Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Keep up the good work, Mr. Anderson"

Some positive feedback on this morning's Wall Street Journal article (below in italics):

Shawn Orr writes:
Rob you are my hero. I just read the WSJ article today and agree with all your points. Bicyclists are extremely sanctimonious. I will keep reading your blog. Keep up the good fight. How can I join C-FAR? I would like to start a chapter in New Canaan, CT.

Jason Wheeler wrote:
The Journal article was great. I always like to see people debunking supposed "green" solutions. People need to wake up to the fact that most "green" solutions are just a transfer of impact rather than a reduction in impact. Keep up the good work.

El Visitador wrote:
Great candidate questionnaire responses! I loved it. I learned about you because of today's WSJ report. If I lived in San Francisco, you would most definitively be getting my vote! Best of luck.

Madmoney wrote:
Keep up the great work! Speaking as a happy-to-be-former San Franciscan, people like you are the only hope the city has left!

Anonymous wrote:
keep up the good work, this bike-mania is infectious & the politicians cave to a few loudmouths. good luck with it they do NEED an impact review. yours in the struggle

Mitch Haase wrote:
Bicyclists in SF and Berkeley are whiney little pricks. Keep up the good work and stop these elitist thugs from trying to take over our cities with their asinine plans. People like Jason Meggs need help getting their heads pulled out of their asses.

Anonymous wrote:
What's fun is to be behind two bikers on a country road who ride side by side so you cannot pass! Then after they get tired of holding you back, they fall into a single file line so you will pass and they can be left to the scenery after showing you who's boss of the road...Bikers are obnoxious. It's true.

Skyler Weinand wrote:
I read the WSJ article and spent some time on your blog. I really applaud your efforts. While living in Minneapolis, which has more bike trails and lanes per capita than any metro area in the country and being involved in municipal government, I couldn't have been more frustrated with bike enthusiasts touting the removal of car lanes for bikes. It just didn't make any sense, and your efforts and thoughts do. Now I'm in Manhattan and have had far more near misses with senseless bikers than the 13,000 taxi cabs and numerous other vehicles. Bikers, I've found, have very little regard for the law.

BEBP wrote:
Just wanted to tell you that I am impressed. I wish someone had thought this through in the DC area. Not only did the City Council put in bike lanes (that everyone ignores), but they don't enforce traffic rules when it comes to bicyclists, let them ride on sidewalks, and even without helmets. I hope common sense prevails.

Darren Story wrote:
What can I do to help? I'm sick of these so called progressives with their holier than thou, do nothing attitude!

Anthony Wade Soni wrote:
I have just read the article in today's WSJ concerning your stance on critical mass. I am very supportive of your actions and wish you luck and perseverance. As for your platform in running for office, I am afraid I do not agree with many of your statements, such as I would support legalizing prostitution. But you seem to be the most logical person running so far. Good Luck.

Stephen Keith wrote:
Mr. Anderson, I read the article in today's WSJ about your objection to construction of bike paths w/out an environmental study being performed. Kudos! I live in Birmingham, Alabama, in one of its sorta trendy subdivisions where a huge class of professional middle-aged men have become notoriously angry cyclists, behaving like the "Critical Mass" riders in San Fran. I can see we are headed where SF is---cyclists demanding they be allowed to clog the streets but refusing to follow the rules of the road and exhibiting at least a little common sense to stay off of major, high-speed thoroughfares. That you turned the tables on them and insisted that the truth of environmental impacts at least be examined is simply beautiful. Keep up the good work. It's high time someone called these holier-than-thou Lance Armstrong wannabe's out for their entitlement mentality.

Tor Trivers wrote:
I read about you in the WSJ today. I think you are spot on about everything. Keep it up!!

David Howard wrote:
I just read the WSJ article today, aug 20th. I've also been reading the book "The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths - How Smart Growth is Hurting American Cities." On page 363, O'Toole quotes John Forester who thinks bike lanes are more dangerous than riding in a vehcile because they increase errors between cyclists and drivers. The safest cyclists are those who act and are treated as operators of vehicles. (As defined in California law.) Bikes and autos aren't mutually exclusive choices, but the bike proponents seem to think that way. I watched a cyclist in Berkeley almost get flattened last week by the left-turning SUV in front of me. The cyclist was on the road as she entered the intersection, but then suddenly claimed pedestrian status by swerving into the pedestrian crosswalk, rather than asserting her right away as a straight-through driving vehicle, or yielding it. Adults of a certain age should be made to ride on the road like a vehicle, and trained for it, as drivers are trained, and trained NOT to play hocus-pocus, I'm-a-pedestrian, now-I'm-a-vehicle games. Children below a certain age certainly have no place on the road and that leaves only the sidewalk. Keep up the good work, Mr. Anderson.

Paul Roscelli writes:
Hey I saw the article on you in the WSJ today. Suffice it to say, while I disagree on virtually all your other positions ( I looked you up on the web) you are so right on when it comes to the issue of bikes. Good for you. I would like to donate to your campaign, despite our differences.

