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 monsters," 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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"Rob Anderson said Masonic Avenue is working just fine"

Reisman talked to me for the story in the Examiner, but he didn't use the city's numbers I cited showing that Masonic Ave. is in fact now working fine for more than 32,000 vehicles every day, a figure that doesn't include the 12,000 daily passengers on the #43 Masonic bus.

Having the facts on your side when debating the city's bike people isn't enough here in Progressive Land, because you're essentially challenging a faith-based doctrine. Nor is Masonic particularly dangerous for cyclists or pedestrians, in spite of the death Friday night of a cyclist hit by a car on Masonic. (An average of only 1.8 cyclists die citywide every year, and our streets, according to the city's numbers, are actually becoming safer for everyone.)

Mike Helquist
at Bike Nopa---guess what his blog is about?---on the accident: "SFPD's Hit and Run unit has yet to determine the specific circumstances that led to the collision between the driver and the bicyclist, but for many the death of this young man makes traffic calming on our streets, especially on Masonic, all the more pressing." That is, we know little about the accident, except that it comes at a fortuitous time for the bike people's movement to screw up Masonic.

Supervisor Mirkarimi, the Bicycle Coalition's representative on the Board of Supervisors, adds his special brand of stupidity to the discussion: "Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the corridor, said with major local projects looming, including the addition of a new Target chain store on Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue, the street needs to be upgraded in a positive way." This is a good time to screw up traffic on Masonic because...a major retail store will be opening up at Geary and Masonic!

Helquist provides a list of "concerns" about traffic on Masonic, including "frequent crashes," which is simply untrue. The intersections on Masonic that have the most "collisions" between motor vehicles are Masonic/O'Farrell and Masonic/Fell, both of which have had 19 accidents over a six-year period between 2004 and 2009, an average of only three accidents a year. For a street used by 32,000 vehicles a day, that isn't a very big number.

Helquist claims that "Muni is slow" on Masonic, which is also untrue. I often ride the #43 line on Masonic, and, like the rest of the traffic, it moves well between Haight Street and Geary Blvd. That's what the bike people really dislike---that traffic moves well on Masonic. If they're successful in "calming" Masonic, they are also going to slow down the #43 line. But the bike people don't really care about Muni; it's all about bikes for them. Their bogus concern about Muni is just window dressing for their movement to screw up traffic on a number of city streets.

Helquist claims that the Masonic/Fell intersection is "deadly," though, according to the citys' numbers, there haven't been any fatalities there---or, until Friday night, anywhere else on Masonic Avenue. There was only one pedestrian injury accident at Fell and Masonic between 2004 and 2009 and only 11 bicycle collisions during that time.

Helquist says that "the Oak/Masonic intersection is dangerous for pedestrians," but again there were only three pedestrians injured there over a six-year period.

For the city's information on traffic and accidents on Masonic, see the PDF of MTA's presentation at the June community meeting on Masonic, which you can get from Javad Mirabdal at MTA: Javad.Mirabdal@sfmta.com

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