossil fuels and promoted regular exercise, thus reducing both the amount of pollution being spewed in the air each day and the burden of inactive lifestyles on the city's healthcare establishment... Wouldn't that be sweet?

 
At 4:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I love it how you bike nuts always seem to miss the point. What I'm saying is that you aren't going to "reduce the number of vehicles on the road"; you're only going to make traffic worse for everyone. Got it, Shawn? I understand that you bike assholes think that that would be a Good Thing, that if you punish drivers---drivers of cars, trucks, buses, taxis, ambulances, etc.---then people will give up driving and turn their lonely eyes to---bikes! That's a combination of nastiness and stupidity that makes you people uniquely despicable in San Francisco's civic life.

 
At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Miss the point? Hardly. It's you who has completely missed the point of cycling infrastructure. It's not to punish drivers or save the environment. It's not to inconvenience pedestrians or disrupt essential city services. It's to make the city a safer place for people who ride bikes.

You don't have to ride a bike, or even like anyone who does, to understand this. You know how stop signs and turn signals are placed at intersections every once in a while to make them safer for driver crossings and pedestrians? It's just like that, except, because the sidewalks aren't large enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists safely, dedicated cycling space is taken from areas traditionally reserved for either traffic or (more often) parked cars.

And you know what? The limited availability of parking in San Francisco is a fact of life. I had a car until very recently, and before I moved into an apartment with a garage that cost $150/month I was paying just as much in parking tickets. Owning a car in the city sucks, and it's not because the "bike assholes" are gobbling up parking spaces for their own selfish use. I don't expect you to understand this because you don't drive, but it does make me wonder why you're such a fervent defender of cars and their dominion over the road.

What I think you fail to understand is that, in order to make cities sustainable (from a logistical perspective) in a fast-approaching future with twice the current population, we're going to have to start thinking of roads and the way we use them very differently. Forward-thinking cities in Europe (for instance) are doing just that, and cycling ridership is much, much higher there. If your bias is any indication, clearly there are some social hurdles to the mainstream acceptance of bikes as a practical alternative to cars. But primarily it has to do with infrastructure, and the simple fact of the matter is that if you make the city safer for bikes, more people will ride them. Any way you slice it, that results in less cars on the road and less stress on public transit (and, since you seem so keen on stressing it, more room for emergency vehicles).

I'm trying to put this to you as plainly and civilly as I can, but at some point you've got to get out of that selfish, hateful headspace and grow up. The city doesn't belong to you, me, motorists or cyclists; it belongs to everyone. And even if cyclists only represent 2% of the city's population, that's still a pretty significant portion. Those people have every right to the use of the streets, and it is the city's responsibility to make sure that they, like pedestrians and motorists, are provided safe passage.

And another thing: I don't take part in Critical Mass, and I certainly don't hate cars or their drivers as much as you seem to think I do. You keep using the anti-car sentiment of some cyclists as an excuse to dismiss the opinions of anyone who rides a bike, and it's getting really tired. Stop it.

 
At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Rob. If making room for bikes is going to make traffic worse, why don't you illustrate the point with some examples of how this phenomenon has played out before?

SF can't be the first place in the world that has proposed such a thing.

 
At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Anderson for giving San Francisco politics a dose of their own medicine. I bet they didn't foresee this one coming their way. Ha, ha!
I'm tired of these critical mass lunatics trying to make wholesale changes to city streets that will only benefit less than 1% of the residents. Replacing residential street parking for bike lanes that gets limited use is idiotic.

 
At 12:43 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Actually, Rob, the promoters of bicycle lanes have a lot of evidence on their side. Seems that drivers won't actually sit in traffic jams and hold their breath if the city closes lanes; they actually will, sensibly, switch either their route, their time of travel, or their mode of transportation.

The city where I live has reduced the lanes on at least one major street to put in bicycle lanes. Congestion had not increased; the traffic formerly carried by these lanes simply disappeared.City engineers I spoke to monitored the traffic on this street, and got the same results.
In fact, city engineers in a variety of cities and countries have obtained the same or similar results. All of these cites come from a google search for "disappearing traffic", which turned up over a million hits.

On the subject of evidence, another study has come out that strongly contradicts your argument that cycling has inherent dangers; seems that the more people cycle, the less the odds of any one of them getting into an accident. So cyclists have a strong incentive to encourage other people to cycle; our safety depends on it.

Cars kill people. Thy kill people through crashes. They kill people by polluting the air we breathe. To get on a bicycle, or a bus, means, in part, to choose not to kill. I believe that, at a very basic moral level, those people who make urban transportation policies have an obligation to allow, maybe even encourage, people to make that choice, freely, and without fearing for their lives. Most cyclists don't want anything more than that. If you want to choose a totally car-dependent lifestyle and all the benefits that go with it (obesity, chronic depression, pollution, stress, fits of homicidal rage, premature death, the pleasure of knowing your habits contribute to enriching the bin Laden family as well as Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez), then we won't stop you. But we insist that you not threaten those of us who have chosen health, cleanliness, and freedom. And if we can only stop you "marvelous invention" from killing us by taking lanes away, the that doesn't bother me half as much as putting up white bicycles for cyclists killed by drivers.

From where I sit, the issue looks pretty cut and dried. If you have some facts or cites or studies, or in fact anything but anger and ad hominem insults, I'd love to see them.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Note that none of the comments from the bike people address the specifics of my post, which was about the hypocrisy of the SFBC and the ignorance of Peter Smith, who does the Bike Blog.

