Monday, August 16, 2010

Chris Carlsson: anger at Critical Mass "a curiosity"


The quotation above is from a recent Bay Guardian story on bikes in the city:

"There's no doubt we're going to have way fewer privately owned cars in our culture," he said. On the whole, Carlsson said, he believes motorists show more courtesy toward San Francisco's cyclists than they did 10 or 20 years ago. Yet he acknowledged that people still get unreasonably upset when Critical Mass cyclists swarm into the streets once a month. "It's a curiosity," he said. "They're in gridlock before we even start riding."

Gee, why would people trying to get home after working all week get upset when a bunch of bike people deliberately make their commute harder than it already is? And even the city's own studies don't show fewer cars in our future, though it's an article of faith for the bike people that motor vehicles are becoming obsolete.

Like a lot of bike people, Carlsson, one of the founders of Critical Mass, lives in an ideological, anti-car bubble that's seldom penetrated by reality. (He also thinks wearing a helmet when riding his bike is some kind of corporate imposition, not a commonsense safety measure.)

Rebecca Bowe wrote the Guardian story, though Steve Jones usually covers the bike beat for the city's progressive weekly. Maybe Jones is on his way to Burning Man and wasn't available. But I've never seen Jones, who calls cars "death machines," make this concession to reality:

All modes of transportation are not created equal. It's inherently riskier to ride bikes than drive cars that are built to keep their occupants safe in crashes. Yet bikes are a key component in the city's and state's long-range goals of reducing carbon emissions, limiting traffic congestion, and reducing dependency on oil.

Riding a bike can be unsafe? That's heresy in progressive circles but only recognizing the obvious to the rest of us. But, like a lot of progs, Bowe still struggles to understand the injunction on the Bicycle Plan: "The recent court ruling dissolves an injunction that halted the city's progress on planned bicycle route improvements, based on the fact that the city hadn't conducted a full-blown environment impact report on the plan." Let's say it again: the city did no environmental review at all of the Bicycle Plan before they began implementing it on city streets. Hence, the injunction and the court order to do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan.

Mayor Newsom, the purest opportunist in US politics since Richard Nixon:

"A world-class city is a city that tries to democratize its streets," Mayor Gavin Newsom noted at an Aug. 9 press conference held to celebrate the newly liberated Bike Plan. "This is not the old days when it was about bikes versus cars."

Newsom may be singing a different tune after the city deliberately screws up traffic on behalf of the bike people on Second Street, Fifth Street, Cesar Chavez, Masonic Ave. and other city streets.

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37 Comments:

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the city is going to deliberately screws up traffic on behalf of the bike people on Second Street, Fifth Street, Cesar Chavez, Masonic Ave. and other city streets???

Sweet!

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

Still wrong, Rob: if you allow for the health hazards of a sedentary lifestyle, not cycling poses a greater risk than cycling. While other methods of getting fit exist, those methods all carry risks not different from cycling.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Walking/hiking, jogging, and swimming are common ways to stay fit that don't require helmets. And as exercise physilogists point out, cycling is not what's called a "load bearing" form of exercise that helps your bones. You really need to do some cross-training to get an adequate workout.

And then there's the health risk from spending too much time on your bike, which is probably why Lance Armstrong got testicular cancer.

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sadness and desperation in your voice on KQED this morning was priceless. Let the gloating continue.

 
At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"spending too much time on your bike, which is probably why Lance Armstrong got testicular cancer."

That is truly the dumbest thing you've ever said. Which means it's the dumbest thing that's ever been said.

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Funny, but I don't feel sad and desperate. Maybe there's something affecting your hearing, like diesel fumes or carbon monoxide. And maybe if you try real hard to focus on actual issues, you can come up with a substantive comment.

 
At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Issue - we need more bike lanes.

Solution - they're being painted.

QED.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

I listened to the entire commentary this morning on KQED..and no, Rob's voice was not tired nor disheartening. He offered a reasonable voice as to why many aspects of the bike plan are going to negatively affect living, working and driving in The City. Many callers also talked about the financial impact (negative) the plan could have on businesses downtown when it becomes more and more difficult to get there by car, for those who choose and must drive.

The "transit first" voices on the show mostly talked about grand ideas and visions, and "hopes". I love the woman who called in and just said clearly and succinctly: "Get the bus to show up on time and get me to my destination.."..Seems pretty easy to solve, huh?

MUNI remains one of the slowest and most poorly managed large transit systems in the country.

 
At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"People who are trying to get out of the city...." Exactly. They don't even live here and they want me to stay off of the streets one Friday night a month -- to NOT join with my friends in a bike ride home from work to our homes in the city? And plenty of people who are not on bikes seem to love critical mass -- snapping photos and whooping along with us at the merriment and joy. Plus, as was stated, my bike ride to justin herman plaza for CM is a bike ride through total traffic gridlock... well before the ride begins for the cyclists.

