Wednesday, September 07, 2016

"Keep bikes off our wilderness trails"

CreditHenry McCausland

From Doug Scott in the NY Times:

Some new threat is always trying to nose its way into America’s wilderness areas. Fierce battles have been fought over logging, mining and damming these last vestiges of our wild heritage. Now proposed legislation in Congress would allow bikes in wilderness.

This may not seem like a big deal. But the 1964 Wilderness Act forbids bikes and other forms of “mechanical transport” in federal wilderness areas. To allow in bikes would set a perilous precedent that would encourage further efforts to open up these wild places, threatening the very idea of wilderness that the law expresses: “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

To keep wilderness this way, the law is strict, and there is no ambiguity over its ban on “mechanical transport.” The four agencies that administer the nation’s 109 million acres of wilderness — the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management — interpret the law to prohibit bikes.

Yet leaders of the pro-bike effort, the Sustainable Trails Coalition, argue that lawmakers in 1964 never intended to exclude mountain bikes. They claim the law’s legislative history “shows that Congress would have wanted to allow bikes in wilderness if mountain bikes had existed or they had thought about them.”

The first mountain bikes were not widely sold until 1981, 17 years after the Wilderness Act became law. Undeterred, Utah’s Republican senators, Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, no friends of wilderness protection, are sponsoring the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. It would give federal land managers discretion to allow mountain bikers into wilderness areas. The agencies that oversee these areas oppose this...

See also Severe street and mountain bicycling injuries in adults

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Bikes, bridges, and cost-benefit ratios

Transportation officials are studying the possibility of a bike/pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge. The lanes would be clipped on to the north and south sides of the suspension plan.

Ran on: 12-13-2011
An artist's rendering shows the concept for a bike and pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge.
Ran on: 12-13-2011
Photo caption Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here.###Photo: bike13_PH10###Live Caption:Transportation officials are studying the possibility of a bike-pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge. The lanes would be clipped on to the north and south sides of the suspension plan.###Caption History:Transportation officials are studying the possibility of a bike-pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge. The lanes would be clipped on to the north and south sides of the suspension plan.###Notes:Original byline: rmleczko-###Special Instructions:
Ran on: 12-13-2011
Photo caption Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here. Dummy text goes here.###Photo: bike13_PH10###Live Caption:Transportation officials are studying the possibility of a bike-pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge. The lanes would be clipped on to the north and south sides of the suspension plan.###Caption History:Transportation officials are studying the possibility of a bike-pedestrian path on the west span of the Bay Bridge. The lanes would be clipped on to the north and south sides of the suspension plan.###Notes:Original byline: rmleczko-###Special Instructions:
Ran on: 12-13-2011
Photo caption Dummy text goes here Photo: Rmleczko, Courtesy MTA
SF Chronicle

Independent Journal columnist Dick Spotswood annoys the bike people with another column critical of the proposed bike lane on the Richardson Bay Bridge (Dick Spotswood: How many bikes will use the Richmond bridge lane?):

This is a vanity project, pure and simple. Nowhere in the report is any analysis made of how many cyclists will use the “multimodal” path. As an MTC staffer told me last year, “What would that tell us?” If Kinsey asks the question, we’d learn the movable barrier-equipped bike lane’s cost-benefit ratio. That’s important information MTC doesn’t want us to know because it will provoke public outrage and ridicule.

SF Streetsblog dismissed/distorted Spotswood's question in its Today's Headlines: "More Circular Logic on Why It’s Bad to Build Safe Bike Infra."

Spotswood on the sketchy public outreach on the project:

The MTC-Caltrans project approval request proudly cites consultation with “stakeholders.” The list includes relevant local agencies, Bay Trail, Trails for Richmond Action Committee, Marin County Bicycle Coalition, Bike East Bay and Caltrans District 4 Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

There’s nothing about consulting motorists and bus passengers. They are prime stakeholders, but MTC didn’t care enough to ask the opinion of 17,000 commuters that daily make the trans-San Pablo Bay trek in each direction. It appears that regional honchos consider real people to be stakeholders only if they form well-funded lobbying groups.

The SFMTA also did some pro forma public outreach on the dumb Masonic Avenue bike project in San Francisco with several poorly-attended meetings.

Like the Richmond San Rafael Bridge project, the city has no idea how many cyclists will use the separated bike lanes after the Masonic Avenue bike project is implemented. 

Creating those bike lanes will require removing 167 street parking spaces and parking lanes that are now turned into traffic lanes during commute hours to handle the increased traffic. Unlike the Marin project, creating bike lanes is not about money here. It's about the limited space on city streets.

The city does know how much motor vehicle traffic now moves on Masonic Avenue: more than 32,000 vehicles a day, including 44,000 passengers on Muni's #43 line (Traffic Volume, page 26). Since the city did that traffic count in 2010 in the middle of the Great Recession, the traffic count is surely higher now.

Spotswood on the cost estimate for the Richmond Bridge project:

The Request for Approval provides a precise $49,881,000 current dollar estimate for the entire project. What we aren’t told is the cost breakdown between the upper-deck bikeway complete with hugely expensive bridge approaches and the lower-deck part-time third traffic lane.

Taxpayers are getting off easy on that project. The price tag for a bike lane on the western span of the Bay Bridge was up to $550 million in 2011 (Bay Bridge bike path plans move forward):

But the biggest obstacle to getting the path built is money. The study estimates the cost at $500 million to $550 million in 2011 dollars. The cost escalation, of course, would depend on several factors, including when funding is found. Then it would take about 10 years of engineering, design and construction. "Just because we're articulating a west span bike path doesn't mean this thing is right around the corner," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the toll authority.

The Bicycle Coalition's leadership was undaunted:

Despite those uncertainties, Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the study makes the possibility of pedaling from Oakland to San Francisco closer to reality. "It moves the idea of a bike/pedestrian/maintenance pathway from the idea stage to the official project stage," she said. "Now we can seek funding."

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This Chart: More Mexicans Are Going Back to Mexico Than Coming Here
Talking Points Memo

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