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm tired of these critical mass lunatics trying to make wholesale changes to city streets that will only benefit less than 1% of the residents. Replacing residential street parking for bike lanes that gets limited use is idiotic."

1) There's no way for critical mass to make any changes to city streets.

2) The last data show that 17% of SF residents use bikes at one time or another. There's no way to predict what the percentage would look like if we made these changes.

3) Yes, replacing residential street parking with bike lanes that get limited use is, indeed, idiotic.

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

OK, Rob, let's pretend a little-known blogging rule says we can't respond to the things you say in the comments. I make it a habit not to comment on rulings by courts in places where I don't live, but it seems to me that given the importance of the issue to the lives of San Francisco cyclists, it hardly seems unreasonable for them to ask the city to move ahead with the review the courts have mandated as quickly as possible. And, frankly, I see no reason for you to call it "demagoguery" when cyclists make legitimate efforts to get city politicians to listen to them.

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

I think i now understand why you would make a great politician. You know how to dodge a question. Where are the studies that show that increasing bicycle infrastructure cause more traffic congestion? Why is transportation seen as only a way to move people and without considering the ethical and social implications of transportation planning?

BTW, i am really interested to know which transportation engineering program you graduated from. WHat exactly are your credentials? You just sound like a pissed off bitter old man.

See what intellligent transportation planning can do to a city such as melbourne australia in this video, and NO, when they took away traffic lanes the congestion did not get worse, however, the number of pedestrians increads 3 fold. www.streetfilms.org/archives/melbourne

Again, please provide examples of a city that experienced increased traffic congestion by taking away travel lanes from cars and giving them to bicyclists and pedestrians. Or you can just sit there and use your own "logic" and hate to push your own agenda.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't know or really care what other countries are doing. You're the one who's evading the question, since your typical bike nut comment has nothing to do with my post. First we're supposed to turn to foreign countries to learn how to design our strees, and then we're supposed to turn to "transportation engineers"? You bike nuts are the ones who are full of hate for anyone who dares to question the Great Bicycle Revolution in US cities. I'm the only media critic of the bike people in SF, and you people can't even handle that. What a bunch of crybabies!

It's not up to me or anyone else to produce studies; it's up to the City of San Francisco to do an environmental study of the 527-page Bicycle Plan before they starat implementing it. Not only a good idea; it's the law, which of course shouldn't apply to you bike twits. After all, you aren't burning fossil fuel, so why should you be subject to the same laws as everyone else?

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't know or really care what other countries are doing."

This is pretty obvious. If you actually knew what you were talking about, you wouldn't be able to hold the positions you do.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bike nut? That is a good one.
If you read my post you can see that i was speaking more from a pedestrian standpoint and respecting a city 4 times the size of SF, even if it is in a different country, making an effort to give the streets back to the people and creating a better sense of community, a concept that baffles people in SF and the rest of the US. If we didn't have to point to other countries for examples that would be great because then at least we would be doing something right. DId you even watch the video? It is not about bikes it is about pedestrians.

Who gave the cars the right to the street anyway? Why can someone store their private property on a public space that should belong to everyone? Would it be OK for me to store some boxes on the street? No it wouldn't, but in effect that is what you do when you park your car on the street. You take up space that everyone should be able to use with your own private property. Why? So you can drive 1 mile to get your starbucks?

I do not really take you for someone that thinks the solution is more cars and more roads. I think that you understand that widening roads, adding lanes ect is like loosening your belt to try to cure obesity. However, i cannot understand why you defend the personal automobile and are so against giving public space back to who it belongs to, the people!

Now, if that makes me a "bike nut" in your eyes then i will accept YOUR hate and move on.

My comments are addressing your comments on this page, not your posts.

Addressing your post i will say that you are right, the proper procedure was not followed in the bicycle plan. USing level of service to determine environmental impacts in such an urban invironment is assinine. If they took away parking and the bike lane on valencia and made it a 4 lane road once again it would have a positive environmental impact according to LOS based assesment. Do you think that this is an accurate assesment? Please show some statistics that show traffic and congestion increasing on valencia since the bike land and parking were put into place. Face it, your arguments have no basis except your own personal beliefs.

When you present a valid arguement to back up your claims that taking away lanes of traffic will increase congestion then, and only then, will i give you my vote. I do not really want a politician representing my district that goes of off personal feeling and bitterness. Again, i ask you what your credentials are Mr. Anderson.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I do not really take you for someone that thinks the solution is more cars and more roads. I think that you understand that widening roads, adding lanes ect is like loosening your belt to try to cure obesity. However, i cannot understand why you defend the personal automobile and are so against giving public space back to who it belongs to, the people!"

What arrogance? Who do you think are driving the 465,000 motor vehicles registered in SF? Aliens? No one is talking about widening roads or adding lanes. In fact, it's just the opposite; the bike fanatics want to take away some of the few lanes we have in SF.

"When you present a valid arguement to back up your claims that taking away lanes of traffic will increase congestion then, and only then, will i give you my vote."

I don't want your vote, you arrogant twit. You take the time to write your long, boring, utterly predictable comments, but you can't find the time to capitalize "I"?

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the bike fanatics want to take away some of the few lanes we have in SF."

Yes, all of them is too few.

 

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