Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bike racks and LOS: the dialogue continues

Since Shawn Allen is at least trying to come to grips with my ongoing criticism of the city's bike community and their political representation, I'm posting this to the blog instead of relegating it to the comments section. Another point in his favor: He's not anonymous like so many commenters.

Shawn Allen writes: "How is LOS 'outdated'? Do you really think the city shouldn't have to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan?"
LOS is absolutely outdated. CEQA's definition of "significant impact" to LOS doesn't account for improved pedestrian or cycling throughput, let alone safety. This document (which you should really read in its entirety, as it addresses several of your other EIR-related arguments) proposes the following amendment to CEQA:

As a standard, a finding of LOS E, F will not be considered to be a significant impact if the change is caused by creation of, or improvement to, pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities. The term facilities includes all projects that create dedicated right of-way or re-allot traffic signal timing to improve pedestrian, bicycle and transit safety and efficiency.

Rob replies: This is the cyclist critique of the level of service (LOS) standard for measuring the impacts of proposed projects on traffic. E and F are the two lowest LOS ratings, which means a street has a serious congestion problem. The problem with eliminating LOS ratings in favor of cyclists---which is what the SFBC and its many enablers in city government want to do---is that by doing so you would also screw up traffic for "transit efficiency"---that is, Muni---not just for cars. My understanding of state law is that if the city eliminates LOS, they have to have something plausible to replace it, which they don't have. What the bike people want to do is eliminate LOS so that they can take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes anywhere in the city, regardless of the effect that will have on traffic.

Shawn Allen writes: And no, I don't think that the city should have to do an EIR on the entire Bicycle Plan. If anything I think it's a problem that the Plan was bought into as a take-it-or-leave-it package deal, because its review put a freeze on totally uncontroversial improvements like the installation of new bike racks. Bike parking is actually a big problem in some parts of town as a result of your lawsuit.

Rob replies: Actually, we weren't worried about bike racks. The judge simply prohibited any changes in the city's "hardscape," which obviously includes bike racks. We were concerned primarily with the city taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes---and doing it without either adequate environmental review or sufficient notice to the public. You of course are entitled to your opinion that the city shouldn't have to do an EIR on the 527-page Bicycle Plan, but we had both the law and the facts on our side, which is why Judge Warren gave us the original injunction, and why Judge Busch kept it in place until the city completes the EIR, which, by the way, is apparently coming out next week.

Shawn Allen writes: Everything that I've read makes me confident that the EIR is going to thoroughly dismantle your technical and legal objections to the Bicycle Plan. Then you can use all the clout that you've accumulated in this ordeal to lobby the city on behalf of San Franciscans Against Progressive Smugness.

Rob replies:
"Technical and legal objections to the Bicycle Plan"? The litigation was not about the contents of the Bicycle Plan but about the city's failure to do any environmental review of the ambitious project, which was clearly against the law (CEQA), since it was easy for us to demonstrate that it might have a negative impact on the city's environment. The EIR is what has to deal with the contents of the Bicycle Plan. If we think the EIR is inadequate, we'll take our objections to Judge Busch, who will make the final decision. That's the only remaining legal issue.

Shawn Allen writes: Look, my point is this: You've got a huge chip on your shoulder, and it's clearly clouding your judgment. Of course you can't think of any similar "consolation" for "bike people"; you can't seem to recognize a single good thing about cycling. You see the world through this distorted lens of the lone stalwart fighting the big, dumb, progressive system. You associate everyone on a bike with the SFBC because they're a convenient enemy in your battle against politically motivated self-righteousness. It's the same us-versus-them mentality that you find so abhorrent in politically active cyclists fighting for their right to the city streets. And you know what? I find that totally annoying, too. The difference is that I can look past self-righteousness and see all of the good things that happen when you encourage people to get on bikes. Most of the folks who you mockingly refer to as "bike people" don't give a shit about the SFBC. (At their peril, I think; they do a lot for cyclists beside political advocacy.) Their motivations for riding a bike are as varied as anything else. And by lumping all of them in with the small fraction of cyclists that ride illegally and/or act disrespectfully, you're lowering the level of discourse around the issue. It's like saying that the city should take car lanes away because of a very visible minority of rude, aggressive, and antisocial drivers. Sorry, jerks! You don't deserve that infrastructure!
Rob replies: I have a chip on my shoulder? Actually, it's the city's bike people who are rather touchy. They're obviously not used to any criticism at all. I'm the only consistent media critic you folks have, and your comrades don't handle it very well, though you're doing better than most. I've had a shit-storm of ugly and uninformed comments ever since the first injunction way back in 2006, and the comments haven't gotten any better since then. You folks don't seem to read anything but material put out by other bike people. You clearly don't know anything about the litigation, even though I've written a lot about it in the past two years. Take a look, for example, at the post about Judge Busch's decision. And you can click on "Bicycle Plan" at the bottom of this post to learn more about the litigation.

I don't really give a shit about cycling per se. Let a thousand transportation "modes" bloom! What I object to is cyclists redesigning city streets on behalf of their small minority, even though the overwhelmng majority of the city's population use cars, trucks, and buses to move around. The EIR may end up justifying more bike lanes here and there, but at least people in the city's neighborhoods will have some warning about what the city wants to do to their streets---a warning they'll only have because of our successful litigation. No one is saying that cyclists don't "deserve" bike lanes; all I'm saying is that they and their enablers in City Hall shouldn't be allowed to redesign our streets on behalf of a minority of cyclists without adequate notice and study beforehand.

Shawn Allen writes:
When all is said and done some very interesting things will have been said for and against the city's attempt to improve bike facilities and encourage their use, but mostly we'll just have wasted a lot of time. And what makes me more angry about that than anything is that your Machiavellian delay of the Bicycle Plan seems--judging by the way that you refer to and interact with cyclists on this blog--to have been motivated almost entirely by your disdain for smug progressives and jerks on bikes. And that's just really sad.

Rob replies: I'm not a Christian who turns the other cheek when insulted. Based on my experience with the bike people, I don't have a lot of respect for them intellectually or politically. For example, why do you use a term like "Machiavellian"? What can that possibly mean in this context? I was a party to successful litigation against the city, during which there were a number of open court hearings, which no one from the cycling community attended, by the way. Again, the time gained by doing the EIR hasn't been wasted, since, as I pointed out, at least the city's neighborhoods will have some notice before the city takes away their street parking or their traffic lanes. And, presumably, the city will have done adequate traffic studies on the streets where they want to take away lanes or street parking. We'll see

And consider this: the massive, 527-page Bicycle Plan contains a lot more than the 56 projects the city is supposedly studying in the EIR. If the city had gone unchallenged, they would have been able to cherry-pick and implement a wide variety of projects in the Plan with no environmental study and no public notice, which is what they were doing before---and even during---the litigation.

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