Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ross Mirkarmi: Errand boy for the Bicycle Coalition

The Bicycle Coalition's questionnaire has this question for District 5 candidates:

In the next year, the City’s Bicycle Plan should be re-instated after a 3-year delay in physical bike improvements on city property, which was caused by a lawsuit and a slow Environmental Review process. The silver lining to this frustrating situation is that a significant package of Bike Network improvements---50+ proposals for bike lanes and intersection improvements throughout the city---will be fully analyzed and ready for legislation and implementation. Will you support approval and implementation of this full package of projects, which will fill significant gaps in the Citywide Bike Network and which, in some cases may include removal of existing on-street parking or traffic lanes?

Supervisor Mirkarimi simply answered "Yes." He will "support approval and implementation of this full package" even before he knows what's in it! He got the endorsement of the Bicycle Coalition in 2004 and, not surprisingly, he got it again this year.

My answer of course was "No," followed by the obvious question:

How can you ask anyone to approve a "full package" when supposedly no one knows what's in it yet? I know: Mirkarimi will give you a blank check regardless of what's in the final package, and other candidates will, too, simply because they perceive the SFBC as a powerful interest group...

The next question lists the streets on the SFBC's priority list: 2nd Street, 5th Street, 17th Street, Masonic Ave., Cesar Chavez Ave., Bayshore Blvd., Illinois St., and Portola Ave. Candidates are asked to approve creating bike lanes on all these streets, even if it requires "removing traffic lanes and/or street parking." Again Mirkarimi answers "Yes" to every street! In fact Mirkarimi answers "Yes" to everything in the SFBC questionnaire, with no comments or doubts about anything the SFBC wants to do to city streets, including encouraging the city's schoolchildren to ride bikes to school.

Funny but except on his endorsements page, Mirkarimi's website doesn't mention the SF Bicycle Coalition, the Bicycle Plan, or his vote to make it part of the General Plan without any environmental review. Or the leading role he's played in level of service (LOS) "reform"---the attempt by the Bicycle Coalition to eliminate serious traffic studies so that they can implement their "improvements" wherever they want in the city, including removing street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. Is Mirkarimi now embarrassed about his mindless support for whatever the Bicycle Coalition wants to do to our streets? In fact the word "bicycles" doesn't appear anywhere on his website, except for this so-called accomplishment: "Introducing resolution to create bicyclist-friendly crossing-light system at intersection of Fell and Masonic."

It's not surprising that he doesn't mention his support for Critical Mass but his failure to mention his steadfast leadership on all things bike-related is a little odd. It's almost as if he thought that the bike issue is a political liability, even in District 5.

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24 Comments:

At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, how can you approve of something if you don't know what it is?

 
At 2:25 AM, Anonymous Philip said...

"Yes, how can you approve of something if you don't know what it is?"

I assume you mean the those conducting the EIR have no idea what they are reviewing!

 
At 3:09 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

If I understand your lawsuit correctly, the San Francisco city government already discussed and approved these improvements in cycling facilities. They will now come before your legislators a second time, this time with a full environmental impact review. Do you really mean to tell us that with all of these deliberative steps, you can say for sure that anyone, let alone a sitting supervisor, does not know what the bicycle plan improvements will contain?

As for level of service and traffic studies, I'll point out one more time that we have a huge volume of evidence that motorized traffic adapts to changes quite quickly. Some motorists shift the time of their commute. Some get out of their cars and take public transit, bicycles, walk or use a combination of modes. Still others eliminate unnecessary trips. If you believe this evidence, then analyzing the use of streets by motorists now does not necessarily predict how traffic will adapt if the city modifies the street configuration to give other users their fair share of the road.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The bicycle people in the Planning Dept. and other city agencies, along with the SF Bicycle Coalition "discussed and approved of these improvements"---everything the bike people want to do to city streets is of course an "improvement"---but no one else knew anything about them, especially the city's neighborhoods. The thing about CEQA is that it requires public notice and public input on proposed projects.

No one but the folks working on the EIR know what their Draft EIR is going to say about the proposed changes to city streets. The most important part of the EIR must contain some real traffic studies on the impact of taking away a traffic lane on, for example, Second Street and Fifth Street in downtown San Francisco. The city did no such studies before it passed the Bicycle Plan.

