Saturday, October 05, 2013

"Taking away a lane on Folsom is stupid"

Photo by Will Tran

Maybe the SF Chronicle has a book on myths its reporters have to use, like the style book publications have on punctuation and usage to ensure uniformity of copy. C.W. Nevius and John King have been invoking the "development wars" myth for years. 

The new myth is about delays to "transportation"---that is, bike---projects in the city. City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition still resent our suit that made the city obey the law before implementing the massive Bicycle Plan on busy city streets. But the city has been moving its traffic-snarling, anti-car bike projects through its massive bureaucracy for three years since Judge Busch overruled our objections to its doorstop EIR on the Plan, which, by the way, the Court of Appeal also found inadequate.

The Chronicle merged the anti-development myth with the delayed bike projects myth last week in a story on the Fulton Street bike project:

For those who think it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get any kind of transportation project built in San Francisco, here’s proof that it can be done quickly: The Municipal Transportation Agency announced this week that it will build a buffered bike lane and shortened pedestrian crossings on a seven-block stretch of Folsom Street---from Fourth to Eleventh streets by eliminating a lane of traffic. By the end of the year. Yes: 2013. How can this be in a city that debates, plans then re-plans everything to death? Take the proposed Polk Street bike lane and pedestrian safety changes---planned for years, debated for months and, once a plan is finally worked out, scheduled for construction in 2015.

The Chronicle reporter gets the Polk Street bike project timeline wrong because he deploys the "delayed transportation projects" myth. In fact there has been no delay of the Polk Street bike project, since it and other "improvements" were always to be implemented in 2015 in conjunction with repaving the street. 

The story explains that the city is pushing the Folsom Street bike project through the process by declaring it a "pilot" program, though of course it will be permanent. 

The Chronicle reporter caps off his grossly inaccurate, cutesy story with this: "But before the project is built, er, painted, a community hearing will be held. And you know what that could mean." Har, har, consulting city neighborhoods about these "improvements" is a joke! Actually, in practice it is a joke, though not how the reporter meant it. City Hall and the MTA go through a largely pro forma "community outreach" process on these dumb projects to satisfy legal requirements, not because they really care what people in the neighborhoods think.

A commuter who uses Golden Gate Transit sent me this after learning about the project:

I take Golden Gate Transit daily to and from work. Folsom, with its present number of lanes, is frequently a bottleneck. Folsom is the street used by Golden Gate Transit for all of its SF buses, which go east on Folsom until the financial district, at which point they take one of several streets north. Also, the newest fire station is on Folsom, and clearly the present traffic would prevent the fire trucks and ambulance from efficiently getting to a fire. Taking away a lane on Folsom is stupid. At least one evening a week Folsom is stop and go for blocks. Sometimes it is several nights a week. Taking away a lane will cause more stop and go evenings, adding 20-30 minutes to the commute.

The city has known for a long time that the Bicycle Plan and all its later permutations will screw up traffic for everyone else, which, as we predicted, is what the EIR on the Bicycle Plan confirmed. The city even admitted during the litigation that cyclists will be the only ones who benefit from these projects. City Hall doesn't care about screwing up traffic for people who use Golden Gate Transit---or for Muni passengers---in our supposedly Transit First city. San Francisco is now a Bikes First city, even though cyclists are only 3.4% of all travelers on city streets.

As SF Appeal tells us, the bike lanes will be "buffered" to separate cyclists from those devilish motor vehicles:

A community meeting about the Folsom Street bike lane is slated to take place within the next month or so to gather input from bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists, Rose said. A safety campaign headed by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition was launched in August after 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, of San Francisco, was killed by the turning truck on Folsom and Sixth streets on Aug. 14.
The reality: riding a bike in San Francisco---or anywhere, for that matter---is an inherently risky transportation "mode" that bicycle lanes will never really make safe. But here in Progressive Land, myth and symbolism trump reality.

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At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like all of Folsom is losing a lane of traffic. I'm down in the 20's, and I see some faint painting being done to block out the space for a bike lane.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chronicle merged the anti-development myth with the delayed bike projects myth last week in a story on the Fulton Street bike project:

We're getting a bike lane on Fulton? Sweet!

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also a GGT commuter and I can tell you exactly why Folsom bottlenecks for the buses. There is a BUSES ONLY left turn from Folsom to Fremont specifically to facilitate the passage of the GGT buses onto Fremont.

Private cars chronically abuse this left turn, bottlenecking traffic at that spot, frequently forcing a bus to wait 2-3 extra light cycles. I have called SFPD to enforce this and they gave me the finger. Maybe your reader could help out by making a call to SFPD as well. I am no fan of bike lanes but that's not the problem on Folsom. The buses run in the far left lane on the entire length of roadway and there are dedicated (well, they are supposed to be dedicated but cars always violate this) bus islands - the bike lane will be on the far right.

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tend to agree on the safety issue. Riding a bike in any urban area, and anywhere for that matter, involves risk. I ride in the city during the weekends for exercise reasons and recognize the risk. I never assume anything...that drivers see me, that people making right turns look if i am right next to them or in their blind spot. What I have learned is a thin yellow line or even those plastic things will not stop a car, so I have taken a defensive approach and always give myself two ways out. Unlike the bike coalition politicians I don't want to war against cars because i own one and drive it. I will have to drive it when I am too old to ride my bike and I sure as hell do not intend to take MUNI. I took MUNI growing up as a kid in san francisco but that was ages ago when it ran on schedule, when your fellow rider was nice and the system was generally safe. NO way as an 80-year old am I getting on MUNI and not having someone offer me a seat, and then having the driver drive with fast starts and stops.

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Jesse said...

Don't waste your typing GGT commuter. Rob doesn't ever cite cars as the problem for busses. He picks the low hanging fruit that happens to be bikes. He doesn't want any changes to parking to happen for the 5 and 5L because there's a slight chance someone will lose a parking space. Same with Geary and Van Ness. Don't look for solutions here, just more bitching and conflict. That's his legacy to the city.


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