Saturday, June 05, 2010

Yes, it was a hate crime

I don't know the exact legal definition of a hate crime, but the recent rampage in the Mission by a motorist who targeted cyclists should qualify as one. If you physically attack members of a particular group, whether the attack is based on race, sexual orientation, religion, or, in this case, means of transportation, it has to be called hate.

I think I have to say this, because I've been accused of being a hater by commenters to this blog---that I hate cyclists or, even more absurdly, that I hate bikes.

A few weeks ago, when a cyclist was injured in a collision with a car at Fell and Masonic, a commenter posted this: "Are you happy now?" He mistakenly assumed that I would take some pleasure in seeing a cyclist injured. And when I pointed out that we didn't even know yet who was at fault in the accident, the commenter responded: "I DO know what was responsible for the accident: poor bicycle infrastructure, which a major American city is unable to remedy because of your ego trip. "

As it turned out, the cyclist was apparently at fault in that accident, but the implication was that, as a party to the successful litigation forcing the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, I was somehow responsible for every injury accident to a cyclist in San Francisco. A moment's reflection would show that there's nothing in the Bicycle Plan---or in any possible "intrastructure" or traffic plan---that prevents cyclists or motorists from trying to run red lights or riding or driving recklessly. The litigation and my pointing out over the years how badly many cyclists behave on city streets, including the monthly orgy of bad behavior called Critical Mass, makes me a hater in the minds of some cyclists, who can't distinguish between hate and legitimate criticism.

I confess to being guilty of thinking that redesigning city streets on behalf of cyclists without doing any environmental review is terrible public policy. And if the city insists on doing that even after doing the environmental review---which the city is now trying to do---it's still awful public policy. I also confess to thinking---based on years of observation on the streets of the city---that a substantial minority of city cyclists behave like jerks on our streets.

What many cyclists and their political leadership are in denial about is how much ill-will over time that behavior has created in the public, not just in San Francisco, but all across the country.

But even I was shocked at the tone of the many hateful, anti-cyclist comments to the Chronicle's online version of the Mission rampage story, and I bet very few of those commenters have ever heard of District 5 Diary.

This is the problem the city faces now: there's a certain amount---it's never really been quantified---of resentment of cyclists in the public that will probably grow if the city insists on making traffic worse on busy city streets on behalf of what is seen as an obnoxious, politically aggressive, PC minority.

What the city should have done years ago is put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot for city voters to consider. If cycling is as politically popular as the SF Bicycle Coalition claims it is, what's the problem with that? The answer: our political leadership understands that the Plan could lose such a vote. If the vote was even close, it would pose a big political problem for the bike people and their allies in City Hall.

It's a mistake to proceed as if the radical, anti-car bicycle project in San Francisco is something that has to be implemented. That will only put city leaders in Gavin Newsom's arrogant, "Whether you like it or not" territory. Mayor Newsom himself seems to understand this, as he told reporters last year: if the Bicycle Plan screws up traffic too badly, he's apparently ready to retreat on the issue. But, since he's likely to be elected Lieutenant Governor next week, our next mayor will soon be a yet-to-be-identified, pro-bike prog chosen by our progressive Board of Supervisors, which looks like a prescription for more trouble ahead on our streets.

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11 Comments:

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Rosatta Chettan said...

Rob, for the first time, I'm happy with what you wrote. Thanks for being cool today.

 
At 11:32 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

I'm proud to say I never joined in the chorus of people blaming this rampage on D5D ;)

I've assumed from the start that someone went off his meds (or perhaps went on the wrong ones) and did something phenomenally crazy and destructive. I think it's a mistake for anyone to automatically file away what happened Wednesday night into some sort of political narrative about cyclist-motorist tensions or anything of the sort.

If it so happens that this is, in fact, a hate crime, then I hope the guy rots in jail. I've always understood that the particular destructiveness of a hate crime is in how it is intended to intimidate an entire group through violence on just a few of its members. Intent is key. If someone just went plum crazy and went after bicyclists, it may not be enough. Hell, the Chronicle is now reporting that the guy may have been a cyclist himself. The plot thickens.