And when we went before the Board of Supervisors more than three years ago to warn them that they were proceeding illegally, nothing any of the supervisors said gave me the impression that any of them had read the 500-page Bicycle Plan before they voted on it.

Yes, I know you don't need no stinking studies to know that whatever the bike people want to do anywhere is an "improvement." If only Judge Busch had talked to you before he handed down his decision! Yes, of course drivers will be forced to adapt to whatever the city ultimately does to city streets. But there's a political dimension to the problem you ignore: What if city residents, after reading the Draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan, don't like the "improvements" the city wants to make to their streets?

And then there's the issue of the adequacy of the EIR. If those of us who were involved in the successful litigation think it has some serious shortcomings, we will take the matter to Judge Busch, who will decide on its adequacy and when to lift the injunction.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I assume you mean the those conducting the EIR have no idea what they are reviewing!"

You are incorrect, Philip. Supervisor Mirkarimi is not working on the EIR and neither is the Bicycle Coalition. The Bicycle Coalition is doing what all interest groups always do---pushing its agenda. What I'm pointing out here is that Mirkarimi is not only endorsing their agenda but he is giving them and the city a preemptive approval for whatever they want to do to our streets, which may include some real stupid stuff, like taking away traffic lanes on busy city streets.

 
At 11:50 AM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob, you claimed in your original post that Supervisor Mirkarimi endorsed the bike plan without knowing the contents, and when I questioned you on the subject, you appeared to answer that you have only an "impression" from two or more years ago that the supervisors had not read the bicycle plan. In other words, you accuse Supervisor Mirkarimi of approving something without reading it, even though you don't appear to know if he's read it or not.

You also raised the issue of traffic studies, and I pointed out that the experience in a large number of cities suggests that present traffic patterns offer no guide to future demands, because drivers adapt their travel behaviour to fit the roads provided, which means you cannot avoid congestion by devoting more lanes to high-emissions traffic, and you do not increase it by devoting less public space to this purpose.

I have nothing to say about Judge Busch's specific ruling, because as I have said before, I usually avoid commenting on judicial decisions from places where I don't live. As for what the neighbourhoods in your city do, that will depend on how persuasive a case the bicycle coalition, and the prices at the gas pump, and the desire for clean air, makes to the local residents.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, you got it wrong again, John. My post was about how Mirkarimi okayed the SFBC's agenda even before the EIR is out on the specific streets the SFBC listed. No one knows yet what the EIR is going to say about the plausibility of changing those streets. I strongly suspect he didn't read the Bicycle Plan either, but I can't prove that. The point is he automatically okays whatever the SFBC wants done and he left his political servility to the bike people in SF off his website!

Your opinion on traffic studies done in other cities is irrelevant to San Francisco, which has to do its own studies of its streets.

You're eager to share you opinion on the wisdom of bike lanes in SF but not on Judge Busch's opinion? That shows real restraint on your part, John. If you read Judge Busch's decision, you would have a better grasp of the city's situation, as he all but called them liars in the way they pushed the Bicycle Plan through the process without proper review.

 
At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Rob said,
How can you ask anyone to approve a "full package" when supposedly no one knows what's in it yet?

Philip said,
I assume you mean the those conducting the EIR have no idea what they are reviewing!

Rob said,
“You are incorrect, Philip. Supervisor Mirkarimi is not working on the EIR and neither is the Bicycle Coalition. The Bicycle Coalition is doing what all interest groups always do---pushing its agenda.”



Rob,
Do you expect me to take this seriously? Of course the bicycle plan is known to and accessible by anyone who wants to have look.

And full credit to the bicycle coalition for doing its job.

Your car loving agenda is quite incomprehensible, but from reading your blog over the last couple of months I’m beginning to understand why. You don’t seem to stand for anything other than opposition to change.

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Bicycle Plan is known to all that are interested in knowing it, since it's available online through MTA's website. But what we're talking about now---what nobody but the folks working on it presumably know---is the environmental impact report on the Bicycle Plan. We know the streets the EIR is studying, but we don't yet know what they are going to conclude about those streets, and we haven't seen the traffic studies.

