Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Getting children on bikes

Paul Skilbeck's latest column is another heavy dose of pro-bike, anti-car nonsense and misinformation. But the most shocking material is about the push to get the city's children to ride bikes to school, even though the anti-car lobbying groups---the Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF---keep telling us how dangerous city streets are for cyclists and pedestrians.

If our streets are so dangerous---"safety" concerns are used by the city to justify its many pro-bike, anti-car projects---why are they encouraging parents to put their children on bikes? The answer: Because they are fanatics for whom everyone and everything is an accessory to their agenda, even their children.

Turns out this is Bike to School Week, another taxpayer funded anti-car propaganda campaign. Skilbeck quotes the MTA's Ed Reiskin---a bike guy himself---from a press release:

“Bike to School Week illustrates the significant growth and interest in bicycle mode share the City is experiencing overall,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “The SFMTA is committed to making biking and walking to school a preferred commute option for families and students through innovative engineering, safety, education and encouragement initiatives. We encourage San Francisco’s communities, schools and families to consider bicycling as a fun, everyday commute option and to continue participating in bicycle education and safety efforts.”

Bike to School Week is part of the Safe Routes to School program: "Bike to School Week is coordinated by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a member of the Safe Routes to School Partnership." Walk SF is of course also part of the partnership.

The Safe Routes to School program has "educational materials" that teachers can use in the classroom to propagandize kindergartners and first grade children---five and six-year-olds---in the pro-bike, anti-car perspective.

Some samples of the material for first graders:

This 30 minute lesson will introduce Safe Routes to Schools and discuss how different modes of transportation are powered. Using People Power will expose students to the idea that burning gas and oil to power vehicles causes pollutants to be put into the air while modes that do not use gas or oil are clean, green alternatives.

The Environment is a big word for the things around you. Expand on the idea of smoke and pollution from the discussion and discuss how smoke from vehicles and other sources can hurt humans, plants and animals in their Environment (around them).

Expand the concept of gas-powered motors, explaining that when you burn gas to make a motor run and the vehicle move, (as in the case of the car) it leaves smoke behind in the air. Discuss the potential impact this has on the air around the school and in the neighborhood. Ask students if they have seen this exhaust coming out of the tailpipes of cars or buses.

This gets the kids ready for the moral of the lesson. Guess which transportation "mode" is the best?

This lesson is focused on “gas-powered” vehicles; however there are (people powered) bicycles built to carry more than one person and many families bike together to school or other places using them.

Regardless of the merits of redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists, encouraging children to ride bikes is grossly irresponsible.

I've blogged about this negligence and the danger to children before here, here, and here.

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8 Comments:

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could be useful if and only if the school officials made it so you could actually get into a school you live near! But that would make too much sense. Better to shove the bicycling lifestyle down our throats (and our kids' throats) and figure out if it makes sense later.

-Ryan K.

 
At 3:23 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't ride a bike because I don't think it's a safe way to get around. Bike expert and writer Robert Hurst thinks encouraging children to ride bikes in the city is irresponsible:

"While [John]Forester claimed that even children could ride safely on busy streets using the vehicular-cycling principle, our way is unquestionably for adults…The streets demand from us an awareness and maturity that would be very rare in a child."

 
At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Michael Baehr said...

Rob, you don't ride a bike because you couldn't get that thing that slightly resembles a human leg over the top tube. And even if you did, you'd have one of those "solo crashes" you trumpet within 5 feet.

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Actually, I'm in pretty good condition lately, since I'm jogging again.

The city is irresponsible in the way it's pushing bikes, since it's inherently unsafe, especially for children. Boxing was a much more important sport in the US when I was a kid, but people are much more aware now of its inherent dangers. Football is still important in the US, but its dangers---especially head injuries---are becoming clear. Is it a good idea to encourage children to play Pop Warner/midget league football? Or high school football?

The same problem is surfacing with bicycles and children, as I've documented in earlier blog posts, some of which I've linked above. Riding a bike used to be---still is---an important part of childhood for many, but we can no longer be naive about the dangers, especially the danger of head injuries, which can't be fixed like broken bones and road rash.

I "trumpet" solo falls because that's what most bike accidents are; they have nothing to do with those wicked motor vehicles, aka "death machines," as you bike zealots call them. A simple fall off a bike can cause a serious head injury, especially in children.

Of course you address none of these issues in your lame attempt to insult me, but you get points for not doing it anonymously.

 
At 6:32 AM, Blogger PaulS said...

Rob, the negligence is on the part of those that oppose safer facilities for bicycles.

