Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Guardian: Ride a bike or your children will die

Jason Henderson: bikes and "smart growth"

Packed with trendy anti-carism, the Guardian's Bike to Work Day issue reads like a self-parody. Tim Redmond warns readers that "We can switch from cars to bikes now. Or we can leave our kids a climate-change disaster." Redmond himself of course has a car, as he admitted years ago: "I'm part of the problem, and I know it: I drive a car, and I drive it too often. I do it because it's difficult to get my kids to and from school on a bus."

No shit! And it's difficult for families---and individuals---to do a lot of things without a car, like shopping, errands, getting to appointments, getting your children to after-school activities, etc. And Redmond didn't ride a bike down I-5 with his children, a trip he wrote about a few years ago.

Redmond based his self-parody on an interview with bike guy Jason Henderson, who just published an anti-car book, "Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco," which I'll be reviewing here soon. Based on his past work, like his dishonest account of how the city allowed UC to hijack the old Extension site on lower Haight Street, I suspect the book will be packed with disinformation, misinformation, and fashionable anti-car baloney. Henderson teaches geography at SF State, a subject not known for its intellectual rigor:

Henderson isn't suggesting that all private vehicles go away; there are places where cars and trucks will remain the only way to move people and supplies around. But in the urban and suburban areas where most Americans live, the automobile as the default option simply has to end. "In 10 years, there will be less automobility," he told me in a recent interview. "It's a simple limit to resources." And the sooner San Francisco starts preparing for that, the better off the city and its residents are going to be.

Nice of Henderson to allow us a few cars and trucks. Guess what he thinks will replace motor vehicles?

And like so much of what he discusses in his book, the primary solution is the old, venerable, human-powered contraption known as the bicycle...So how do you get Americans, even San Franciscans, to give up what Henderson calls the "sense of entitlement that we can speed across town in a private car?" Some of it requires the classic planning measures of discouraging or banning parking in new development (AT & T Park works quite well as a facility that is primarily accessed by foot and transit). Some of it means putting in the resources to improve public transit. And a lot of it involves shifting transportation modes to walking and bicycles...Bikes with cargo trailers make a lot of sense for shopping, Henderson told me---and once big supermarkets get rid of all that parking, the price of food will come down.

How does Henderson get downtown from SF State? Not on a bike, I bet. Since Muni takes at least an hour from that part of town, like Redmond I bet Henderson has a car. Supermarkets without parking? Only in San Francisco could that idea even be proposed, as it was when Whole Foods announced that it was going to occupy the old Cala Market space at Haight and Stanyan. AT T Park "works well" with limited parking? Redmond says elsewhere ("The Beauty of Bike") in the issue that the whole area around AT T Park is gridlocked when there's a Giants' game:

It's a good thing the Giants were at home Friday night, or I might have tried to drive across the Bay Bridge. Always a bad idea after work, always a worse idea on a Friday, when the backup starts somewhere around SF General Hospital. I spent almost two hours getting past Berkeley one Friday when I thought we could leave at 3:30 and beat the traffic. When the Giants are in town, it's impossible.

San Francisco progressives screwed up the homeless issue---they're still bitter about how Gavin Newsom ate their lunch on that issue---and they're in the process of screwing up the housing issue, with tacit support for gentrification, residential highrises, and Smart Growth along "transit corridors." Now they're explicitly proposing that we screw up our traffic based on nothing but trendy anti-car, pro-bike ideas.

The Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum told us in the Guardian several years ago that she would like to slow down city traffic so that children can safely ride their bikes on city streets: "I think San Francisco is hungry for a higher use of public space," she said. "Imagine streets moving so calmly and slowly that you'd let your six-year-old ride on them." Redmond and Henderson share that vision/hallucination:

If we fixed up the city the way we should (which would mean changing not only the lane patterns but the directions of some streets) cars would almost always be the worst and slowest way to go most this Bike to Work Day issue, we explore the idea that speeding around town at 30 miles an hour in your personal can isn't a natural right of all people. In fact, Jason Henderson, a professor at San Francisco state who I interviewed argues that the most environmentally sound thing we can do in urban areas might be to...slow down.

"Fixing" the city to make it as hard and as expensive as possible to drive in San Francisco will not only be a massive inconvenience to people who live and drive in the city, it will jam up traffic---including for our Muni system---and damage our economy, since tourism is our largest industry and millions of tourists drive to San Francisco every year.

This is the vision that city progressives and City Hall are now implementing on the streets of the city. That's what the Polk Street bike lanes, the Fell/Oak bike lanes, and the Masonic Avenue bike lanes are about. If San Francisco neighborhoods let people like these goofballs redesign city streets on behalf of the bike people, they deserve what they're going to get.

Tim Redmond: graffiti, bikes, and nudity

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