Is all "change" good? Of course not. The trick is to sort out the good from the bad, isn't it? That's what I do on my blog. I don't own a car; I take Muni and walk wherever I have to go. Cars are a great invention, as are trucks and buses. They are all here to stay on the streets of the city. You bike morons seem to think that someday the rest of us are going to see the light and take up riding bikes. That's not going to happen. In the meantime, we have to resist your crackpot attempt to redesign city streets on behalf of your small minority of city residents.

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Rob said,
Is all "change" good? Of course not. The trick is to sort out the good from the bad, isn't it? That's what I do on my blog. I don't own a car; I take Muni and walk wherever I have to go. Cars are a great invention, as are trucks and buses. They are all here to stay on the streets of the city. You bike morons seem to think that someday the rest of us are going to see the light and take up riding bikes. That's not going to happen. In the meantime, we have to resist your crackpot attempt to redesign city streets on behalf of your small minority of city residents.

Yes, cars trucks and buses will stay on the streets, just as they do in every city around the world. They will not disappear. The balance however will shift away from cars for personal transport around cities. Personal moibility needs will be met increasingly by public transport and also by bicycles. This is a good thing.

The growth in public transport and bicycle use however will not happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process. You should really be thinking in decades rather than years.

You are very keen to label bicycle advocates as ‘morons’ and a ‘small minority’ and yet it is these people who are looking to the future of the entire city and pursuing an agenda which is beneficial(yes, I’m comfortable making that claim before the EIR is released) and entirely achievable. In fact it is most likely inevitable.

Bicycle use is growing despite the impediments currently facing riders, and city planners will find themselves forced to cater for the growing bicycle presence. It is much more sensible however to recognise the trend, the benefits and the need, so that change can be managed and encouraged, with minimal stress to everyone.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes Philip, I understand that you bike people think you are great visionaries, but why is it that the SFBC rarely even mentions the city's Muni system? It's all about bikes for them, not public transportation.

"It is much more sensible however to recognise the trend, the benefits and the need, so that change can be managed and encouraged, with minimal stress to everyone."

That's exactly what CEQA is designed to do---calculate the environmental impact of projects before they are implemented. The city and the SFBC tried to do an end-run around that law and we busted them for it. The review they should have done three years ago is now being done. So what's your problem?

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Sorry, Rob, no sale. You may have meant to say that Supervisor Mirkrimi will approve the bicycle plan before he has read the EIR, but you actually wrote:

Supervisor Mirkarimi simply answered "Yes." He will "support approval and implementation of this full package" even before he knows what's in it!

I'd also like to deal with your comment that cars, trucks and buses will stay on the streets. Nobody proposes to eliminate buses and trucks, and very few people propose to eliminate cars. Speaking purely for myself, I want two things: space allocated for cyclists based on our numbers and our economic and environmental contribution. And I want the operators of motor vehicles held to a standard that reflects the real responsibility of operating a two-tonne steel bomb in a public place.

If that means some people will have to get rid of their car, or their second car, so that others may travel safely or simply breathe the air, I have no problem with that. If holding drivers to a realistic standard means people can't get licenses if they don't have the judgement not to drive after a sleepless night, or after a couple of stiff drinks, also fine with me. But what I want does not come close to eliminating any class of vehicles from the streets.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Maybe it's a result of all the carbon monoxide and diesel fumes you bike people inhale in the practice of your dangerous hobby, but you sure are lousy readers.

We're dealing with two different documents here, John: the Bicycle Plan and the still-uncompleted EIR on the Bicycle Plan, which no one has seen because it isn't done yet. I suspect Mirkarimi hasn't read the Bicycle Plan itself, but I can't prove that. But I know he hasn't read the Draft EIR, because no one has yet; it's still being written, which is why his endorsement of whatever the SFBC wants to do to those specific streets is so outrageous.

The moral of the story: Mirkarmi is a stooge for the SFBC.

Your typically wooly-headed remarks on bikes and cars are banal and unsurprising coming from a fanatic like you. But thanks for sharing anyhow.

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

None of us 'bike morons' think that cars are going to go away and everyone will switch to bicycles.