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

And traffic gets more snarled by bike lanes.

And cycling is no safer than it was before.

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"They don't even live here and they want me to stay off of the streets one Friday night a month--"

A lot of them do live here. Some people drive downtown to work, and others ride Muni downtown to work. According to the SFCTA's Countywide Transportation Plan, 77%of city residents work in SF and that 54.2% of all internal SF trips as by automobile, with 16.4% by transit. You and your bike pals are methodically alienating the people of San Francisco, but don't let me stop you.

"And plenty of people who are not on bikes seem to love critical mass -- snapping photos and whooping along with us at the merriment and joy."

Oh, the joy, the spontaneity! Some tourists love to see that kind of thing here---it's part of the San Francisco trip. But they probably wouldn't like it so much if it happened in their town. Gavin Newsom has essentially made Critical Mass part of the city's brand---Irish coffee, French bread, Rice-a-Roni, and Critical Mass. I'm just saying that a lot of city voters are less enamored of the bike trip. Fortunately for Critical Mass and the Bicycle Plan, neither will ever be on the city's ballot come election time.

 
At 9:33 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"That is truly the dumbest thing you've ever said. Which means it's the dumbest thing that's ever been said."

I provided a link to the NY Times story on the problems too much cycling can cause to that part of the body, and cyclist Lance Armstrong gets testicular cancer. Is that just a coincidence?

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how the German tourist who died on Masonic benefited from any of the safety features of the drunk's Mercedes Benz.

A different road design and that guy would still be alive, and slowing traffic that is moving at inappropriate speeds is not a bad thing.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The driver was drunk, which cancels out a lot of safety "features." Nor is it clear that speed was even a factor in causing the accident. The driver was drunk and driving late at night, when visibility is poor.

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

Walking or hiking, jogging, swimming, and indeed virtually all methods of getting or staying fit carry risks equivalent to or greater than cycling. As for your cheap shot about testicular cancer, yes, I would most definitely call it a coincidence. The evidence for causation doesn't even rise to the level of anecdote.

You keep trying to argue that bicycles on balance create an unacceptable risk, while the medical and professional literature overwhelmingly says the opposite: that while cycling involves risks (most of the really serious or lethal ones as a result of irresponsible motoring behaviour), the benefits quite clearly exceed the risks. So let's see a cite that actually backs up your position; one where doctors, other health professionals, or statisticians say in so many words that people should not ride bicycles. Not that we should wear helmets, not that maybe we should use different saddles or even ride recumbent bikes, but that we should stop cycling period.

Then I'll post some links to the thousands of articles and studies that say the opposite.

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

Also, on the topic of anger at critical mass, and cyclists generally, driver behaviour, especially the race from traffic light to traffic light, strongly suggests that motorists have a grossly unrealistic view of the effective speeds their cars can achieve on city streets. It makes sense that many motorists would resent bikes for slowing them down, when in my experience a reasonably fit cyclist can achieve an overall speed comparable to a car's overall speed in urban or even exurban traffic.

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Most (but not all) of the cycling in San Francisco is done by young, while males, reasonably fit and healthy. And...most of the cycling is relegated to a small portion of our streets, nearly all flat, or minimally hilly. The people who bike here to and from work, for the most part, live in the flat Mission district, or parts of Upper Market. You won't find many bikers who live in Twin Peaks, Diamond Heights, or neighborhoods west of there biking to work downtown. Hills are pretty steep there.

Much of our city, unlike Toronto, is VERY hilly and extremely hard to navigate on a bike. And it becomes even more difficult hauling groceries home (who does that?)..and in a cold, driving rain.

Cycling here, is not as widespread nor as pleasant as one would be led to believe. It's not horrible, but the hills and weather are a significant fact in the ease of getting around.

 
At 4:40 AM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

I have no comment on factors unique and specific to San Francisco. Anyone who wants to argue that cycling specifically won't work in San Fransisco or parts of it, I'll leave to others with local experience. The same goes for any city where I haven't lived myself. The generic arguments against cycling, on the grounds of safety and traffic delays simply don't hold water; on the topic of safety, I think multiple sources establish that pretty clearly.

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"As for your cheap shot about testicular cancer, yes, I would most definitely call it a coincidence. The evidence for causation doesn't even rise to the level of anecdote."

I didn't make that up. The post was about
an article
by a science writer in the NY Times:
"The studies, by researchers at Boston University and in Italy, found that the more a person rides, the greater the risk of impotence or loss of libido. And researchers in Austria have found that many mountain bikers experience saddle-related trauma that leads to small calcified masses inside the scrotum."
The problem can apparently be avoided by specially designed bicycle seats. One doctor says, "We make kids wear helmets and knee pads, but no one thinks about protecting the crotch."

"You keep trying to argue that bicycles on balance create an unacceptable risk, while the medical and professional literature overwhelmingly says the opposite..."