Glenn wrote:
Mr. Anderson, encouraging an environmental impact review is great. Many cyclists are on your side if a better environment is your goal. The city should review the impact of many factors, not just fewer v. more bicycles. Just as many cyclists assumed their choice was better for the environment, you assume that our car culture is as immutable as the laws of nature, however people's views on cars change all the time. And this decade is seeing former proponents of big American cars opting for smaller hybrid---and soon electric---vehicles, and others realizing that for many of the short trips typical in urban areas, cars don't make sense. You're right; further study is needed.

San Francisco Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution? City Backpedals on a Cycling Plan After Mr. Anderson Goes to Court
August 20, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- New York is wooing cyclists with chartreuse bike lanes. Chicago is spending nearly $1 million for double-decker bicycle parking. San Francisco can't even install new bike racks. Blame Rob Anderson. At a time when most other cities are encouraging biking as green transport, the 65-year-old local gadfly has stymied cycling-support efforts here by arguing that urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad for the environment. That's put the brakes on everything from new bike lanes to bike racks while the city works on an environmental-impact report.

Cyclists say the irony is killing them---literally. At least four bikers have died and hundreds more have been injured in San Francisco since mid-2006, when Mr. Anderson helped convince a judge to halt implementation of a massive pro-bike plan. (It's unclear whether the plan's execution could have prevented the accidents.)

In the past year, bike advocates have demonstrated outside City Hall, pushed the city to challenge the plan's freeze in court and proposed putting the whole mess to local voters. Nothing worked. "We're the ones keeping emissions from the air!" shouted Leah Shahum, executive director of the 10,000-strong San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, at a July 21 protest. Mr. Anderson disagrees. Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution.

Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It's an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this month. Mr. Anderson's fight underscores the tensions that can circulate as urban cycling, bolstered by environmental awareness and high gasoline prices, takes off across the U.S. New York City, where the number of commuter cyclists is estimated to have jumped 77% between 2000 and 2007, is adding new bike lanes despite some motorist backlash. Chicago recently elected to kick cars off stretches of big roads on two Sundays this year.

Famously progressive, San Francisco is known for being one of the most pro-bike cities in the U.S., offering more than 200 miles of lanes and requiring that big garages offer bike parking. It is also known for characters like Mr. Anderson. A tall, serious man with a grizzled gray beard, Mr. Anderson spent 13 months in a California federal prison for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. He later penned pieces for the Anderson Valley Advertiser, a muckraking Northern California weekly owned by his brother that's known for its savage prose and pranks.

Running for Office

In 1995, Mr. Anderson moved to San Francisco. Working odd jobs, he twice ran for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, pledging to tackle homelessness and the city's "tacit PC ideology." He got 332 of 34,955 votes in 2004, his second and best try. That year Mr. Anderson, who mostly lives off a small government stipend he receives for caring for his 92-year-old mother, also started a blog, digging into local politics with gusto. One of his first targets: the city's most ambitious bike plan to date.Unveiled in 2004, the 527-page document was filled with maps, traffic analyses and a list of roughly 240 locations where the city hoped to make cycling easier. The plan called for more bike lanes, better bike parking and a boost in cycling to 10% of the city's total trips by 2010.

The plan irked Mr. Anderson. Having not owned a car in 20 years, he says he has had several near misses with bikers roaring through crosswalks and red lights, and sees bicycles as dangerous and impractical for car-centric American cities. Mr. Anderson was also bugged by what he describes as the holier-than-thou attitude typified by Critical Mass, a monthly gathering of bikers who coast through the city, snarling traffic for hours. "The behavior of the bike people on city streets is always annoying," he says. "This 'Get out of my way, I'm not burning fossil fuels.' "

Going to Court

In February 2005, Mr. Anderson showed up at a planning commission meeting. If San Francisco was going to take away parking spaces and car lanes, he argued, it had better do an environmental-impact review first. When the Board of Supervisors voted to skip the review, Mr. Anderson sued in state court, enlisting his friend Mary Miles, a former postal worker, cartoonist and Anderson Valley Advertiser colleague. Ms. Miles, who was admitted to the California bar in 2004 at age 57, proved a pugnacious litigator. She sought to kill the initial brief from San Francisco's lawyers after it exceeded the accepted length by a page. She objected when the city attorney described Mr. Anderson's advocacy group, the Coalition for Adequate Review, as CAR in their documents. (It's C-FAR.) She also convinced the court to review key planning documents over the city's objections.

Slow Pedaling

In November 2006, a California Superior Court judge rejected San Francisco's contention that it didn't need an environmental review and ordered San Francisco to stop all bike-plan activity until it completed the review. Since then, San Francisco has pedaled very slowly. City planners say they're being extra careful with their environmental study, in hopes that Mr. Anderson and Ms. Miles won't challenge it. Planners don't expect the study will be done for another year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Miles have teamed up to oppose a plan to put high-rises and additional housing in a nearby neighborhood. He continues to blog from his apartment in an old Victorian home. "Regardless of the obvious dangers, some people will ride bikes in San Francisco for the same reason Islamic fanatics will engage in suicide bombings---because they are politically motivated to do so," he wrote in a May 21 post.

"In case anyone doubted that you were a wingnut, this statement pretty much sums things up!" one commenter retorted. Mr. Anderson is running for supervisor again this November---around the time the city will unveil the first draft of its bike-plan environmental review. He's already pondering a challenge of the review.

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