Saying that we think that is classic strawman bullshit.

What we're in favor of is creating better facilities for people who are already biking and for those who want to.

Most of us do believe that if the bike improvements were provided, we would see a greater share of people making trips by bike, over time. Please note that this is not the same thing as 'cars going away' or 'everyone biking'.

SF is small enough so that everything is easy bike-distance, so bikes would be a completely appropriate transportation choice here if we had the road design to support it (and the fact that people ride for transportation here illustrates that; if it exists, it's possible).

There are significant numbers of people already making this choice, but they are doing so on streets designed primarily for the needs of automobiles.

As we become more interested in getting around on bicycles, doesn't it make sense that city streets should reflect that interest?

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I call you bike people "morons" because you are shockingly remedial readers.

"SF is small enough so that everything is easy bike-distance, so bikes would be a completely appropriate transportation choice here if we had the road design to support it..."

My argument---and the reality of city streets---is that you can't make bicycle lanes on a lot of streets because taking away traffic lanes and street parking will only screw up traffic for everybody else---cars, trucks, Muni buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles. Got it, Anon? This is why the EIR on The Bicycle Plan must include serious traffic studies where the city proposes doing that.

"There are significant numbers of people already making this choice, but they are doing so on streets designed primarily for the needs of automobiles."

The streets are designed for cars---and trucks and buses---because there are 465,150 motor vehicles registered in SF; because millions of tourists drive into the city every year; because there are 1000 Muni vehicles on city streets; and because 35,000 commuters drive into the city every weekday to work.

"As we become more interested in getting around on bicycles, doesn't it make sense that city streets should reflect that interest?"

It only makes sense if you ignore the reality reflected in the numbers I just cited. Just because you and your trendo, PC friends are riding bikes isn't enough to fuck up traffic for everyone else.

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

I can read and comprehend, Rob. I also apply basic logic to what I read. Let me explain my reasoning to you.

The EIR applies to the bike plan; as I understand the EIR process, it might lead to the conclusion that a particular aspect of that plan will cause more pollution than it will offset, which would cause a deletion of that part of the plan as environmentally unsound. However, the EIR will not generally lead to any additions to the plan, so that the plan, as it emerges from the EIR process, will consist of a subset of the original plan.

So, logically, if Supervisor Mirikimi knows the contents of the original plan, and the parts of the plan that emerge from the EIR process constitute a subset of the original plan, then he has to know what the subset (after the EIR) will propose. He does not, of course, necessarily know what it might leave out. But if you approve each one of a set of measures, it makes sense to approve a subset of those measures, and the SFBC has not asked him to approve the deletions.

As for your dismissal of issues of public safety related to drivers, let me point out two things:

1) they make your complaint about the dangers of cycling look pretty silly, and

2) the one thing that might enable cars and bikes to operate together safely, high and rigorously enforced standards for drivers, offers a real alternative to measures that would take away lanes and otherwise reduce traffic.

In essence, allowing people who insist on driving half asleep, or drunk, or otherwise incapacitated to keep their licenses may well cost drivers a good few lanes. I don't have a problem with that, but since you seem to want to keep as many cars on the road as possible, I have to wonder why you do.

 
At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Rob said,
"Yes Philip, I understand that you bike people think you are great visionaries"

A totally unwarranted accolade. It really doesn't take much intelligence to recognise the benefits and trend toward cycling.

Thankyou anyway.

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

"My argument---and the reality of city streets---is that you can't make bicycle lanes on a lot of streets because taking away traffic lanes and street parking will only screw up traffic for everybody else..."

Oh, that's your argument? Because I thought your argument was that we shouldn't make bicycle lanes on *any* streets.

If your only argument is that we can't make bicycle lanes on *some* streets, then I'm with you 100%! Some (most) streets don't need them.

"35,000 commuters drive into the city every weekday to work."

Which is pretty close to the estimated number of people who ride their bikes to work. If the street design should follow the requirements of its users, which is what you're arguing here, then the number of bicyclists justifies consideration.

"465,150 motor vehicles registered in SF"

Ok, that's half of SF. It doesn't tell us anything about their use. Damn near 100% of households have bicycles-- which also doesn't tell us anything about their use.

