Friday, June 13, 2014

Eyesore of the Week: 259 Clara Street

259 Clara Street


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The Valencia Street lie lives on

The lie about Valencia Street, deployed last year by the MTA and the Bicycle Coalition to justify taking away street parking on Polk Street to make bike lanes, is now being used to justify doing the same on Telegraph Avenue in the East Bay. From the East Bay Express:

In recent years, research in the Bay Area and across the country has increasingly demonstrated the positive impact that new bike lanes bring to neighborhoods. Notably, an improved roadway for bikes often equates to increased business for local retailers.

The phony "research" in the story includes falsehoods (below in italics) about both Valencia Street and Polk Street in San Francisco. The Valencia Street lie:

When the debate about the Valencia Street bike lanes first began, "People were so worried it would decimate the businesses," said Kristin Smith, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition communications director. "Obviously, Valencia Street is not struggling." San Francisco installed those lanes in 1999, and since then perceptions have shifted in favor of bike lanes. "We do see much more support," she said, adding that there is, however, lingering resistance from merchants concerned about car parking.

Readers of this blog know that is simply untrue, which I pointed out a year ago: the Valencia Street bike lanes were made by removing traffic lanes, not street parking (see page 3 of Valencia Street Bicycle Lanes: A One Year Evaluation).

The Polk Street lie:

But in a city like San Francisco, the reality is that sacrificing parking spots for a bike lane is a good bet for business, Smith argued, pointing to a recent survey of hundreds of people on Polk Street, a key north-south route. That study, conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, found that more than 75 percent of people on Polk Street do not travel by car and that people who ride bikes or public transit or walk all spend more per week in the area than drivers...Improved cycling access on Polk Street is a matter of safety, too. On average, one pedestrian and one cyclist are hit by a car every month on Polk Street, according to the city.

That Polk Street survey found that only 5% of those visiting the area arrived by bicycle! The Bicycle Coalition and City Hall interpret this survey as justifying installing separated bike lanes on Polk Street by taking away more than 100 street parking spaces against opposition from small businesses and residents in the area.

The claims about safety are equally dubious, since the last Collisions Report from the city didn't find Polk Street particularly dangerous. Instead the phony safety claim is what the city uses to justify taking away street parking in city neighborhoods to make bike lanes over neighborhood opposition, like it did on the Fell/Oak bike project, on Ocean Avenue, and on 17th Street. [Later: Masonic Avenue is the best example of how the city uses the safety lie to justify a bike project.]

San Francisco has increasingly demonstrated the value of bike lanes and the growing interest in cycling. Two-thirds of Valencia Street business owners said that when the city reduced car lanes and installed bike lanes on the street, a main thoroughfare in the Mission District, their business improved, according to a San Francisco State University report. Only 4 percent said the changes hurt sales. Additionally, more than two-thirds of employers also said the Valencia bike lanes added convenience for their employees. This touches on another proven benefit to local economies: Companies located in downtown centers across the country attract younger employees better if their offices are easily accessible by bike, according to a recent joint report by PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

When the debate about the Valencia Street bike lanes first began, "People were so worried it would decimate the businesses," said Kristin Smith, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition communications director. "Obviously, Valencia Street is not struggling." San Francisco installed those lanes in 1999, and since then perceptions have shifted in favor of bike lanes. "We do see much more support," she said, adding that there is, however, lingering resistance from merchants concerned about car parking.

But in a city like San Francisco, the reality is that sacrificing parking spots for a bike lane is a good bet for business, Smith argued, pointing to a recent survey of hundreds of people on Polk Street, a key north-south route. That study, conducted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, found that more than 75 percent of people on Polk Street do not travel by car and that people who ride bikes or public transit or walk all spend more per week in the area than drivers. This benefit is clearly illustrated by the overflowing bike corrals that dot the city, Smith said. "Those people are going to the restaurants and shops. You just get more of a thriving, engaging commercial corridor." Improved cycling access on Polk Street is a matter of safety, too. On average, one pedestrian and one cyclist are hit by a car every month on Polk Street, according to the city.


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