Two falsehoods in one sentence. What I'm saying is that riding a bike involves a degree of risk. Obviously everyone must decide for themselves whether the risk is worth the rewards. I just object to the assumption---widespread among cyclists in SF---that the risk is so minimal that the city should encourage even children to ride bikes on our streets. Medical opinion is in fact concerned about the dangers of cycling.

I've never written---or even thought---that people should stop cycling. But they need to be realistic about the dangers. A lot of bike people in SF seem to think that the city is obligated to make cycling risk-free, which is impossible.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger John G. Spragge said...

Still no sale, Rob; children more than just about anyone else need, and can benefit from, the health advantages of the bicycle. And for children, more than just about anyone else, the benefits therefore outweigh the risks. That explains why, although you can find many many sites arguing that we should mitigate the risks of cycling to children, just as we should manage the risks of feeding, clothing, and transporting our children in other ways, I don't think you will find many doctors or health statisticians who counsel against providing bicycles to children, or who call bicycle enthusiasts "nuts".

As for the cancer: even if I accepted all the anecdotes on bicycles and groin health, your argument for a connection between Lance Armstrong's riding and his cancer still doesn't rise to the level of anecdote.

 
At 1:34 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Whatever

 
At 3:46 PM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

No one disagrees John that kids and others can enjoy the benefits of cycling, though it's not the only sport that can be healthy..Some of are just saying..esp for kids..JUST not on public streets. The risks outweigh the benefit. Off street bike trails, yes...Parks with no cars, yes.

 
At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob - your cancer connection would be akin to you saying that because cycling causes head injuries, that there is a connection between cycling and brain cancer.

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Daniel said...

Rob I didn't see you out at Sunday Streets today. There were thousands of people out biking along the Great Highway, enjoying the fresh air and getting exercise. You were probably inside blogging, sitting on your chair risking eye cancer and hemorrhoids?

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rocky's dad - if you like a nanny state, please start with more dangerous sports like skiing, swimming, football, etc...

 
At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course speed was a factor.

The faster you go, the less time you have to avoid the accident and the more potentially deadly it is.

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger rocky's dad said...

Your comment anon about "nanny state" won't fly. I didn't say that, nor imply it. Try putting words that make sense into your own mouth, not mine.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"if you like a nanny state, please start with more dangerous sports like skiing, swimming, football, etc"

In fact cycling seems to be more dangerous than those activities, especially for children.

 
At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh the irony.

"Unfortunately, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries
than any other consumer product except the automobile".

 
At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact cycling seems to be more dangerous than those activities, especially for children.

Nice try.

The article compares bikes to other consumer products. A "Swimming pool" is not a consumer product.

# In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging ten deaths per day. An additional 496 people died, from drowning and other causes, in boating-related incidents.1, 2

# More than one in five fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger.1 For every child who dies from drowning, another four received emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.1

 
At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a pedestrian in the lower haight I have little sympathy for the bicyclists. 1 in 10 stop at a stop sign. I've had more close calls with bicyclists crossing the street than I ever have with cars.

I'd like to organize a pedestrian march down a bike lane.

 
At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So? The consequences of a collision with a bicycle and a collision with a car don't compare.

You can get pissed off at them all you want, but the stop signs were put there to keep pedestrians from being mowed down by cars, and have nothing to do with bicycle traffic.

I'll agree that cyclists should cut pedestrians much more slack, but getting angry at them for not stopping is kind of ridiculous.

 
At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a difference between getting slapped and getting punched. How about you wait in line to get slapped and let me know.

Stop signs are there for cars and bicyclists alike. I'd be willing to bet a large portion of the car on bike accidents here are because bicyclists aren't obeying the traffic laws. Everyone who lives in the lower haight has almost been run over by some asshole going 20 down haight and blowing through every stop sign.

Bicyclists tend to be self righteous pricks who think the only law that applies to them has to do with bike lanes.

 
At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'd be willing to bet a large portion of the car on bike accidents here are because bicyclists aren't obeying the traffic laws."

You would lose that bet.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

According to the latest SF Bicycle Collision Report---available from MTA's website---cyclists are responsible for about half their injury collisions, which qualifies as "a large portion."

 
At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh jeez - at least link to the source rather than make me weed through your blog again.

Assuming this is the report ...

You cite in your blog post page 22 which has nothing to do with bicycles, talking about Junipero Serra.

There is no reference to fault in bicycle/car collisons.

 
At 4:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, you got the wrong report. You're looking at the San Francisco 2008 Collisions Report, which deals with all collisions on city street. The reference is to page 21 in the City of San Francisco 2008 Bicycle Collision
Report issued in 2010: "Table 13 also shows that motorists were assigned fault in 48.7 percent of bicycle injury collisions in 2008, while bicyclists were assigned fault in 49.6 percent of collisions (where fault was assigned)." Table 13 referred to in the text on page 21 is actually on page 22.

 

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