Wednesday, September 22, 2010

San Francisco's Tea Party, Part 1


San Francisco doesn't have a significant right-wing, which makes us immune to the conservative Tea Party movements roiling other jurisdictions in the country. Instead political extremism in the city comes from the left, which is now manifested primarily in the anti-car bike movement. Chris Daly used to personify our radical left with his self-righteous, bullying behavior. 

Recall that the first most people in SF heard of Daly was when he was arrested in 2002 at a sit-in protesting the plans by UC Hastings to build a parking garage in the Tenderloin, which of course the Bicycle Coalition and Tom Radulovich also opposed. Daly and the bike people claimed that the protest was about housing in the Tenderloin, but it was just an early phase of the city's anti-car movement, which was made clear during the college's supplementary EIR process on the garage project. (The bike people also opposed the parking garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park.)

The first phase of the anti-car movement was the birth of Critical Mass in 1992, which until recently the Bicycle Coalition listed on its online calendar. Leah Shahum had her life-changing bike epiphany during her first Critical Mass demo.

The next phase featured the attempt to push the massive, ambitious Bicycle Plan through the process without doing any environmental review. The city and the Bicycle Coalition were foiled in that attempt when the court ordered the city to do an EIR on the Plan.

While the city was doing the EIR, the movement moved into the next phase, which involved getting bike people appointed to important positions: Mayor Newsom appointed Shahum to the MTA board, and Dave Snyder was appointed to the Golden Gate Transit board by the Board of Supervisors. More recently, Cheryl Brinkman was appointed to the MTA board by the mayor.

Which brings us to Brinkman's quotation this morning on the front page of the Chronicle's Bay Area section: "Private autos do deserve a place, but the goal is not to make them the most convenient choice." That is, city policy is to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive a car---or a bus, truck, taxi, and emergency vehicle---in San Francisco. This isn't a new policy, since the mayor and the board of supervisors have long concurred.

But how do you implement the anti-car policy without affecting Muni, trucks---all our goods are delivered by trucks---and emergency vehicles? Just as important, how do you implement this policy without damaging the city's economy that depends on visitors, most of whom drive to the city, eating at our restaurants and staying at our hotels?

We are about to find out, which may be why Brinkman and the MTA are warning city residents now: the city is beginning to implement the Bicycle Plan, which will remove more than 50 traffic lanes and 2,000 parking spaces to make bike lanes. The city is also getting ready to deliberately "calm"---that is, jam up---traffic on busy Masonic Avenue on behalf of the bike people. The city is worried about possible backlash provoked by deliberately screwing up traffic on busy streets to make bike lanes, an anxiety Mayor Newsom acknowledged last year.

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