Saturday, December 03, 2011

Workshop on screwing up Panhandle traffic

Photo by Volker Neumann

Today's Public Workshop on the city's plans to screw up Panhandle traffic on behalf of the city's bike lobby was of little use to those familiar with the ideas already available on MTA's website. Essentially the "improvements"---every meddlesome anti-car MTA project is of course an "improvement"---involve either taking away street parking or traffic lanes on Fell and Oak Streets to make a protected bike lane. The MTA material talks about improving safety on the streets, though the city's own studies don't show that those streets are particularly unsafe now.

The workshop's Powerpoint presentation tells us of the bike movement's ambitions: "Goal of 20% of trips by bicycle in 2020" (page 4). The only way that can be achieved is by creating something like gridlock on city streets, a prospect that doesn't bother the anti-car movement. Like the Bicycle Coalition's earlier goal of "10% by 2010," it's unlikely to be achieved, but that doesn't mean that the attempt won't make city traffic a lot worse---for everyone but cyclists, that is---than it has to be.

Another "City Goal": "Climate Action Plan: Increase bicycling and walking as alternatives to driving." That is, cyclists aren't just riding bikes; they are also fighting climate change, which is why they are morally superior to the rest of us who rely on cars and buses. The only realistic alternative to driving for most people in San Francisco is the Muni system, which, oddly, is barely mentioned in this presentation. That's probably because the city's definition of "Transit First" in the City Charter has been redefined as per the third Goal: "Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking." Transit itself is apparently now a secondary consideration for our city's transit agency.

Page 6 provides a graph showing the increase in bicycle use in the city since 2006. But the last two city bicycle counts show a diminishing increase, which I pointed out in my analysis of the 2010 report a year ago. The next city count report, due to be released soon, should tell us whether the city is redesigning our streets on behalf of a PC fad that's already on the decline.

At todays' workshop, I asked the young woman leading the discussion in front of a misleading "traffic volume" chart how many cyclists now use the Fell and Oak Streets every day. She thought that the number was 2,000. The chart she was standing in front of was supposedly showing motor vehicle volume, but it did so on an hourly basis, which made figuring out the daily volume difficult. The Powerpoint presentation at last year's workshop on plans to screw up traffic on nearby Masonic Avenue helpfully provided the actual daily traffic volume for that busy street---more than 32,000 vehicles a day (page 26).

Previous reports tell us that Oak and Fell Streets combined carry 67,000 vehicles a day, which means that the city wants to screw up traffic for 67,000 motorists on behalf of 2,000 cyclists because they aren't "comfortable" (page 15) riding on those streets now.

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The Examiner changes hands

Good to see that the Examiner has new ownership. We'll no longer have to wade through the canned right-wing stuff---Obama the socialist!---to get to the only material of interest under the previous regime---the letters to the editor, and the local coverage.

Which makes the news from SF Weekly about impending layoffs worrisome. One hopes that Will Reisman will be retained, not because he shares my views but because his steady work on the local transportation beat has been consistently useful (Rachel Gordon is his counterpart on the Chronicle). And columnist Ken Garcia too is essential reading.

But this pronouncement by the new publisher is also worrisome:

...[Todd Vogt] has asked the editorial team to write local columns that mirror the intensely liberal readership in San Francisco. "I told them that every day the paper has to reflect the readers," Vogt said. "We will not be a political stump for anyone or any cause, but I never understood, from a business standpoint, why it made sense to run five days in a row anti-Obamacare [editorials], whether the readers in San Francisco support the president or don't---it didn't make sense."

The last thing San Francisco needs is another media outlet pandering to the elevated self-esteem of our narcissistic city---the City That Knows How! City residents---especially its political class---need to be regularly told that they are full of shit and not as smart and cute as they seem to think they are. 

For openers the Examiner should revise its style book and stop calling our city "The City" in its copy.

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