Bicycles are on the increase in the majority of cities in OECD countries and the personal private automobile is declining.

Given this fact, it is negligent to oppose facilities that would make it safer for cyclists.

You justify your argument against safer facilities for cyclists with the implication that it wouldn't make any difference; cyclists would still fall of their bikes and hurt themselves.

This might be true for you, but it is not so for the majority of cyclists, and if you took one of Bert Hill's classes, you might learn to ride with more skill and control.

The California Highway Patrol currently lists the following as common causes of bicycle accidents. The list does not include solo falls.

- Bicycle rider using the wrong side of road
- Auto driver making unsafe left or right turn
- Bicyclist riding from driveway or sidewalk into path of car
- Auto driver opening door as bicycle passes
- Bicycle rider weaving, leaving edge of road or bike lane
- Bicyclist making unsafe left turn
- Bicycle without headlight or reflectors

Most of the accidents that concern the CHP are those with cars, because these are the ones that most commonly result in a serious injury.

Separating cars and bikes results in reduced incidence of serious injury accidents for cyclists. A large body of empirical evidence supports this.

This is why separated bicycle lanes are needed now in San Francisco, and as the number of cyclists grows the need will only increase.

Moving on, negligence is also on the part of those that encourage sedentary lifestyles.

You seem to be encouraging the car-focused sedentary lifestyle, even though you yourself have recognized the need for regular exercise, more than once in your life, and in your own words have started jogging again as a way of achieving this.

So not only are you negligent in your regard for the safety of cyclists, but also you are supporting the basis of an unhealthy lifestyle for car drivers while choosing a healthier option for yourself.








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

The "personal private automobile" is not declining in San Francisco. There are 458,000 motor vehicles registered in SF, up from 446,000 in 2003.

I don't necessarily oppose "facilities" that make it safer for cyclists, but the issue in SF is taking away scarce street parking and traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes for 3.5%---the percentage of all trips in the city by bicycle---of those who now use city streets.

With all due respect to the CHP, they're not experts on cycling, who all say most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve other vehicles. You mention Bert Hill, who says that 45% of bike accidents are solo falls and only 18% involve other vehicles.

Robert Hurst says about the same thing: about half of cycling accidents are solo falls and 15% involve another vehicle.

John Forester says only 12% of cycling accidents involve other vehicles.

Of course getting hit by a car will more likely cause more serious accidents, including death. But when you talk about children, a simple fall off a bike can cause serious head injury, which the sources I linked in the post confirm.

You imply that riding a bike in SF is now dangerous even for adults, so why encourage children to take that risk?

"Separated bike lanes" in SF require taking away limited road space from motor vehicles---including Muni buses---on behalf of your small minority based on nothing but the hope that doing so will result in a significant increase in people riding bikes. There's no evidence for that assumption, which means City Hall is indulging in a faith-based traffic policy based on PC, trendy "progressive" ideas.

The way I live in fact demonstrates that people can live healthy lives and stay fit without riding a bike. I haven't owned a car in 20 years and walk and take Muni to get around.

Muni, by the way, is the only realistic alternative to driving in SF for most people. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking on busy streets is only going to make traffic worse for everyone, including our Muni system, which arleady has serious on-time problems.

 
At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob: As usual, you use numbers in a completely disingenuous way. You are trumpeting that a 12,000 increase in cars since 2003 is somehow 'proof' that there are more people driving in San Francisco. Yet, the population grew by at least 70,000 people in that same time.

If the average car-ownership rate was remaining stable at 2/3, that would be about 46,000 new cars. Less people are owning cars; less people are driving -- and more people are biking, walking and taking transit.

This isn't about 'progressive values' -- investing in biking and walking is the smartest and most affordable way for the city to use their limited funding to move the most people, day-to-day.

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The 12,000 number is only of registered vehicles in SF based on DMV's annual statistics. There are people in SF who own cars that aren't registered here. Motor vehicles in the city is not just about registered vehicles in SF. You have more than 35,000 vehicles that drive into the city every workday, and millions of tourists who drive into the city every year.

Of course "transit"---that is, Muni in SF---is the real alternative to driving in SF for most people, not bikes. I don't own a car and walk and take Muni where I need to go. But the city is always underfunding Muni and instead pouring money into goofball projects like the Central Subway.

Riding a bike is not a practical alternative for many people for a variety of reasons. After years of pro-bike, anti-car propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition, cycling is still only 3.4% of all daily trips in the city.

By the way, the post was about the wisdom of encouraging children to ride bikes in the city, about which you have nothing to say.

 

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