"millions of tourists drive into the city every year"

...who also rent bikes by the trainload.


"It only makes sense if you ignore the reality reflected in the numbers I just cited."

I think what you mean is 'it only makes sense if you ignore *my interpretation* of the numbers...'

"Just because you and your trendo, PC friends are riding bikes isn't enough to fuck up traffic for everyone else."

Actually, when me and my trendo friends ride bikes it does the opposite of fucking up traffic for everyone else. If we weren't biking there would be another 20,000 cars on the road or another 20,000 people waiting to be jammed onto Muni.


-anon bike nut, a.k.a bike moron

 
At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in District 5 now, and notice more and more cyclists all the time. So if any anti-bike people want to run for political office, they had better hurry!

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

John:

The problem is that you are both a bike fanatic and a know-it-all. Without really knowing anything about anything, you're determined to absolve Mirkarimi for giving the bike nuts a blank check.

The whole point of our litigation was that the city didn't to any environmental review at all of the Bicycle Plan. Your assumption seems to be that the city's EIR will be the final word on whatever the city and the bike nuts want to do to our streets. Since the city failed to do any review of the Plan in the first place, why would anyone but a bike nut like you can assume that the EIR will be adequate and that all issues will be resolved? Mirkarimi was asked about taking away traffic lanes and street parking on specific streets to make bike lanes---without first seeing the EIR or any traffic studies. He assured the SFBC ahead of time that he would okay whatever they and the city wanted to do to those streets. Got it?

 
At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Rob said,
My argument---and the reality of city streets---is that you can't make bicycle lanes on a lot of streets because taking away traffic lanes and street parking will only screw up traffic for everybody else---cars, trucks, Muni buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles. Got it, Anon? This is why the EIR on The Bicycle Plan must include serious traffic studies where the city proposes doing that.

If you are relying on the LOS standards for automobiles dominating the EIR findings – give up now.
The best you can hope for is that LOS based planning strategies are extensively modified to incorporate traffic movements by all modes - not just automobiles.

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

We'll see. You seem to be assuming that city voters will accept whatever the Bicycle Coaltion wants to do to their streets. We'll see, won't we?

My understanding is that if you dump LOS, you have to have something plausible to replace it. I don't think "trip generation" is going to suffice. Hence, you have to take the matter to the state legislature to get an exemption for bicycle plans in general. That may be doable, but people who ride bikes already have a reputation as scofflaws and buttholes. Throw in the bad publicity over the recent idea of allowing cyclists to ignore stop signs, and I wonder whether the Bike Nut Community has enough votes to get it done.

 
At 7:00 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob- I want this discussion to follow the rules of logic, which mean I'll call you out on claims that you can't back up with logic or facts.

Will the bike plan improve the City of San Francisco? Irrelevant to the question of whether Supervisor Mirkarimi read what he has said he'll vote on. Besides, I don't live in San Francisco, so I won't endorse any course of action for your city.

Do I consder Supervisor Mirkarimi a good man? Again, irrelevant, and I've never met him.

Does the SFBC have the best interests of the people of San Francisco at heart? Irrelevant; in any case, never having met them, I can't tell you.

Given what you say, and given what the SFBC questionnaire says, does it make logical sense to conclude that Supervisor Mirkarimi had an opportunity to review the bike plan, and therefore the subset of the bike plan that we assume will pass the environmental review process? Yes.

Does it make sense for Supervisor Mirkarimi to support these recommendations? Irrelevant to your charge that he hasn't read them.

Will you go back into court and attempt to get another injunction? Irrelevant; you can do that whether Supervisor Mirkarimi has read the recommendations he's promised to support or not.

Has Supervisor Mirkarimi shown you and the other members (if any) of Coalition for Adequate Review sufficient respect? Irrelevant to your charge; he can hold you in complete contempt, and still have read the proposals he's endorsed for the SFBC.

In a debate, you have the right to your own opinions. But I will point out when you try to use your own facts or your own logic.

 
At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

Yes, popular politics is important, although as I mentioned earlier simple organic growth of bicycle use generates its own imperative for appropriate street design to accommodate the traffic.

I don’t understand your point about “trip generation”. Can you clarify?

 

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