Frankly, I think most of the people jumping to conclusions need to back up, except, of course, for my very sound conclusion that the culprit was clearly none other than Alex Fagan, of Fajitagate fame. READ THE CLUES, IT'S RIGHT THERE!. THIS GUY'S A PATSY!

Good seeing you at Abir this AM.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Actually, I haven't seen anyone blame me. Yes, a self-hating cyclist, self-hating cyclist,a whole new psychological category for us to ponder.

 
At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is the SF bicycle project anti-car?

 
At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is the problem the city faces now: there's a certain amount---it's never really been quantified---of resentment of cyclists in the public that will probably grow if the city insists on making traffic worse on busy city streets on behalf of what is seen as an obnoxious, politically aggressive, PC minority"

So I see - the bike plan is bad policy because bike lanes cause crazy drivers to resent cyclists and therefore run them over.

Much like ending segregation was bad for blacks because it helped fire up the KKK.

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

hey rob - can you do a post on fixmuni.com? It seems like a pretty reasonable thing that needs some exposure

 
At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit Rob, I didnt expect a post like this from you. The fact is, I also read and was disturbed by some of the hateful (and violent) comments posted on online news sites, and wrongly assumed you'd side with them based on your discontent with cyclists. I'm glad to see I was mistaken. I may disagree with you on most things, but it's good to see that you're not batshit insane like most of those commentators.

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"So I see - the bike plan is bad policy because bike lanes cause crazy drivers to resent cyclists and therefore run them over.Much like ending segregation was bad for blacks because it helped fire up the KKK."

Your analogy---that cyclists are like black people during segregation---is ridiculous, trivializing a great historical turning point in US history, the Civil Rights movement, while elevating cycling way beyond its essentially trivial historical significance.

It's not that the Bicycle Plan as such is some kind of provocation but that the context for implementing it---a widespread annoyance with the behavior of cyclists on our streets---that could make it a bad idea politically. That's what even Mr. Green himself, Mayor Newsom, is worried about.

Context is important here: recall---you do recall this, right?---that the EIR on the Bicycle Plan tells us that, as we predicted five years ago, the Bicycle Plan will in fact have "significant impacts" on traffic and Muni---that is, it will cause traffic congestion and delay Muni lines---where it will take away traffic lanes on busy streets to make bike lanes.

Here's what city politicians should worry about: deliberately screwing up traffic in SF on behalf of an obnoxious minority that's responsible for a lot of punk behavior on city streets, including Critical Mass.

What's unique about San Francisco's Board of Supervisors: they are elected by district, and none of the ultra-liberal/progressive supervisors would be elected to anything in a citywide election. Hence, what you're going to have is an arrogant, doctrinaire minority of rulers imposing a traffic-snarling Bicycle Plan on a reluctant, disempowered majority.

 
At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What's unique about San Francisco's Board of Supervisors: they are elected by district, and none of the ultra-liberal/progressive supervisors would be elected to anything in a citywide election. Hence, what you're going to have is an arrogant, doctrinaire minority of rulers imposing a traffic-snarling Bicycle Plan on a reluctant, disempowered majority."

This guy named Gavin Newsom supports the bike plan, and I think he won city-wide office.

If we're going to make comparisons...

critical mass because of lack of facilities and disrepect on the street - bad.

Drivers attacking cyclists because of new bike lanes - "what did you expect?"

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"hey rob - can you do a post on fixmuni.com? It seems like a pretty reasonable thing that needs some exposure."

I did a post on Sean Elsbernd's petition on on April 29, and I'm proud to say that I've also signed the petition.

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"This guy named Gavin Newsom supports the bike plan, and I think he won city-wide office."

Yes, but the Bicycle Plan as an issue wasn't raised in the 2007 campaign, probably because all his prog opponents, like Newsom, supported it. (In 2003 homelessness was the only big issue.)

Note too that even progressives were skittish about using the bicycle issue in the last election. For example, try to find any mention of the Bicycle Plan, the Bicycle Coalition, or even bicycles on Mirkarimi's website. You have to go to the "issues" page, where you eventually find a mention of the new stop sign at Fell and Masonic.

 

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